Viewers often send complaints about laugh tracks on TV shows and how they find them annoying. It's not something that usually bothers me, in part because I don't watch that many multi-cam shows shot in front of a studio audience and because the ones I do watch are actually funny ("The Big Bang Theory," most notably).
But the pilot episode of TBS's "Ground Floor" (10 and 10:30 tonight) made me think of those viewers' complaints because the laugh track on this show distracts; it's not at all a proportional response. "Ground Floor" is mildly amusing at best and the laugh track is juiced up to 11, a major mismatch.
Perhaps as a single-camera show this comedy from Bill Lawrence, the creator of "Scrubs," and Greg Malins ("Friends," "Better With You") would be more enjoyable. But with a laugh track cackling at high volume, it was a constant reminder I was not enjoying the show nearly as much as the disembodied cacklers.
An attempt at a comedic "Upstairs, Downstairs," "Ground Floor" follows Ivy Leaguer Brody (Skylar Astin, "Pitch Perfect"), who works high up in a San Francisco office tower, and his courtship with Jenny (Briga Heelan), who works on the ground floor of the same building (although the set looks more like a basement).
Much is made of their social class disparities. Jenny's co-workers think she's uppity for sleeping with "one of those soulless upstairs guys." Brody's banker boss, Mr. Mansfield (John C. McGinley, "Scrubs") worries his protege will be distracted: "Sure, those ground floor people have fun now, but where are they gonna be in 10 years?"
Does anyone actually talk this way in the real world? No doubt people have these thoughts about lower and higher social classes than their own, but the notion that it's a frequent focal point of discussion seems unlikely.
In some respects, the characters in "Ground Floor" are attempts to mimic the "Scrubs" formula. Mr. McGinley essentially plays a similar version of his "Scrubs" character, a tough father figure, although this one is marginally more sympathetic than his "Scrubs" doc.
And Brody is paired with a best buddy, Threepeat (Rene Gubez), just like J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) on "Scrubs." But most of the young, relatively untested actors in "Ground Floor" are not nearly as talented at creating endearing characters; in the first two episodes the characters are mostly just ciphers.