TORONTO - We may be living in a time of Netflix and cable cutting, but in television, taping in front of a studio audience is a concept that hasn't died out just yet.
And with the temperatures outside broiling, why not take the family behind the curtain within the cool sanctuaries of TV studios?
With TV amid something of a golden age, with dramas like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" making the family-room couch the hub of must-see pop culture, shows that use live audiences — like game shows or reality programs — have hardly faded. And while tapings were once the station of those seeking jobs in acting, communications or production, those shows have increasingly become an opportunity for families to enjoy a unique summer experience.
"It used to be something that a very small percentage of the population was interested in," says Cara Volchoff, series producer of "Pop Quiz" and head of factual entertainment for Pixcom. "Now ... it's something families can do together and really go to experience together and then have conversation about afterward, that kind of dinner-table conversation."
Volchoff says Toronto — with some possibilities in Vancouver and Montreal — is essentially the one place in the country where you can get the taping experience.
"I think the best thing about coming into the studio and seeing something live is for the television experience itself — not only do you feel like you're a part of something that's so much bigger than you, you also get to see that behind-the-curtain aspect of television we never get to see."
It means a lot to performers, too.
"The audience gives you an energy that a laugh track just can't produce," says Volchoff. "It gives your talent someone to perform to, it gives your crew and your directors something to help heighten the circumstance of that situation and get an inside gauge on what's working and not working."
"It's better having a crowd, always," says Debra DiGiovanni, a stand-up comedian and regular panellist on the taped game show "Match Game."
"The live element is really important," agrees Sean Cullen, another panelist on the show. "If we had no one there laughing at anything, it'd be really hard to do the show."
In choosing a show, Volchoff suggests you go to something you can give energy to and enjoy for a reasonable amount of time; tapings can range anywhere from two to six hours.
"If you don't like it, you're not going to enjoy yourself, nor are you giving the producers or the talent the energy they're hoping to get, as well," she says.
"People want to be part of something, quite frankly, and being part of something that's making it 10 times better."
Here are four tapings worth checking out this summer:
E!'s "Pop Quiz": Billed as "'Jeopardy' for the rest of us," the game show — played at lightning speed, it pits 10 contestants against each other with random pop-culture questions — is based on France's hit "Le Cercle." To watch, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request for tickets. Or apply to participate by visiting julescasting.com.
MuchMusic's "New.Music.Live": The Canadian music network's flagship program, featuring comedic segments and interviews with high-profile musicians and celebrities. Taped weekdays in front of audiences from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets can be obtained through www.newmusiclive.ca/tickets.
CBC's "In The Kitchen with Stefano Faita": Starting July 23, the public broadcaster is out with an interactive show featuring Stefano Faita. Audience members can be invited onstage to help him make a recipe. Guests can apply for free tickets at www.cbc.ca/inthekitchen/about-the-show/get-tickets.html.
CTV's "Marilyn Denis Show": A lifestyle-oriented talk show featuring the Canadian TV and radio personality. Summer tapings are being shot live Monday to Friday until Aug. 1, running from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.. Tickets are free, and can be acquired by signing up at www.marilyn.ca.