Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tips on attending TV Tapings

LA is a big tourist destination, and one of the cool things to do is see the taping of a national television show. You can’t do much of that in Cincinnati. Another plus – TV tapings are free. There must be some law because I can’t imagine Hollywood studios leaving even a dime on the table.

There are online services that offer tickets. If you’re in LA, there are stands in the Grove and Hollywood that offer them as well. You can also contact the show you want and find out how to procure tickets. Or contact the network.

But here’s some helpful things you should know:

If you attend a multi-camera sitcom taping expect to be there at least three hours. They do multiple takes of each scene. Sometimes writers huddle for ten minutes and change jokes. There are also set and costume changes.

Some sitcoms have long waiting lists. Others have to pay services to bus in audiences. Those people are paid to sit through crappy shows.  It's hard-earned money. 

If you go to reality competition shows like AMERICAN IDOL or DANCING WITH THE STARS, wait until they’re far enough into the season that they do live shows. In those cases you’re in and out in a couple of hours.

If a reality competition show is just being taped for later airing, you could be there for seven hours. I’m not kidding. And trust me, the novelty wears off real fast.

Oh, whenever they say you HAVE TO STAY, that’s bullshit. You’re not held captive. If you get tired and want to leave, leave. Unless they’re paying you, you have no obligation to stay.

Late night talk shows like Kimmell or Corden are good because they’re almost live. So you’re generally in and out in two hours. Note: Talk show hosts usually like their studios to be freezing. They feel the audiences are more responsive. Bring a sweater (or parka). Demand for tickets for those shows is very high. Plan ahead and order early.

One problem with some of these shows is that you stand in long lines for quite awhile before they let you in. That depends on the individual show.

Daytime talk shows (like ELLEN) are similar to late night. Once cameras roll it’s almost as if it were live. They tend to go straight through. (Although I understand Stephen Colbert often does pick ups and repeats things that didn’t go perfectly -- but that's in New York.)

Game shows are fun because they tape two or more episodes at a time. Shows like JEOPARDY will tape a week’s worth of episodes in one day (three in the morning, two after lunch). So you get a lot of bang for your buck.  Your ticket will be for either the morning or afternoon (not both).  And they generally go straight through, although they may do some quick pick-ups if the host screwed something up. Alex Trebek has been known to muff a clue or two in 35 years. For some game shows you need to write in months in advance. For others you can get tickets in the morning and be in the studio that afternoon.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT is one where there is super-demand, obviously because contestants are chosen from the audience. Should you get tickets, start lining up at 6 in the morning. There is a motel across the street of CBS called the Farmer’s Daughter and I understand it’s filled with with PRICE IS RIGHT ticket holders so they can just get up and get in line.

This is Hollywood so privilege is everything. Expect there to be VIP lists and roped off areas in the audience for VIP’s. But there are generally monitors and every seat is a pretty good one.

All of these shows have warm up people and some offer prizes. You may win something. And if they know the taping will take awhile they often offer free candy and snacks and water.

Finally, some shows have an age requirement.  Make sure that's not a problem.  

So those are some tips on attending TV tapings. It’s a fun thing to do and there’s one additional perk – depending on the show YOU MIGHT GET ON TELEVISION. And the price is right (both upper and lower case).


Vrej said...

I went to see a Price is Right taping last summer on a trip to LA and it wasn't quite like that.
Getting tickets was super easy ahead of time online. They do two tapings a day: one in the morning, one at night. For the morning taping, they asked for audience members to show up at 8 AM. Then you wait... in one line, then another, then another. Then the producer does micro-interviews with everyone to gauge who would be a good contestent. Then you finally get into that studio and it's magical! Drew Carey is very personable, talking to the crowd during breaks. He personally gave me and my wife some tips of things to do and places to eat while in town.

Anyway, long story short, expect Price is Right to eat up 5 hours of your day, starting at 8 AM for the morning taping.

