Grammar Moses: This column not filmed before a live studio audience

  • I'm at a loss for why someone would put an apostrophe in "ALWAYS," as Gary did in the sign for his lottery/keno establishment in West Virginia. And I'm also wondering whether the apostrophe in "GARY'S" is a possessive or a contraction. The safe money is on contraction.

      I'm at a loss for why someone would put an apostrophe in "ALWAYS," as Gary did in the sign for his lottery/keno establishment in West Virginia. And I'm also wondering whether the apostrophe in "GARY'S" is a possessive or a contraction. The safe money is on contraction. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/4/2020 5:13 PM

Eleanor Wasielewski has a bone to pick with Lucille Ball.

Well, Desi Arnaz.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I Love Lucy" was the first television show to be filmed "before a live studio audience."

Shows such as "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Cheers" followed suit, but I can't recall which shows of my youth boasted that onetime novelty of creating a stage play for TV with an audience watching and busting a gut in the process. I just remember hearing the phrase a lot.

It was refreshing, though, to hear an audience of real people reacting to jokes and pratfalls and the like rather than hearing a programmed guffaw or a titter, even when the writing was garbage, the acting uninspired and the reaction undeserved.

I swore off network sitcoms decades ago because of the dreaded laugh track.

Live studio audiences really can augment the impact of a performance. Compare "Last Week Tonight" with John Oliver pre-pandemic with the show now. The jokes fall flat. There is something about laughing with an audience.

But I'm putting the cart before the horse.

"For many years, I have tried to communicate with every source I can think of in the entertainment industry about what I think is a gross misuse of language," Eleanor wrote in an email to me. "Almost every episode of a sitcom starts with 'This episode was filmed before a live studio audience.' What is the option -- a dead studio audience? Shouldn't they be saying 'filmed live before a studio audience?'"

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Such passion, Eleanor!

She has a good point, though.

I suspect, as was the case with the groundbreaking nature of "I Love Lucy," real people laughed along at the high-jinks Lucy and Ethel got themselves involved in. That show was shot with multiple cameras to allow for a live performance feel for the TV audience.

According to a BBC News story I read on the history of the dreaded laugh track, Bing Crosby would record his radio shows and engineers would add laughter and applause at just the right places. It became standard.

My guess is stressing the "live audience" for Lucy was a response to that. So it referred not to whether the audience members were alive or dead but whether there was an audience at all.

"Shouldn't they be saying 'filmed live before a studio audience'?" Eleanor asked.

I think we are a little hung up on the word "live."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It would be better to say simply "filmed before a studio audience."

Don't get me started on whether film is still used in TV production. Increasingly, programs are digital.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at jbaumann@dailyherald.com. Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.

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