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Filming heats up

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,

Rawlins said.


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

alien beings.

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

Outlook concluded.

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.”