I don’t have any pictures for this post, because they wouldn’t let us bring our phones, but I wanted to walk you through how to see a TV show taping if that is something you are interested in. The first thing I should mention is most shows are no longer taped “in front of a live studio audience”. Game shows and late night shows would be the main exceptions, but very few comedies and no dramas have a live audience. I mention this because you really have to plan ahead to see a show and from what we learned most shows audiences actually fill up about 8 days in advance.
This was a priority for Lee though so he watched the websites well in advance of the tapings. One of the websites he used was On Camera Audiences which is a third party company that specializes in filling and wrangling the audience. I say wrangling because getting 140 people to do anything consistently does take some work so the studios subcontract the audience filling to them. And there are rules (lots of them) if you want to be an audience member. The tickets are free but the things you have to do are very specific including showing proof of COVID vaccine, wearing a mask, wearing certain colored clothing, etc. Each show is different so definitely read the fine print because they will turn you away if you don’t fit the criteria. They overbook the audience by about 20% so there are always people willing to take those seats if you don’t.
Lee has done several of these but to be honest I was pretty intimidated by the process, but eventually I agreed to try a taping of The Connors. This spinoff of Roseanne has some great actors so I thought it would be worth it to see. The taping for this show is on Fridays and doesn’t actually start until 4:00pm but we had to be there by 2:30pm. When we arrived at 2:15pm there was already a line and the parking garage would not let us in until 2:30pm on the dot. See? Rules.
Once we parked (and left our phones in the truck) we walked to a table and had to show our drivers licenses (twice) and proof of vaccination. We were handed a mask and then we had to walk through security. Anything they didn’t like (my vape pen wasn’t allowed) had to be put in lockers and then we were handed a turkey and cheese sandwich, a small bottle of water and told to wait in line. We ended up waiting until 3:15 when they finally started moving us into the studio. Once inside we found our seats and in this case could largely sit where we wanted. In other tapings they decided where you will sit and if you don’t fit what they are looking for you will end up in a dark corner. Lee didn’t look quite right for the Kimmel show so he was put in a remote dark corner, but still had a great view. That being said all the seats were pretty decent they just decide who will be on camera. (ie: game shows, talk shows, etc)
In this case we were just the studio audience and as they explained it we were there to do a job. The writers and actors would listen to our reactions and based on those rewrites and scene reshoots would happen on the spot. We saw this happen frequently that night but I would say for me this was the hardest part of the “job”. Laughing on the second and third takes with equal enthusiasm was tough for me and the masks didn’t make it any easier. We did have a comic and a DJ to keep us entertained between takes, but for me at least it was tougher the second and third times around usually. I say usually because sometimes the second take was much funnier and then of course it was easy.
I think that’s what bugged me about the whole thing the most was the audience response felt somewhat scripted. If we all went ahhhh for example after one take they might ask us to laugh during the next one. If they really wanted to get an honest audience reaction I am not sure telling us how to react was the best way to go about that. Still it was really neat to be on the Connors set and seeing the iconic couch and the cast introductions in the beginning were almost worth it. I say almost because the taping really drug on and ultimately it took 3 hours to film 22 minutes of TV. It wasn’t even 22 minutes because three of the scenes were pre-recorded and as interesting as it was to watch folks work their craft towards the end I did get pretty tired.
Actually the sections between filming were pretty interesting because the crowd was a mixed group of people from all over the country and the warm up person got people to talk about themselves. One guy was a Washington D.C. lawyer and had come out to LA with the dream of being a screenwriter. He asked how to get started and the warm up guy said in all seriousness that 80% of the people who come out with a dream leave after 2 months because in Hollywood it’s all about who you know. If you don’t know anyone then you have to work in an adjacent field and hope you meet enough people in the actual industry to get a break. It was pretty interesting and really matches up with everything we have heard from the people Lee knows who live out here. Only 5% of the people who come out here last beyond a year and most of the people we have seen trying to break in have been pretty young.
Anyway, although it was a five hour investment of time I am really glad I did it. Seeing John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf in person was great and I absolutely loved when the actors would mess up their lines and look up at us and say something funny. They also had a couple of guest stars (Jamie Pressley and Kenneth Parcell) which was a wonderful bonus. That’s just me though, Lee loves doing this. He has already seen Jimmy Kimmell, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune. We also have tickets to Whose Line Is It Anyway and The Masked Singer so I will be going back again a couple more times. If you decide to do this just remember: plan in advance and they make the rules during this stretch of time.
Oh one last thing. If anyone is wondering what is going on with our schedule, well at this point things are up in the air. It’s been raining pretty much non stop here in California and it’s even worse in the north than it is here. Our original plan was to move up along the coast but between the flooding and there being so much more to do in LA than I expected for right now we are going to stay in place. We will need to relocate from the Elks to a regular RV Park but we found a place we can stay at a decent (for here) monthly rate. Lee is having an amazing time and I just started the new job so staying around for a little longer only makes sense.
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