Ah for the live studio audience. As anyone who’s been to a live taping or performance before is well aware, there is just no substitution for a live laugh. People in a room with electric energy who are really, truly having a good time, makes performances sparkle and is a truly unique experience. Such is the long-running success of a show like Saturday Night Live; the froth rises to the top and the bad comedians are cut adrift. No one in a live studio audience would laugh at jokes that weren’t funny; no matter how long they’d been coaxed and their senses had been elevated; it just wouldn’t happen. So it goes for this new show on NBC, “100 Questions.” 100 Questions does the unthinkable in modern television and couples bad writing and un-funny jokes with a completely awkward and out of place laugh track.
100 Questions Use of Laugh Track: This canned laughter is the thing that’s most got me up in arms. There hasn’t been a more horridly forced laugh track on a television show since Panavision than on100 Questions. This laugh track is something which really throws the viewing experience into free fall. I’m trying to watch the show, appreciate and understand their relationship, and maybe catch a chuckle from a witty line or two. Sadly, I’m not allowed to do that because of this very poorly placed laugh track. For actors Christopher Moynihan, Sophie Winkleman, David Walton, Smith Cho, Collette Wolfe and Michael Benjamin Washington, they are not allowed to grow into the characters that’ve been written for them, I think in large part because of this laugh track. It’s not their fault that the writing is so forced, the un-funny jokes are pushed out or that they have to work under that ridiculously placed canned laughter. So for the acting, they’re not allowed to just be.
100 Questions: NBC’s Opinion: From the NBC website for 100 Questions you can tell what you want the potential viewers to think before they’ve even turned the TV on. “100 Questions is a new comedy series…that provides hilarious answers to 100 questions about love. Charlotte Payne (Sophie Winkleman, “Peep Show”) is looking for love and has rejected multiple marriage proposals — but she has yet to meet Mr. Right. When she joins a popular online dating site, she gets a little help from her dating counselor Andrew (Michael Benjamin Washington, “Mamma Mia”) – who requires her to take a 100-question compatibility test. The questions aren’t easy for Charlotte to answer, and each one requires her to recount a poignant and humorous time in her life with friends Leslie (Smith Cho, “Fired Up!”), Jill (Collette Wolfe, “17 Again”), Mike (Christopher Moynihan, “For Your Consideration”) and Wayne (David Walton, NBC’s “Quarterlife”). The test becomes a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte who begins to realize what she truly wants in a relationship.” All the name-dropping and associations mean little for people who just want to watch the TV show and be entertained. 100 Questions website doesn’t give you the opportunity for that.
100 Questions: Product Placement: Just because NBC puts a show in their Thursday night lineup, a hit show it doth not make. Thursday’s have always been good for NBC since the days of Cheers, Wings, Seinfeld, Friends, and more current hits like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. The sad thing is that 100 Questions could be a really funny show were it just given the time to gestate and breathe and find its own rhythms. You’ve got a big city setting, you’ve got a search for love, you’ve got online dating (though the whole “100 Questions” premise does ring hollow back to the list from My Name is Earl) but just like everything else in New York City, 100 Questions needs to make it on its own.
100 Questions: Conclude & Compare: Not all shows are funny at first flush; ‘you know to me that button is really in the worst possible spot’ was only made funny after nine seasons of earning the joke. It took nine years of “No Soup for You,” “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” and “are you, ‘master of your domain’,” to even get to a place where something like that button joke could be paid off. The fact that the button line were some of the last ones spoken for the series was more an homage to the nine years preceding than any real humor being found in those words at all. Sadly for the troupe at 100 Questions, I don’t know that they’ll ever get to such an elevated status. This summer replacement series needs some major retooling and 100 Questions needs to let the laugh track go so that the writing and the acting can sink or swim on its own.
Years of Watching Good TV