A “Happy” Ending for At Least One Sitcom Shift
Up All Night isn’t the first sitcom to change from a single-camera approach to a multiple cameras and a live audience. It has happened before, with varying degrees of success. NBC tried (unsuccessfully) a similar move with the Julia Louis-Dreyfus show, Watching Ellie, a decade ago.
The most successful switch had to be that of Happy Days, which began its run in 1974 as a single-camera show that aspired to an American Graffiti-ish tone (as you can see, at left). After a season 3 move to multi-cam — and before Fonzie literally jumped the shark — it became a ratings champion. The Odd Couple benefited from a similar shift.
Debates over the artistic merits of the single-cam vs. multi-cam approach, and its place in the current comedy landscape, abound. And abound. But it’s tough to argue with this defense of multi-cam, from Jaime Weinman at Splitsider:
Bad multi-camera sitcoms seem to dumb everything down for the audience, but good ones use the audience feedback to their advantage, until we feel like we are almost in the audience ourselves, watching these characters grow and develop every week. That’s why seemingly horrible characters, from Ralph Kramden to Archie Bunker to Basil Fawlty to George Costanza, can be portrayed so three-dimensionally in multi-camera sitcoms: the actors and writers know just how far they can take these characters without completely alienating the audience. Single-camera shows can be great, but they can be very insular. As a result they can easily make characters too one-dimensionally nasty, or go to the other extreme and make them too soft and cute.