LA Day 2: Hollywood and TV Taping

posted December 16, 2011 by Holly Hayes
part of trip: California + Vegas Road Trip

Yesterday we had the warmest weather yet (almost 70 I believe) and a great day of activities. We started out with a late breakfast at the Beverly Center - a ham and egg sandwich from California Crisp for me; a chicken and rice dish from Panda Express for David (who had been up longer than me).

The Beverly Center

Then David dropped me off on Hollywood Boulevard for a few hours of sightseeing, while he headed to a sunny park. He has seen the Hollywood sights about a bazillion times, whereas I've only visited once before. I can't say I love it - Hollywood is a complete armpit and not a very pleasant place to be. But I do love the sights, and I got lots of useful "work" pictures. Here are a few highlights.

Hollywood Boulevard


Grauman's Chinese Theater. Aside from the tourist hype about the forecourt, this is actually a very cool building - all the decorations (many of which are authentic antiques) were imported from China by Sid Grauman himself. I hope to have time to tour the inside before we leave.

Door Detail


I had a great time in the famous forecourt too:

Sean Connery does it barefoot - and with rather small feet!

Office promo

The historic El Capitan Theater (1926), currently owned by Disney

Kodak Theater, new home of the Oscars

First National Bank of Hollywood, with interesting architecture and appearances in Ghostbusters and other movies

Hollywood and Highland, a new shopping complex next to the Kodak Theater.

The Egyptian-style gateway was designed to frame the Hollywood sign.

Capitol Records Tower

Scientology building

Roosevelt Hotel

At 3:30, David picked me up at Hollywood and Vine (an easy intersection to remember!) and we drove over to Burbank for what turned out to be one of our funnest evenings yet. We started out with a bite to eat at the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy. I like to eat historic whenever I can, too!


It was so fun and so delicious. It was the quintessential American diner, complete with neon sign, greasy food, and a really nice waitress with a short skirt. It could not have been more perfect.

Healthy salads come with the meal - with buckets of dressing

I got the original Big Boy

David got the patty melt

While we were eating, David noticed our butts were on holy ground. Well, maybe. A plaque next to our booth said that the Beatles dined in this booth in 1965!

It's not clear whether the plaque refers to our booth (left) or the bigger one on the other side of the plaque (right) - but we'll just go ahead and assume it was ours.

Next we drove over the Warner Brothers Studio to watch a live TV taping! I was so excited about this, and it didn't let me down. Forgive me for the blow-by-blow account that follows - since it was so fun, I'd like to remember the details, and they aren't likely to all stay in my brain!


The night before I had gotten us free tickets online to join the studio audience of "Mike & Molly", a comedy about two hefty people in love. It's not a show we watch very much, although I love Melissa McCarthy and it's pleasant enough, but there weren't too many options available at the last minute (the other main choices were "2 Broke Girls" and "Last Man Standing").

The whole thing was quite an undertaking. You can't bring cameras or cellphones in with you, so we hid them in the car - we felt very naked, especially without our phones! And of course I really wished I had my camera so I could share what we saw with you, but I do understand the reasons for it.

The filming starts at 6:30 PM, but you have to be there at least 90 minutes in advance! We showed up, bellies full of burgers, at about 4:45, hoping we weren't too late to get a seat. (Much like an overbooked airline, your tickets don't guarantee admittance.) The first step is to park in the very nice, very secure Warner Brothers garage, then "sit in line" on a series of benches at the well-lit front corner of the garage. Most of the signage was for Ellen, and we saw cardboard boxes marked "Samsonite" being delivered to the seating area on golf carts, presumably as prizes for her show.

Shortly after 5:00, three officials slowly came down the row, to look at tickets, check names off their list, check photo IDs, and stamp hands with a stamp visible only under black light. Neato! They wrote seat numbers on our tickets (#91-92), so we knew we were in! Then we waited, and waited, and waited, until finally they took one row at a time across the street to the main studios. Here we waited in line again, went through metal detectors, and showed our stamps under a black-light flashlight.

THEN, we finally got to walk through the studios, all the way to the very back. Since we hadn't been on the tour yet (currently planned for tomorrow), this was a very fun first glimpse. We walked down a central street, with the barn-like studios towering over us on either side. Each one had a plaque outside, showing the date it was built (all from the 1920s or 1930s) and the films and TV shows that had been shot there. We also passed a little parking lot filled with trailers branded "Star Waggons." Some of them had lights on!