Celebrity sighting: Afterwards, we crossed across the street to the Grove shopping area and saw David Spade eating at the Cheesecake Factory.

VP81955 said...

The four sitcom filmings I've attended -- "Frasier" (Paramount), March 2000; "Hot In Cleveland" (CBS Studio City), December 2014; and "Mom" (Warners), November 2014 and July 31, 2015, the latter the first ep produced for season 3 -- all were of veteran series where cast, crew and writers knew what they were doing. All went smoothly with minimal delays. First-year shows without the pedigree of a producer such as Chuck Lorre may be another matter entirely. Caveat emptor.

Jeff said...

Interesting to me that the ticket you posted was from "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour." My parents attended a taping of that show and found it enormously disappointing. They taped Sonny and Cher's opening number/routine, then their closing number routine (which was on the same set and in the same costumes). After that, the show's musical guest (I forget who my folks said it was) taped their number--and that was it! Someone came out and explained that "for technical reasons" the rest of the show would be taped without an audience. The only other thing my folks remembered being taped was footage of the audience appplauding and applauding and applauding for what they said seemed like ten minutes. Apparently, that was normal taping procedure for Sonny and Cher's show.

Mike Barer said...

When we were in the audience for "the Price Is Right", we did not stay at the Farmer's Daughter. We already had a reservation at a hotel across from Television City that was seedy and scary. But it was nearby.
That was cool because it was Oscars night, the night before. We were able to walk past the barricades down Hollywood Blvd to some of the places were the parties would later take place.
We had talked about hanging for a party, but already had plans to meet my brother for dinner. Probably a good thing, because crashing a party may have had consequences.

thomas tucker said...

Years ago, I went to a taping of The Merv Griffin Show and thought it was going to be fantastic to see the celebrities that he would have on. Wrong. He was doing one of his "theme shows" that day, and the theme was Stars' Mothers. I got to see Liberace's mother, Don Rickles' mother, etc. Talk about disappointed. But later that week I got to see a taping of The Odd Couple, and Tony Randall actually warmed up the audience!

Unknown said...

I'm planning on a family vacation during spring break to L.A. and working on getting tickets to the taping of a Simpsons episode.

Frank Beans said...

You mean that WKRP wasn't actually taped in Cincinnati?

Say it ain't so, Ken, say it ain't so.

Gary said...

In 1979 I attended a taping of Three's Company, still in the Suzanne Somers era. It was great fun, but it was definitely all business. When an actor muffed a line everyone chuckled for a second, and then they went right back to work. No line had to be said more than twice. As I recall John Ritter never made a mistake and never went off-script. Consequently I don't think the audience was in the studio for more than 45 minutes.

By contrast, there's a funny gag reel on YouTube from 8 Simple Rules, tragically Ritter's last series. By this time, when the actors make a mistake they break up constantly. Ritter is hilarious, seemingly doing everything possible to make his cast mates and the crew laugh. It was very much a party atmosphere, and the tapings had to go on for hours. (If you watch the bloopers from Everybody Loves Raymond it's much of the same -- Ray Romano surprises everyone with different punchlines to break the cast up.)

This leads me to a Friday question -- when you have a big star such as Ritter who enjoys fooling around, do the producers just accept this, and assume that the tapings will take longer and cost them more money? I'd guess at some point there had to be producers getting impatient and adding up how much all the wasted time was costing them. And Ken, did you ever have a problem with an actor who like to fool around a little too much while you were shooting?

Frank Beans said...

"Some shows have an age requirement..."

Could you elaborate on that a bit more? Is it too young, too old, or some other random criteria, and on what kinds of shows typically? Do you think this is a practical, ethical, or wise practice?

Clara said...

Very helpful blog.

How much do they pay for the "crappy" shows?

Can anyone please share their experience, if it was worth it.

Anonymous said...

