Mark R. Madler
If the actors from “The Waltons” television series were to return to
their set on the Warner Bros. Studios lot these days, they probably
would not recognize what had been their fictional home.
Built on the family homestead is a swampy jungle that serves as
the setting for “Invasion,” one of the 11 new series now filming at
the studio for the upcoming fall season.
“Our jungle will serve as the Everglades and we’ll have a lagoon
back there,” said Lisa Rawlins, a senior vice president of studio and
production affairs. “We’ve built the hero’s house back in the
In addition to the new shows -- four comedies and seven dramas --
Warner Bros. is returning 17 shows to the fall schedule, including
medical drama “ER,” now in its 12th year.
For the 2004-05 television season, Warner Bros. produced 15
returning shows, 10 new shows, plus “Nip/Tuck” for the cable channel
With nearly half of the Warner Bros. Television-produced shows
being filmed in July and August, either on the main lot or at the
Warner Ranch facility at Hollywood Way and Oak Street, the studio’s
back lots are abuzz with activity.
In deciding what new shows to pick up for its fall schedules, a
network will look for plots that are a little bit out of the norm,
Jerry Katzman, an instructor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film
and Television, called it “the hook” that makes a show different but
still gives a familiar feeling to the audience.
When it comes to the network’s preference for shows one can’t put
anything in a box, said Brian Robinette, a spokesman at the NBC
studios in Burbank where stalwart soap opera “The Days of Our Lives”
and talk show mainstay “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” are filmed.
“It’s a balance of what shows are attracting an audience and
follow up on those successes,” Robinette said.
Rawlins cited ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” as the type of
out-of-the-norm pilots that were picked up and became a success with
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that more dramas about the
dalliances of upper middle-class housewives will pop up this season.
“Most people expected more shows like ‘Desperate Housewives’ to
come out but that wasn’t the case,” Rawlins said. “The trend
continues to be with supernatural shows and crime dramas.”
“Invasion” falls into that first category, telling the story of a
town on the edge of the Florida Everglades that is quarantined from
the outside world following a hurricane that disguises a landing by
What the networks should be focusing on, however, are more
comedies, Katzman said.
“Instead, they are relying on standard dramas and reality shows,”
he said. “The reason they need more comedies is that the syndication
is so valuable.”
Lack of syndication value has been cited in a 2005 study by
PricewaterhouseCoopers Entertainment & Media Practice as for why the
novelty of reality programming has worn thin with viewers and the
The biggest hits from the 2004 fall season, were all scripted
shows, although “Survivor,” “Amazing Race” and “American Idol”
continued to do well, the firm’s Global Entertainment and Media
Warner Bros. Television’s Telepictures Productions produces
network reality programming, including “The Bachelor.”
The reality television bubble has not burst yet, and probably
won’t burst because there is something about the shows that touches
Middle America, Katzman said.
“In the afternoons there were these personal-story-based shows
that are now found in prime-time,” he said. ""It’s not a new genre
just new for that time period.”