Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Adventures of Old Christine Taping

Season finale episodes are upon us and on a recent trip to Los Angeles (the same trip we saw The Big Bang Theory taping) we saw the season finale of The New Adventures of Old Christine taped.

To get tickets I just went online to the Audiences Unlimited website and was surprised to find tickets were available. I easily got 3 tickets for myself, my wife, and Donnie Payne. Someday I hope to be able to blog without Donnie being part of the story.

Being a long time Seinfeld fan being able to see a former Seinfeld cast member live and in person was exciting. Plus it gave me another chance to get back on the Warner Brothers lot without security trying to chase me away.

The New Adventures of Old Christine, hereafter referred to as Old Christine, tapes at Stage 5 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, CA. Stage 5 is next to Stage 1 where they tape The Ellen Show. The masses of screaming women going in to see a taping of Ellen were lined up and walking into the sound stage when we arrived at the lot.

We arrived a bit earlier for this taping then we did for Big Bang because we did not have VIP tickets or reserved seating. We were just plain old normal folks. The weather was nice so we wandered around a bit while the Ellen folks got through the audience cue area and then we got in line after securing our cell phones, cameras, and any other form of connection to the real world in the rental car. We were numbers 4, 5, and 6 in the line. Let the cattle herding begin.

The security folks came through and checked our ID’s and stamped our hands. I’m not really sure why they stamped our hands as we were never asked to show that our hands were stamped. Regardless it made us feel important.

The VIP folks were first taken across the street to the lot and through security. Then our group of regular folks went across and through the security check point next. We lined up across the street from the sound stage to wait for folks to use the bathroom. About 15 minutes later they took us to the stage. After going through another metal detector we were ushered to our seats.

From this point forward most of my comments will be comparing the Old Christine taping to the Big Bang taping. They were so radically different that comparing them seems the best way to describe the Old Christine taping.

The audience area for Old Christine was much nicer than Big Bang's. The Big Bang bleachers were just padded seats with backs. Old Christine had bright red theater seats which were much more comfortable for the 5 hour taping. Since we were close to the front of the line we ended up with font row center seats. What I can’t figure out is the episode we saw taped is the current season finale. I would have thought there would have been more VIP’s but it worked out well for us as our seats were front row right in front of Christine’s living room set, near the kitchen bar.

The most enjoyable feature of this taping was that they didn’t block off the sets from view. During the Big Bang taping, they blocked any part of the set they weren’t using. For Old Christine they left it all open so we had lots to look at and were able to see a lot more of the setup that goes into shooting each scene and even each shot.

The warm up MC guy was also much more relaxed. He was from Fishers, IN of all places and did a great job keeping us entertained while also allowing us to enjoy the experience and the show. His resume includes shows like Designing Women and The Golden Girls so he was definitely a seasoned pro. He even gave scripts autographed by the entire cast to those in the audience whose birthday was March 10, the day of the taping.

Between shots the MC wouldn’t do anything which allowed us to watch the reset, watch the writers and producers make notes and changes, and actual hear what was going on. At Big Bang at each second of downtime, the music was blaring and they were trying to entertain us. I saw and learned much more about how TV shows are made at the Old Christine taping.

The episode we saw filmed airs tonight at 8pm on CBS. It is the season finale and had a few other actors in it that I’m fans of from other TV series.

Since our seats were right on the rail we also got to talk with the cast a bit. Hamish came up to us several times talking to friends sitting beside us. Another celebrity was in the audience that night sitting 4 seats down the row from Heather. Jennifer Gray (Dirty Dancing) and her 2 children were there. I didn’t know she was married to Clark Gregg (Richard). Donnie asked Clark and he confirmed it was his wife and children in the audience for the season finale.

There were also more bloopers. When the actors goofed up they went with it and we all had a good laugh. On Big Bang goofs were bad and something not to be enjoyed. The opening shot of the episode has Christine (Julia) getting some glasses out of a cupboard and Barb (Wanda Sykes) pouring a bag of microwave popcorn into a bowl. Julia had the giggles from the start and they ended up going through 5 or 6 bags of popcorn just to get the taping started. That set the tone and it was a lot of fun from that part forward.

Before the taping began, they showed us a previous episode. It was one we had already seen but when it was over Donnie and I noticed a buzz coming from the audience monitor speaker. Sound stages are setup to provide minimal amplification for the studio audience of the live action. They can’t turn it up too much or it will feedback but they have small speakers spread throughout the audience so we can hear the live action. These speakers are especially helpful if the action is taking place on a set away from where you are sitting.

The buzz kept getting worse as they filmed and we notice some of the audio guys coming over to check it out. They asked us if we heard the buzz and we told them we heard it, when we heard it, and that it sounded like a 60 cycle hum due to high voltage crossover. The guy told us he would check it out. After the next shot he came back and asked and we told him it was still there. A while later he came back and said we were right, it was a 60 cycle in the feed line for that speaker and that someone from Warner Bros. would be by to fix it the next day. Apparently, the union crew for the show sound can’t mess with the union crew gear for the studio sound. We offered to fix it for them but they passed.

Overall, it was a great experience. The taping lasted about 5 hours and then we headed off to dinner in Burbank, down the street from NBC Studios. As I’ve said, I like The Big Bang Theory as a show much more than Old Christine but we all agreed that we had more fun at the Old Christine taping and got so much more out of it.

So listen for us laughing tonight. I won’t be able to watch it, as I will be at the Kennedy Space Center for a NASA Tweetup. Go figure.

Author's Note:  This is my first blog post from 33,000 feet on American Airlines #1872
from ORD-MCO.  It may also be my last post from said location.