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But I Want Babies Now! [Fake Laughter]

By Matthew Yglesias

"But I Want Babies Now! [Fake Laughter]"

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A couple of days ago, I saw a broadcast sitcom — a Friends re-run — for the first time in years. It was a slightly bizarre experience. In particular, the show is punctuated with . . . pre-recorded laughter. Then, today, at Catherine‘s request I watched How I Met Your Mother. And, I have to say, until I heard it I never really considered the possibility that contemporary sitcoms are still relying on this device. It’s bizarre. Lighthearted half-hour cable shows — Entourage, The Sarah Silverman Program, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc. — seem to get by quite well without it.

Which is to say nothing of the “humor.” Obviously, I didn’t grasp the subtle nuances of the show. But (by design) you don’t need to actually know who any of the characters are or anything about them to get the “jokes.” Indeed, the jokes could have been from a Friends episode that aired in 1995 — apparently the only comedic premise available to sitcom writers is that women like relationships whereas men are afraid of commitment. No, wait, they also have jokes based on homophobia.

UPDATE: In many ways, though, the awfulness of The Black Donnellys renders all other TV-related complaining irrelevant.

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