Milton Berle, ‘SNL’ & ‘Undateable’: A brief history of live TV

Senior Television Writer
10.09.15 13 Comments

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.

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