The Love Boat is one the few hour-long TV shows ever to feature a laugh track
Now that's what we call hearty har-hars.
There are lots of fascinating little things you might not know about The Love Boat. It based on a book by a celebrity astrologist, for starters. Jeraldine Saunders, who writes the syndicated newspaper horoscope column Omarr’s Astrological Forecast, published her anecdotal memoir of working on cruise ships in 1974. It was called Love Boats. So that's pretty neat. Then you've got tidbits like Andy Warhol acting on the show, or "Gopher" becoming a congressman after leaving the show. This groovy television series has more trivia than celebrity guest stars.
But did you ever pay close attention to the laugh track? It might not immediately pop out at you. The traditional sitcom laugh track, that canned riot of laughter you hear on everything from The Flintstones to Friends, was toned down for the more romantic setting of The Love Boat. ABC also put this "looser," relaxed laugh track to use on Eight Is Enough, the family dramedy starring Dick Van Patten, according to the book TVparty!: Television's Untold Tales.
These two shows share a certain distinction. They are both one-hour series. And one-hour comedies with a laugh track are a rare thing.
Only four hour-long shows with a laugh track come to mind. The Love Boat and Eight Is Enough followed another ABC series of the Seventies with similar vibe — Love, American Style. Some critics even labeled The Love Boat as "Love, American Style on the seas" when it hit airwaves.
The fourth hour-long series with a laugh track might surprise comedy purists. The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour put the device to use in later episodes. Lucille Ball had long been a proponent of a live studio audience when filming I Love Lucy. The sitcom pioneer wanted the real thing. But during the run of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour the personal relationship between Ball and Desi Arnaz began to erode. In the third and final season, in 1959–60, behind-the-scenes tension led to a decay in comedic timing and chemistry. A laugh track was used to boost the laughs, which takes on a rather morbid note when you learn that Ball was reportedly red-eyed in takes after crying and arguing with Arnaz. The power couple would split in 1960.
Hour-long comedies have been scarce since The Love Boat was put into dock. The laugh track itself has fallen out of favor, aside from "sweetening" studio-audience chuckles on network yuk-fests like The Big Bang Theory. It's possible we'll never see an hour-long series with a laugh track again. Just as we'll never see Andy Warhol and Andy Griffith on the same cruise.