Originally Posted by NickTheGreat
I mean, most of the best sitcoms of all time have laugh tracks: Seinfeld, Cheers, Friends, etc. Probably sitcoms without laugh tracks would be a very short and lousy list.
Obviously only true if you disqualify all single-camera comedies as "sitcoms," since most of the all-time great examples had no laugh tracks (from Arrested Development to The Office to Modern Family to Parks & Rec and on and on).
I'm sure there are more recent examples, but I remember when the network insisted on adding a laugh track to Sports Night, and how that turned into a sort of Waterloo for the whole idea of eliminating dubbed laughter from shows that never had a live audience.
BBT, of course, does have a studio audience, and I think the laugh track -- and the necessity of sweetening the track to compensate for live-audience fatigue and loss of the element of surprise through multiple re-takes -- is legitimate.
We here on the Internet sometimes forget that comedy has a strong communal element, and it functions differently when experienced live as part of a group. Three-camera sitcoms with their studio audiences are meant to tap into that head-space, which is why there's almost always some bit of slapstick or other physical comedy involved. Laugh tracks are intended just as much to help viewers feel part of a group as they are as cues for when to laugh.