With all the revivals that have hit the small screen in the past few years, you would think that filming on these shows would be pretty much business as usual for the cast and crew. Well, in the case of Roseanne, those that work on the revival have noticed some big changes. The classic multi camera format for shooting sitcoms has changed along with advances in technology and what the audience expects from a modern television comedy. And that, in turn, has led to the filming of the show taking up more time than it did in the 1980s and 1990s, according to Amy Brown, an assistant director who works on the Roseanne revival and was with the series during its entire original run. Here’s what she had to say about working on the new episodes:
The whole show has become bigger and more complicated — like life itself. We’ve adapted to the quick-cut mentality of single-camera television. In the reboot, we have three acts and probably 20 scenes. Each scene requires a new setup, and every setup adds time. There are wardrobe changes; cameras have to be moved. The scheduling and shooting have become much more complicated. Now there’s no question this is a five-day job, and we have an additional AD come in to help.
Amy Brown also noted, in her talk with Variety, that shooting the original run of Roseanne only took two or three days a week, but now, because of the additional scenes and setups needed for each episode, they need more people on the crew than they used to, and that adds to the amount of time needed to get an episode of the revival shot. I will admit that it never occurred to me that the actual filming of a sitcom used to only take a couple days out of the week, and while the technology is better now, the look and feel of the revival has still led to more work, instead of less.
Filming TV comedies in the multiple camera style (which refers to the fact that every scene is shot using multiple cameras so that all the action is caught at once) is a staple of pretty much every classic sitcom you can think of. Shows like I Love Lucy helped pioneer the style, and more recent hits like Cheers, 3rd Rock From the Sun, How I Met Your Mother, Friends and The Big Bang Theory have continued to use it. Multi camera shows typically look less filmic than single camera shows like Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock or Community, and also tend to put the focus on structuring scenes around getting punchlines out to the audience, as opposed to having more long-form gags that you’d have to stick around the whole episode (or multiple episodes) to find funny.
So, from what Amy Brown said, the new episodes of Roseanne were clearly put together with a lot of thought, and, hopefully that will translate to some big laughs for old and new fans alike. Roseanne returns to ABC on Tuesday, March 27. For more on what you can watch in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our midseason premiere guide.