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Charley Douglass’s famous invention was properly tested in 1965 when producers were trying to launch Hogan’s Heroes. CBS screened two versions of the same episode to measure audience reactions; one contained the laugh track, the other was silent. As Hogan’s Heroes required cerebral viewing, the audience watching the silent version were left confused, and the episode failed miserably. The version with the canned laughter succeeded and CBS gave the show a green light. After this incident, no sitcom went on the air without a touch-up from Charley Douglass’s laff box.[2]

Wait. “As Hogan’s Heroes required cerebral viewing…”? Say what?

How remarkable that this incident should be the “proper test” that has cursed nearly every comedy since with a canned audience. I’ll certainly accept that the premise of Hogan’s Heroes was such that, without the laughter, the audience might not understand the show was intended as a light comedy, which knowledge would certainly affect the reception the show received. But it doesn’t seem a fair test of the need for “laffs”.

Douglass captured many of his recorded “laffs” from the live audience of the Red Skelton Show during Red’s weekly pantomime skit. How odd that a feature called the “Silent Spot” should contribute to the lack of silence on television for the following forty-five (and counting) years.

Posted via web from Dreaded Purple Master

Okay, here’s another thing I don’t get.

Just yesterday, Mark Evanier linked to a YouTube video–well, seven linked videos, actually, comprising an entire episode of The David Letterman Show from 1980. This is the NBC daytime program that predated his tenure on NBC’s Late Night and CBS’ The Late Show.

This program usually described, by those few who have seen it, as (at best) the wrong show in the wrong time slot. Some commentaries make that sound like a compliment. Evanier says:

You get the feeling that he doesn’t even take his own show seriously so why should you? Plus, he feels all alone out there…no sidekick, no bandleader with whom he has any rapport, etc. Doesn’t it feel like half the staff didn’t show up for work that day but they made Dave go out and do his show anyway? Add to this the largely non-responsive studio audience…

I admit it. I did not watch this video all the way through. I think Mark would agree that this version of the show really underscores just what Paul Schaffer brings to the show.

Other than Paul, though, this looks like the same show Letterman has been doing all along. It’s really amazing how little his essential Dave-ness has changed. A lot of it wasn’t all that funny then, and still isn’t, really.

What does it mean to be a professional actor?

It means that you give it everything you’ve got, even when you’re giving it to a felt-tip pen.

Can you imagine any other actor (that is, any other actor who didn’t really need the money) throwing himself into this with such gusto?

The gayness of Charles Nelson Reilly was perhaps the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. He was told it would keep him from getting work. Some weeks you could spin the dial and Reilly was on every channel at the same time. Thank God he was gay, or it would have been All Charles Nelson Reilly, All The Time.

(Saw the clip at Mark Evanier’s News From Me.)

A monthly talk show.

The young Austrian lady who managed to escape from the windowless basement cell in which she’d been imprisoned for eight years since her abduction at age 10…will premiere on Vienna’s Puls4 Sunday night.

I can’t decide if this is a triumph of the can-do human spirit or an obscene exploitation of fame.

Young woman held in underground cell gets talk show
[AP / Cnews]

VIENNA, Austria – Television was once her only window on the world. Now Natascha Kampusch – still adjusting to life after spending 8 1/2 years in an underground cell – is starting an improbable new career as a TV talk show host.

Less than two years after staging a dramatic escape while her captor was distracted with a phone call, the young Austrian woman whose ordeal stunned people worldwide is going prime time.

“Natascha Kampusch Meets …,” a chat show featuring local celebrities, debuts Sunday evening on Puls4, a new private cable channel.

A Puls4 trailer shows Kampusch typing on a laptop computer, pouring herself a glass of mineral water and grinning as makeup artists give her a final touchup on the set. She wears her long blond hair down and sports a sweater and a floral-patterned skirt – both in purple, her favorite color.

You haven’t been fed up until you’re fed up on live television.

glumbert – He’s Dead Jim