My junior year in high school in...OMG...1972, a group went on a school sponsored trip to DC, Philadelphia, NYC. My friend's father wrote ahead and got 4 tickets to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The guest that night? Don Rickles. The night went so fast. Carson always taped in 'real time' and the best bits were during the commercials as you can imagine. The whole process took about 2 hours, 1.5 for the show and 1/2 hour for glitches and such. One of the most memorable nights of my life.

Pam, St. Louis

OrangeTom said...

Was fortunate as a college kid to see the Tonight Show when Carson was still hosting in 1982. Richard Pryor was the main guest. Main memories: Everything was so small. Stage and the crowd seating area. Carson was even funnier and more personable in the flesh. The band was amazing.

Andy Rose said...

It's easier to get tickets for popular shows now than it used to be. Most shows have turned over ticketing duties to specialty companies who have an incentive to make everything run as efficiently as possible. As noted above, you can now walk onto the Price is Right lot right at call time as long as you have a "priority" ticket. Most talk shows only release their tickets about a month at a time, so there are no crazy waitlists anymore. I heard that when David Letterman was on NBC, tickets were booked solid more than a year out.

The most in-demand show is still Saturday Night Live. They issue tickets by lottery. Until the online era, they were overwhelmed with so much mail, they would only process postcards that were sent during the month of August. Requests that arrived at any other time would be quietly thrown in the trash.

Terry said...

Can confirm what you said about New York shows. I saw David Letterman twice. The first time we got in the stand-by line and were the last ones to get let in. The second time I called ahead for tickets and had to stand in this old ballroom across the street forever. This was on a Thursday so they were taping two shows - one for that night and one for Friday. So we had to wait in the ballroom while they finished taping the first show. It was well over an hour. I was so grateful to finally sit down when we got inside the Ed Sullivan Theater. Two of the guests that night were Willy Nelson and Lyle Lovett singing a duet. The show rolled on as though live but apparently something went wrong with their segment because once the show was over, they invited us to stay and watch them sing the song again if we wanted to. I happily did. All in all a fun experience.

Glenn said...

My buddy was on the Price is Right in the late 90s. He made it to the showcase showdown and was the winner. Prizes were: a bureau (made of crappy wood that started to rot after a year), two bicycles (one snapped in half after two rides), a trip to Switzerland (which he couldn't use because they would only fly him out of LA, and he was from Boston) and a new car (worth 18,000, he sold it back to the show for just under 10,000).

Months after the taping, he came home from work to find the bikes and bureau sitting in his driveway; not in boxes, no notes, no paperwork, just dumped there by a delivery truck.

Howard Hoffman said...

If you’re in New York and want to see Colbert, definitely bring a sweater. And unless you have an enormous amount of patience, do NOT go on a Thursday. They tape the Thursday AND Friday shows in one sitting. I will say the one show I did see went pretty smoothly, and they genuinely like their audiences. Plus, Stay Human is a hell of a band. You’ll have a blast.

Bob K said...

It was Jan 8, 1985, I was a college student from NJ studying Communications and was lucky enough to attend a taping of The Tonight Show. What a thrill! I remember the date only because of a joke during Johnny’s monologue: “It’s Elvis Presley’s birthday today... He’s celebrating quietly.” We also saw a young, up-and-coming comedian named Jerry Seinfeld. I wonder whatever happened to him?

Lorimartian said...

People with sensitive hearing, beware attending "Ellen." There are speakers actually located in the seating rows, and the music coming through them is unnecessarily and dangerously loud. An usher saw me cover my ears and immediately provided earplugs. (I must have not been the only one to experience such discomfort.) Thank God, or I would have had to leave. Also, Ellen did not interact with the audience at all before, during breaks in, or after the taping which was somewhat disappointing.

Kevin In Choconut Center said...

I've attended two tapings of talk shows. Both were in New York and on the same day. The first was the Montel Williams show. His staff was so good to my college class, making sure we were comfortable while waiting to go into the theater. The second was Dave Letterman's CBS show. We managed to get tickets on stand-by. His staff was great, as well. And yes, both theaters were chilly, which we thankfully were prepared for.

