Beginning today, and for the next seven weeks, San Dimas joins the ranks of cities with their own prime-time network television series.
“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures,” an adaptation of two movies about time-traveling San Dimas High School students Bill S. Preston Esq. (Evan Richards) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Christopher Kennedy) debuts on KTTV Channel 11 at 7 p.m.
It is believed to be the first prime-time network series set in the San Gabriel Valley since “Family,” which chronicled Pasadena’s Lawrence clan, aired on ABC from 1976 to 1980.
But don’t expect much local footage in the seven episodes of the Fox Broadcasting series. For financial reasons, all the “Bill & Ted” episodes were filmed in Vancouver, Canada.
“Because it was a short order, the amortization dictated we go for the first seven (episodes) in as inexpensive fashion as possible, and Vancouver is very production-friendly,” executive producer Clifton Campbell said.
“We intended to explore shooting down here (if the series was renewed), but we really took advantage of the other locations Vancouver has to offer because of the nature of the time-travel show.”
Although Campbell was at first concerned that Vancouver could not double for Southern California, his fears were quickly assuaged.
“We got very fortunate with weather and were able to take advantage of lower horizon to take shots of the ocean,” Campbell said. “We found a strip mall in a suburb of Vancouver that looks like every strip mall in America, and we used that as the site of the boys’ part-time job. There was a house that looks just like the house we shot (in Thousand Oaks) for the pilot.
“As long as we kept our cameras down and didn’t shoot the Douglas firs all over the place, it worked out fine.”
Vancouver also offered sites that resemble England and 15th-Century Spain, Campbell said.
“Bill & Ted” was originally announced to be part of Fox’s 1991-92 fall schedule. But a contract clause from Nelson Entertainment, which produced the “Bill & Ted” movies, kept it off the air until “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” released last summer, achieved a specified box office gross, Campbell said.
Because of the low number of series cancellations, “Bill & Ted” was unable to find a spot on the Fox schedule until now, when all four major broadcast networks are presenting a larger-than-usual amount of new summer programming to maintain viewer interest.
A Fox spokesman said “Bill & Ted,” has been out of production for several months, and it is not expected that additional episodes will be made.
Local reaction to the series is generally split along generational lines.
“I thought the ‘Bill & Ted’ movies were the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Debbie Proctor, a mother of six and a lifelong resident of San Dimas, while watching a Colt League baseball game at San Dimas High on Saturday. “It shows teen-agers being kind of stupid. I don’t think it gives the teen-agers the credit they should get.”
But Scott Altis, 15, Proctor’s stepson and a San Dimas High junior, disagreed. “I don’t think it gives kids a bad image,” he said. The show, he added, “is not about being stupid, it’s about friendship.”
And San Dimas High Principal Colleen Gaynes “is not bothered at all” by the show. “Their message is not a negative message,” Gaynes said. “Their message is that you should be kind to each other.”
San Dimas Mayor Terry L. Dipple, who has pledged to set his VCR to record tonight’s premiere episode, said the “Bill & Ted” movies have been positive toward the city.
“The publicity we’ve received has been fun,” Dipple said. “It doesn’t make us a tourist attraction, but it’s been surprising the number of people who know about San Dimas.”