As a final ending to our sitcom room experience, one of my team decided it would be interesting and fun to attend a sitcom taping. We went to see Dads, chosen because tickets for it were still available the day before the show. That's a bad sign. Another bad sign? Dads had bad reviews and ratings. On a positive note, Dads had just been picked up for its back nine, meaning they had been given the green light to finish out their first season.
According to Ken Levine, guru of the sitcom room experience, Fox ordered more shows despite the ratings and reviews because they wanted to have a toehold in the multi-camera world. Multi-camera shows are the ones taped in front of a live studio audience, with real people laughing. (Although my Mom says it still sounds fake.)
Interesting? Yes. Fun? Well, it was interesting.
First off, you're supposed to get to the parking garage near the studio at least an hour and a half before the show starts taping. You hand in your ticket, get a different ticket and are bussed over to the actual studio. You are not allowed to take cameras, phones, or any other electronics in with you. Then the security guards wand you and search any bags. After that they walk you through various sound stage areas until you get to a spot where they make you wait in line for 20-30 minutes.
Finally, you get to go into the studio. You are advised to go to the bathroom on your way in, because you are told you will not get a chance to go again for a long time. (Earlier, someone had mentioned that taping can last until 9ish, so that's a good four hours with no bathroom break.) Luckily, that is not totally true, it's just that everyone needs to be escorted to the bathroom so we don't wander onto the stage, so I think they discourage bathroom breaks as a general policy.
The studio is where you meet the warm-up comedian, whose job it is to keep the audience happy and laughing. It seems like a very difficult job. Alan, our comedian, was working hard. For the Europeans I was with, his trying to get us to yell and scream and wave our hands for his prizes, seemed very "American". I still haven't worked out whether I should be insulted by that or not.
Then they show you a previous episode to let you know what the show is about (because with those ratings, it's pretty clear none of us have seen it). It wasn't the pilot, though, which presumably would have explained the premise better than a later episode. They may not have shown the pilot because it got really bad reviews for being racist and sexist. On the other hand, maybe this later episode was funnier than the pilot.
At long last, the cast is introduced! And it's a good cast. Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Riegert and Martin Mull. In the past all of these actors have proved how funny they can be. And they work hard to make the audience laugh. There are some funny lines and Martin Mull has a great one about the guest star. The warm-up comedian is trying his best and the people in front of me laugh at every take, very genuinely.
But it was a long night and the only food offered is a brownie and water, and it was hard to laugh the third time you heard something that was only half funny to begin with. And the episode resolved itself with a fart joke. Funny, yes, clever, no. Ken Levine would say that much of the humor was not based in reality. Who doesn't fart in front of their husband for fourteen years of marriage? Not anybody I know.
And that's the play-by-play of my first sitcom taping.
Nano Update, Day 3:
Plot? Main character is remembering when he first got together with his girlfriend
Word Count? 3778