Mike said...

The producers and cast of “Three’s Company” were proud of their “live-to-tape” method. They rarely had to do pick-ups.

Myles said...

Typically about a buck more than minimum wage so right now it's probably about $13/hour. Can make $75-$100 just clapping and laughing. Easy money. A lot worse things you can be doing than getting paid to watch a TV get made. Netflix has a movie about it called "The Clapper" I believe.

JoeyH said...

I was really young, but I still remember seeing The Jackie Gleason Show tape at the old Miami Beach Auditorium. Though the show itself was great, the thing I most remember was the Johnny Olson warm-up.

Cap'n Bob said...

A friend and I saw a taping of The Match Game in its original format, in November 1968. I think we stayed for two shows. There was a lovely girl with a British accent in the hallway giving away tickets and we couldn't resist her.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

You mean that WKRP wasn't actually taped in Cincinnati?

TV is a lie?!

Oh no.

What else is a lie? Cake?

Liggie said...

We had a family vacation in L.A. in the late '70s, and as a game show fan, I was thrilled when my father scored tickets for a "Tic Tac Dough" taping for him and me. Unfortunately, something happened with someone else in our huge traveling party (two grandparents, two sets of parents, and six combined kids), and we had to cancel to attend to whatever it was. It took me a while to get over the disappointment. Even now I wonder what it would've been like to have attended a taping of one of those Seventies/Eighties game shows. The closest we have now are the summer game show revivals on ABC, like "Press Your Luck" with Elizabeth Banks and "Match Game" with Alec Baldwin.

A friend has attended a taping of "The Price Is Right", and he said they do an incredible job of revving up the audience, so you know the jumping up and down on TV is real. Apparently they also do well in exciting audiences for those TPIR traveling "shows", so when some L.A. sports anchor arrives onstage as the "host", the crowd screams like he was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

Clara said...

@ Myles,

Thank you for sharing the information.

Frank Beans said...

@ Rory L. Aronsky

Congratulations for cracking this nut.

I know, next thing he'll be telling us that MASH wasn't actually filmed in Korea.

Roger Owen Green said...

When I was on JEOPARDY! in 1998, I got four tickets for my friends for BOTH tapings because I didn't know what show I'd be on. as it turned out, I was on the Monday and Tuesday shows. Since I wasn't allowed to leave until after the third show, I got to watch the Wednesday show, sitting next to a woman who would be on the Thursday show.

Craig said...

@Jeff: The comedy sketches on the Sonny and Cher show were taped in assembly line fashion. Several of the Sonny's Pizza sketches might be done at the same time. Or several of the Vamp sketches. It was easier and faster, production-wise, to do the sketches this way, and without having to bother with an audience. Audience response came from good ol' Charley Douglass and his laugh box. As with most variety shows of the era, Charley's laughs were all over even the segments that did feature a live audience, anyway.

"Hee Haw" similarly was produced in this same assembly line fashion, with an audience present only for the musical performances. "Hee Haw" would tape a season's worth of material in just two or three weeks!

Speaking of Charley and his laugh box, a friend and his wife had an interesting experience. They sat through a sitcom taping. The show ended with someone opening a closet door, out of which pours a mountain of aluminum cans. Someone makes a wisecrack. The end. My friend said neither the cans spilling out of the closet nor the closing wisecrack got anything more than light laughter from the audience. Come broadcast night, my friends watched the show they'd seen taped. The audience response had been goosed way up. The appearance of the cans now got a very loud, extended laugh and sustained applause. The closing wisecrack now just about brought down the house. No wonder so many people are cynical about live audience responses.

JS said...

I was in New York as a tourist the first week of Conan O'Brien's show. We toured NBC and the tour guides were begging - and I mean begging - people to sit in the audience because no-one knew who he was. They kept telling us how nice he was and offered us free food - LOL!