M*A*S*H sans laugh track

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by gregstaten, Jan 6, 2002.

  1. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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    I've watched four episodes so far (without laugh track) and it is quite interesting to note how much better I feel show is without the laugh track.

    In M*A*S*H, I think the laugh track tends to keep the viewer at a distance from the story. If a show is shot before an audience, there is a different feel and pacing to the performances and the editing. The actors react to the laughs to some extent. Certainly the pacing is different than a show shot without an audience.

    Imposing a laugh track on M*A*S*H adds an air of artificiality. When watching the show sans laugh track, I was immediately aware that the performance timing and the editing works better without the track. (However, some of the music cues - especially the more jokey stings - don't fit as well.)

    But, I have to wonder whether the show would have been as successful in the 70s if it didn't have a laugh track. Without the track, the show is a much stronger mix of humor and pathos. And, the humor takes on a much darker tone - the distancing of the laugh track tends to lighten the tone, removing some of the bitterness as it were.

    Back when M*A*S*H premiered, television was a bit more conventional. Drama was drama and comedy was comedy. M*A*S*H was a bold blending of the two.. The laugh track may have made it more palatable to the viewer. Though movies could get jet black, television hadn't really successfully ventured there yet.

    Watching it without the laugh track, I'm taken with how modern the show feels. It really does have a completely different feel. In my opinion, it becomes a better show.

    -greg
     
  2. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Interesting thoughts, Greg. I look forward to getting this set later this week and rediscovering the show sans laugh track.

     
  3. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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  4. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Later, didn't they insist that there be no laugh track during the operating room scenes? I can't wait to see these uncut episodes, as our local channel obviously hacks the hell out of them!
     
  5. Mark_TS

    Mark_TS Screenwriter

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    I read somewhere of a to-do (similar to when ER did a "live" episode, or XFILES one-off Widescreen story.) over an episode of MASH that had no laugh track at all. It was a one-off experiment, in the fourth(?) season.
     
  6. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    I think it was the 2nd or 3rd season that had the first giggle-free episode set entirely in the O.R.

    I am very excited about seeing some episodes of M*A*S*H without the giggle-track. It should be very interesting especially seeing some of the most hilarious of the shows without it.

    I'm a much bigger fan of Altman's film than I am of the TV series, but I might pick up both anyway.

    Greg, can you tell if these episodes are the complete untruncated shows? Does the pilot show start with a pre-credits scene? Also, is the no-laugh-track track the default, or does one have to select it?
     
  7. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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  8. John CW

    John CW Supporting Actor

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  9. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

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    Reading this thread, with the comments about laugh tracks and such in a show that was noted for it's dark sense of humour has me thinking. What in the wolrd would a show like West Wing, or ER be like if the studio had imposed a laugh track on it? Oh, God I just tried picturing BtVS with the giggles. West Wing and BtVS are two strongly dramatic series with comidic overtones, or veiws. They would have tanked in just a few episodes. Now that I have watched some of the M*A*S*H episodes with out the tracks I have to wonder what the studio was thinking?

    Hmm, I even remember watching Altman's movie on ITV (yes, I am from Edmonton before moving to the GTA) once back in the late eighties with a laugh track. I don't have the DVD of the movie yet, but seem to rmeember watching again, later, w/o the track. Tone is entirely differnet.

    OK, so I just summed up the entire thread, and added a sense of the bizarre as well. Sorry.
     
  10. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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  11. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    I've always wondered-did the series ever use the lyrics to the theme song as in the movie? I've heard that they started out using them, but changed it after only a couple of episodes. Is this true, and if so does this reflect on the DVDs?
     
  12. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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  13. JJR512

    JJR512 Supporting Actor

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    I remember seeing the pilot episode, and the only thing really different about it that I remember noticing was that Father Mulcahey was played by a different actor. I pay a lot of attention to music in TV and movies, and I think I would have noticed if the theme song was different...so I'm saying that I would be extremely surprised if the lyrics ever were used in the TV series.
     
  14. TheoGB

    TheoGB Screenwriter

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    Every now and again the BBC would start to show MASH with a laughter track. They always realised and after a few mins seemed to be able to switch back to the original. Apparently they always got sent two versions of the show. I'd guess this might have been true in the U.S. so maybe some or all channels had the option to show it without laughter track.
    It's good to know that I can turn it off I wanted to buy it.
    Didn't they have 11 Christmasses on the show or something - that was one loooong Korean War.[​IMG]
     
  15. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Although the laugh track is the default soundtrack, once you select the track without the giggles, it will remember this setting if you watch additional episodes in that viewing session.
    I have watched the first four episodes, and the lyrics to the theme song have not been present in any episode. I do not recall ever hearing them in anything other than the movie.
    I do agree that the show plays much better without the laugh track. I have seen these shows so many times over the years, but it's almost like seeing them for the first time. Good job, Fox. [​IMG]
     
  16. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    That's good to hear that the disc stays with NO giggle-track for the rest of the disc. I guess I'm so against the fake chortles that I wish the discs would play without it automatically. No problem though.

    So, does the pilot actually begin the way it did in '72, with the pre-credits bit?
     
  17. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    It was broadcast here without the laugh track. In fact, before I heard of the existence of it, a few months ago, I didn't even suspect it could have a laugh track.

    Glad it can be switched off. Thanks for this post, Greg.

    Cees
     
  18. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    Pilot Episode?... Before the credits?... Golf?... Mine field... "FOUR!" Is it there?

    ...Anybody?
     
  19. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    Yes Coressel. I just checked my DVD!
     
  20. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

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    I don't have the disc with me at work, and I had planned on sitting down and watching the first disc last night, but fell asleep. I do remeber it opening with a tee being placed, followed by the ball, a shot of Father Mulcahey(sp), and then a shot of the ball being addressed...

    So yes, it does include the opening, I think.
     

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