The 1990s TV viewer was witnessing a dying vestige, though, you may not have noticed at the time. By the time shows such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” BBC’s “The Office” and “Malcolm in the Middle” hit the airwaves in the early aughts, television fans were seeing something different, even if they couldn’t put their finger on it. The “new” look was called the single-camera setup.
While single- and multi-camera setups have been around since the dawn of TV and film production, the multi-camera setup is what most of us over the age of 15 grew up with. Its slower pace elicits memories of craftsmanship, wholesome family sitcoms and networks’ bloated production budgets.
So we’d like to ask, “Whatever happened to predictability?” and revisit one of the most unforgettable aspects of the 1990s multi-camera sitcoms – the set.
One of the biggest differences between single-camera and multi-camera shows is pace. Single-camera shows tend to do a lot of quick close-ups, leaving a lot of the set out of view. I bet most of us could rebuild the “Seinfeld” apartment interior by memory. In fact, a lot of “Seinfeld”‘s plotlines revolved around the set: Poppy pees on Jerry’s couch and it must be replaced; Jerry wants his kitchen to be remodeled and he ends up with a horrendous line of sight from kitchen to living areas.
I bet you vividly remember the Dogs Playing Poker hung on the wall, the black afghan and the dated furniture that adorned the set of “Roseanne.” How could you forget the family dinner table — the centerpiece of a multitude of meltdowns, disputes and makeups, not to mention the focal point in one of the best opening credit sequences of all time?
When you think of “Frasier,” is it possible to not picture Marty Crane’s beat up old rocker set against the backdrop of expensive hardwood and the opulent Seattle Skyline? The biggest of “Frasier” fans could probably walk blindfolded through the apartment to where he or she could pour himself or herself a glass of sherry.
“Friends” is one of the most magnificent examples of set glory. Two women, splitting what appeared to be a 1,600 square-foot Greenwich Village apartment. All of which was paid for by a waitress and line cook. God bless TV magic.
The most epic of sets was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” of course. That’s because set designers had to create a realistic facsimile of what a Southern California multi-million-dollar house would look like. We were treated to the rooms of every family member, including Geoffrey, the gigantic kitchen, the sunny back porch, and were even given a glimpse of the pool house that Will and Carlton lived in for a season or two.
While what makes us laugh changes with every Panda-sneezing video, goofy cat photo and South Korean rapper, our appreciation for the efforts made in crafting thoughtful art – even comedy – never waivers.