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That '90s Show Fans Aren't Holding Back Their Distaste For The Series' Laugh Track

The art of the laugh track is something that many fans of '80s and '90s-era sitcoms are well aware of. Originally created in the 1940s (via IndieWire), the laugh track was first made to help bring an artificial "at the theater" experience for radio listeners at home. When TV began to take off in the '50s, it was used to enhance the actual laughs that came from a live studio audience. A study from the University College London (via NPR) confirmed that hearing background laughter, such as the chuckles from a pre-recorded laugh track, trick the brain into thinking bad jokes are funnier.

However, towards the end of the '90s/early 2000s, brilliant shows like "The Office" and "Arrested Development" proved that fans no longer needed their hands held when it came to knowing when to laugh. Now, in the current television landscape, laugh tracks can come off as antiquated. While the artistic choice isn't as popular these days, Netflix's new "That '90s Show" series brings the laugh track back with a vengeance.

The streaming giant recently debuted the 10-episode first season of the new series "That '90s Show," and for those who don't know, it's linked to the original "That '70s Show." With many of the same characters/actors popping up in this latest installment, fans of the original series will no doubt recognize them along with the show's familiar tone and quick-witted comedy, all of which is sending many fans into a nostalgic tizzy. 

However, one thing that also came along from the original series to the new one is the laugh track. And based on comments on social media following the show's release, many viewers are not happy with this artificial audience reaction.

Some fans can never go back to the laugh track

Whether it was to enhance live audience reactions due to poor microphones back in the day or to replace audiences altogether, the laugh track has been around for a long time. With plenty of early '90s sitcoms continuing the trend, it seems like it would be a smart choice to have Netflix's new series, "That '90s Show," use the same background enhancement. However, it's clear that there are plenty of viewers out there who no longer accept this tactic, believing that the laugh track does nothing but ruin a good production. And these fans don't hold back their opinions.

Shortly after "That '90s Show" was added to Netflix for fans to binge, many of them took to social media to give their take on the series — and the laugh track that goes with it. Twitter user @THE_CRIMSON_J didn't seem happy with it at all, commenting, "Just starting #That90sShow on Netflix, OMG this laugh track is so obnoxious please say its not gonna be like this the whole show." @Syd_the_squid97 declared, "I'm like 5 mins into #That90sShow and ENOUGH WITH THE LAUGH TRACK." 

Viewers over on Reddit were also not too fond of this throwback tactic. "This show reminded me how much laugh tracks are garbage," wrote u/CubicKinase."Also fire the person who does the laughtracks," wrote u/Yanpretman. "Half of the time its not funny, and I still hear a dumb laughtrack.

Other fans understand the laugh track is important

Despite the negativity, there were some users who totally understood the reasoning for using the audio, with u/Bikinigirlout asking, "People who are complaining about the laugh track realize the original [used] a laugh track, right ... ?" Other users, like u/SandwhichesTheIguana echoed a similar sentiment, saying, "I find the criticisms of the laughter, and the younger cast, to be a bit absurd [...] That show was also filmed in front of a live studio audience, and had audible laughter throughout." As it turns out, just like its predecessor, "That '90s Show" was shot in front of a live studio audience in Hollywood (via On Camera Audiences).

While the laughs are authentic, so is the use of a laugh track. Laugh tracks continued to be popular among viewers until the 2000s. With the sitcom set in the '90s, it would be inauthentic to debut the series without some background chuckling. At least, that's what some fans think. "It's a sitcom. Have you watched a sitcom without a laugh track?" wrote u/megatronO. "It's brutal." 

"That '90s Show" isn't the only modern legacy sequel/reboot that utilizes a laugh track. Consider Hulu's "How I Met Your Father," the spinoff sequel series to CBS' fan-favorite "How I Met Your Mother." Just like "That '90s Show," "How I Met Your Father" was criticized for utilizing a laugh track, with many dubbing its use corny and antiquated. For "HIMYF" co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker, however, bringing the laugh track back was necessary, as it continued the same vibe as the original (via RadioTimes). The same can be said for "That '90s Show," which, so far, is proving to be an authentic and hilarious sequel to "That '70s Show."