The Tube / You Are (Not) Here
They’re called “establishing shots,” those brief external views of buildings that fix the location of a setting used on TV shows from one episode to the next. Because most shows are shot in L.A. but take place elsewhere, a lot of establishing shots are faking it. In this, as in other matters of rank illusion, Los Angeles excels.
Location: Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment building, Manhattan.
Actual location: 757 New Hampshire Ave., warehouse district, downtown. “There are parts of L.A. that look a lot like New York,” says production designer Tom Azzari. “You can’t tell the difference when it’s just one building.”
Show: “Chicago Hope”
Location: Chicago Hope Hospital, Chicago
Actual location: Los Angeles Convention Center. “Because the convention center isn’t really tall enough to be the hospital, we never establish the location with a wide shot,” says production manager Rob Coern. “We have to be careful to avoid palm trees and other non-Chicago scenery.”
Show: “Murphy Brown”
Locations: The FYI office building and Murphy’s townhouse, Washington, D.C.
Actual locations: Los Angeles and Burbank. The FYI building was stock footage of an L.A. skyscraper originally shot for a long-forgotten CBS made-for-TV movie. Murphy’s townhouse is on the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank--it was originally used for “Wonder Woman.”
Location: The Lunch Box Diner, Lanford, Ill. (fictional)
Actual location: Romero’s television repair shop on Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima. “We shoot most things [in L.A.],” says production supervisor Gil Kraus. To remake Romero’s, Kraus says, “we changed the sign, put in some bushes and snow.”
Show: “Happy Days”:
Location: Arnold’s Diner, Milwaukee
Actual location: 4500 Los Feliz Blvd., formerly the location of the Brown Derby, now occupied by Louise’s Trattoria. “The building has a lot of Hollywood history,” says Craig Appel, manager of Louise’s. “Our patio was the parking for Arnold’s, which you would always see during the beginning of the show.”