So, things are gearing up on Hyperdrive - shooting started last month in Manchester, the original home of Dwarf, amusingly. Here's a couple of concept sketches of the main ship, the HMS Camden Lock, with thanks to Glazy on the Starship Modeler Forums who scanned it in from SFX - click to enlarge.
Turn your head to one side. Funny. Very, funny indeed. (Go here if you don't get it.) All the omens are good. So why am I worried? Sadly, it has to do with things completely unrelated to the show. The first being the current SFX describing it as "It's more The Office than Red Dwarf." Yes, it appears we've got to the state where people really can't mention comedy shows without going on about TEH OFFICESES.
More interestingly, the current SFX also answers a query I had a while ago - we knew it was going to be shot single camera, but there's no laugh track either. And whilst it's unfair to the show, I can't help but feel hugely disappointed.
Because there's something about a traditionally shot sitcom that I adore. It's very difficult to put why into words - there's the obvious interplay between the actors and the audience that really helps in a comedy show if you shoot it with an audience present. Even if there isn't an audience there, a laugh track can really help. Yes, you can sit there and feel patronised by it if you want to - and if it was real canned laughter (rarely used on UK comedy shows - and even then, it's just a sweetener in the edit) you'd be right to. But forgive me for loving hearing the sheer joy of an audience's reaction to a fucking excellent joke.
But it's more than that. TV as a whole is turning into a more filmic medium compared to how it used to be. Sometimes this is wonderful - just look at latest Doctor Who. But sometimes it just amounts to slapping a shit film effect on an awards ceremony and hoping it looks expensive. What people forget is that TV owes as much to the theatre as to film. Just because you can shoot everything as slick as fuck, it doesn't necessarily mean you should - especially when it comes to comedy. A high-octane version of Men Behaving Badly, anyone? It Just Wouldn't Work.
There's also the fact that normal, untreated video shot multi-camera feels more real to me - it feels so immediate. That's partly because we're just used to it on the news, of course - but it is more than that. Too many cuts, too many camera setups... and you lose any sense of feeling that what's happening is real at all. Ironically, it starts to feel stagey - in a bad way. That's what I love about old Doctor Who eps - it might be as obvious as fuck that they're in a studio and not on an alien planet, but when that explosion goes off it feels like it's happening in your living room.
Of course, this is really just a case of: "get over yourself, this looks great, treat it on its own merits". And I will, I really will. I never judge a show before I've actually seen it. As I keep telling myself, Spaced wouldn't have worked in front of a studio audience. HHGTTG wouldn't have worked with a laugh track of any sort (and thank fuck they fought BBC bosses who wanted to put one on). Neither would a million other comedy shows. Hyperdrive may well be the same. I'll do a full review of it when it broadcasts in the New Year.
But there should be room for everything. And what was the last classic traditionally-shot sitcom you can think of? Black Books is the only one that springs to mind - and they put an unnecessary film effect over that that didn't add a single thing to the show.
I just hope an artform I love isn't dying out, that's all.