Once outside the studio where Mike & Molly is filmed, we waited in line again - for another metal detector, plus a more thorough search of bags. But it was a pretty pleasant wait, because we were standing on the back lot, next to the facades and streets used in exterior shots. The couple behind us had been on the studio tour the day before and pointed out that the central park we could see was part of the set for "Gilmore Girls" (a show I really, really love). They also confirmed what I'd suspected - that same "small-town USA" set is now being used for "Hart of Dixie" (which I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I also enjoy). They really enjoyed their tour, and hearing about it made us look forward to it even more.

Then we were finally in. Just inside the studio building, we passed the front porch of a brick house, with a wreath on the door and fake snow spread in the "front yard" - it is used for exterior shots of Mike and Molly's house, which is supposed to be in Chicago. It was fun to see behind the facade, where there was just assorted stage junk stashed out of sight.

We were seated somewhat randomly - the numbers we were given earlier didn't turn out to be assigned seat numbers - but got great spots (considering our late arrival) at the center back. The chairs were quite narrow and squished together, so it was good to be in the back. There were about 5-6 tiered rows of chairs, the stage close by in the front (blocked by a black movable wall when not in use), and large TV monitors suspended overhead.

At about 6:10, the guy hired to entertain us gave an introductory spiel about how our energy and laughter was an important contribution to the show, then we were shown the complete previous episode on the monitors, which I think hasn't aired yet. Then began the obligatory psychological manipulation to get us pumped up and ready to laugh heartily for the laugh track - loud pop music, demands for louder applause, stupid jokes and such. After filming started, the MC kept us entertained between takes, mainly by having various outgoing folks come down to the front and dance, make farm animal noises, show us a talent, sing a song - all for a chance at exciting prizes like fun-size candy bars or canvas grocery bags stamped with "Mike & Molly." Sometimes the audience performances were so entertaining that the cast and crew would watch them from the stage and laugh.

Towards the end, they fed us a slice of almost-cold cheese pizza and bottled water, which was well-timed when we were getting tired and restless (again, like an airplane). The whole thing took over two and a half hours, I believe. A huge downside of the experience was that it was REALLY cold in the studio. The ticket had gently warned, "the studio is kept cool during filming, so you may wish to bring a sweater or light jacket." A light jacket - ha! We should brought a parka and a fur hat!

The filming itself was so fun to watch. Except for a couple scenes filmed behind a curtain on our left (because that's where the particular stage is), we were able to watch the action both live in front of us and on the monitors above. The main living room set was on the left; in the middle was a small area for in-the-car scenes (nothing more than a steering wheel, two chairs, and a black background); and on the right was the diner. They apparently wanted two good takes of most scenes (we were instructed to laugh just as hard the second time, as though we'd never heard it before) plus re-takes whenever the actors flubbed their lines.

The show seemed more funny live than on TV, and it was especially fun when an actor would deliver a completely different punchline in a retake. Most of these seemed to be made up on the spot, as the other actors would keep a great poker face, but then bust up laughing after the director said "Cut". We began to really root for the actors, partially because it's painful to see their frustration when they mess up (although the resulting swear words are always funny), and partially because we wanted them to get the take finished so we could move on to the next scene! David and I were both impressed with how well they were able to regroup after a mistake - the director gives them no time at all, just tells them where to start over and starts filming again.

Another fun thing was that the wife of the guy who plays Mike was in the audience. I wonder how many tapings she attends. She was very normal and non-plastic, with brown hair and a red knit sweater. She sat in the front row, of course, and a couple times between takes he came over to talk to her and give her a kiss. Very cute.

When filming was finally done, the cast did a curtain call, during which Melissa McCarthy looked at me - her eyes said, "You're just as funny as me." Then we trooped out and back up the main street through the studio, which was really cold and windy - isn't this Southern California?!

Today it was cold and rainy (I want my money back) but we went to the Getty Museum and it was super fun. Would love to share some photos of that too, but after blathering on about on the TV taping for so long, it's after midnight - I've got another busy day planned for tomorrow, so must hit the sack. More soon, hopefully.

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LA Day 2: Hollywood and TV Taping
Holly Hayes
Date Published
December 16, 2011
Last Updated
April 22, 2022
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