There probably would have been televised sketch comedy shows and reality shows without producer George Schlatter, but they would have looked vastly different.
Before Schlatter brought “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In” to the air, TV sketch comedy was a lot more like vaudeville sketch comedy, featuring lengthy bits and sketches with long set-ups before getting to the punchline. After “Laugh-In,” it was much more acceptable to do a show that was a long string of wacky punchlines, with little to set up those jokes.
Schlatter didn't stop with “Laugh-In,” which was, at one point, the most popular show on the air. He also brought “Real People” to the airwaves, inadvertently creating something very like the infotainment that dominates the daytime schedule. But Schlatter tried numerous other series as well. He was one of the people behind “Cher,” a variety series that aimed to take Cher away from estranged husband Sonny Bono and give her a show in her own right.
He created a large number of programs he called concept shows, such as “The Shape of Things,” a series devoted to making men the objects of lust instead of women, or “Speak Up, America,” a series designed to get Americans debating. He even founded the American Comedy Awards. Schlatter always aimed for provocative and interesting, even if it meant critics mocked his shows, as they did with the occasionally mawkish “Real People.”
But Schlatter didn't care. He was always attracted to television over film. He began his career as an agent and moved into TV bookings acts on “The Dinah Shore Show” in 1960. “There isn't a person in this business he hasn't worked with or directed or pushed around,” actor Tim Conway told the Times in 1999, boasting that he and Schlatter teamed up for the shortest-lived show ever, the 1969 sketch comedy “Turn-On” — canceled after one episode.