TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.


Timeless TV

September 2007 Archives

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

September 24, 2007 12:36 PM

Alice Ghostley
Alice Ghostley, who died Friday at age 81, was one of the great character actors who made “Bewitched” such an extraordinary sitcom.

She made a mastery of playing befuddled characters on long-running series, first as Esmeralda the diffident housekeeper on “Bewitched” and later as the retiree Bernice on “Designing Women.”

With her quavering voice and head-waggling delivery, she was unique, and while her many roles over the decades were similar, she never became tiresome.

This tribute cobbled together on YouTube mainly highlights her film work, but a couple of TV appearances are included, notably her role as an Ugly Stepsister (with Kaye Ballard) in the 1957 made-for-TV Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Cinderella,” and, in the run-up to her regular role on “Bewitched,” her appearance as housekeeper “Naomi Hogan.” Rest in peace.

Tracking the Laughter

September 20, 2007 3:08 PM

Worth reading: Drake Bennett has written an enlightening history of the television laugh track for Slate.com that comes complete with illustrative video clips from assorted shows. Here’s how he begins:

“These are uncertain times for the laugh track. For the past few seasons, the most talked-about television comedies—‘The Office,’ ‘30 Rock,’ ‘My Name Is Earl,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’—have looked and sounded more like films than sitcoms. Partly, the change has been visual: These new shows forgo the studio-soundstage look of traditional TV comedy, opting for a more cinematic, single-camera style. More jarring, though, for generations raised on ‘Dick Van Dyke,’ ‘All in the Family’ or ‘Cheers,’ the new crop of comedies has done away with the aural backdrop of laughter—sometimes real, sometimes fake—that has for decades given viewers at home their Pavlovian cue.

“This fall, five of the eight new comedies go without the sound of laughs, and TV critics and network executives alike have proclaimed the death of the laugh track. Freed of the stodgy cadence of setup, punch line, laugh, the new shows can supposedly be slyer, subtler and more subversive.”

Check it out
(t/y David)