Some actors dread live television. They hate the torture and peril that comes with performing before millions upon millions of viewers, and they are petrified that they will end up making a very public fool of themselves. However, others thrive in these circumstances, spontaneously improvising lines in the moment that would never have been generated in normal production schedules. Television companies also like to film episodes in this style as it entices viewers to watch their show, under the illusion that a mistake could happen which they will be privy too. Several programs have deployed this device throughout the history of American television. Here are five TV shows you didn’t realize had live episodes.
Tina Fey’s NBC comedy broadcast two live episodes that you probably didn’t know about because “30 Rock” was hardly watched by audiences. Fey’s "Saturday Night Live" background certainly helped her prepare for the roles as did a host of superlative guest stars that included Matt Damon, Bill Hader, Chris Parnell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Hamm and Paul McCartney. Not too shabby.
ER’s Ambush was released at the height of the show’s popularity, and was filmed under the guise of a television documentary that is being filmed to depict a typical day in the emergency room. Starring the likes of George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle, this was ER at its best and showed that these actors could perform under pressure.
"Will And Grace"
Broadcast just as "Will and Grace"’s final season, Alive and Schticking received plaudits from TV critics, even though the show had been roundly criticized as it came to an end. It was helped by the fact that most of the cast couldn’t stop laughing as they performed, each of them having come down with a case of the giggles whilst they filmed.
"The West Wing"
After Aaron Sorkin’s departure, many believe that "The West Wing" descended drastically. But the show still had its good moments, especially when they decided to broadcast the presidential debate between Arnold Vinick and Matt Santos live. It made for compelling viewing.
"The Drew Carey Show"
Drew Carey’s position as the host of the improvised show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" saw the comedian deploy these same tactics on his eponymous sitcom, with mixed success. The plots were loose and some of the improvised scenes just came across as superfluous, but good on them for trying though.