Tonight at 8, NBC's “Undateable” will begin doing something that no American primetime series has tried in nearly 25 years: producing and performing an entire season live.
It's an interesting gamble for an uneven but often quite funny sitcom that, by default, has become NBC's comedy standard-bearer. Last season's live episode seemed to best harness the loose camaraderie of the show's cast, and their gift for improvising in front of a raucous studio audience. Going live every week not only allows for more of that, but gives the show a marketing hook as it moves into a sketch Friday night timeslot. NBC boss Robert Greenblatt – the man behind “Sound of Music Live!” but also “Peter Pan Live!”) – is a big believer in the power of live TV to draw eyeballs in an age of infinite choice, so why not give this a try?
Before the “Undateable” season premiere, I took a look back at some memorable series and events in the history of live television, including the classic show that all but killed the idea of doing sitcoms live.