Despite having owned the Season One set since 2002 and the Martinis and Medicine Collection since 2006, until last weekend I hadn’t watched any episodes of M*A*S*H without the laugh track. I don’t recall the ability to watch episodes of the series without the laugh track being used as a selling point back in 2002 (not that M*A*S*H needed any help selling itself on DVD) but it was something of a bonus feature for an otherwise bare bones release.
Personally, I’ve never found the laugh track on M*A*S*H to be obnoxious or overwhelming. But after sitting down to a mini marathon of six episodes — “Requiem For A Lightweight,” “The Army-Navy Game,” “There Is Nothing Like A Nurse,” “The Late Captain Pierce,” “Death Takes A Holiday,” and “Sons and Bowlers” — I realized that the laugh track does occasionally overpower dialogue. I can’t think of any examples where the laugh track intruded upon an actual conversation or ruined a joke but there were certainly times where laughter covered up the reaction to a joke.
Hearing each and every one of these words for the first time was a treat. So why did it take this long for me to try out the audio track without the canned laughter? A combination of laziness and forgetfulness. Popping in a disc, selecting an episode and hitting play is easier than selecting the audio track without the laugh track. Not much easier, I admit, but a little easier. I had also more or less forgotten about the ability to watch without the laugh track. On a whim, while I was turning on the closed-captions, I decided to select the option for the audio track without the canned laughter.
I don’t know if I’ll be watching every episode without the laugh track from now on. I’m so used to hearing the laughter that it was a little strange not to hear it. I’ll probably watch some episodes without the laugh track and some with it. But what about everyone else? Am I the only one watching the DVDs with the laugh track? Or is watching M*A*S*H without the laugh track a little weird? Hit the comments with your opinion on being able to watch the series without the laugh track.