story by Kayte Deioma
What could be more “Hollywood” in Hollywood than attending a TV show taping? Depending on your timing, you could take in a live taping of your favorite sitcom, be in the audience of a talk show or cheer on the contestants in a game show.
Some shows tape at studios up in Burbank or on the west side, but many tape right in Hollywood. The Jimmy Kimmel Live! Show tapes at the El Capitan Entertainment Center next to the El Capitan Theatre. Various sitcoms tape at large and small studios around Hollywood. The largest in Hollywood is Paramount Studios with its memorable entrance on Melrose Blvd. at Gower.
TV shows are taped on weekdays. There used to be a more distinct taping season, but with some shows still starting in the fall, some in January and others as summer replacements, there is almost always something taping somewhere in Hollywood. August through March is still probably the busiest taping season. It usually takes at least three hours of your time to attend the taping, whether it’s a half hour sitcom or an hour long talk show. It can also take longer.
Most sitcoms have a “call time” of 4 or 5 p.m., which is when you are expected to show up and get in line. Game shows tape in the late morning or early afternoon and sometimes have two tapings in one day and tape multiple shows per session. Talk shows tape at all different times from Dr. Phil early in the morning to Jimmy Kimmel later in the evening and everything in between.
As you’re watching television, you’ll notice a lot of shows tell you that you have to write in months ahead of time to get tickets. This still applies to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno taping in Burbank and a few other NBC shows. It will improve your chances of getting in to see exactly what you want to see. But if you’re flexible, there is almost always something being taped that you can get tickets for right up until the last minute.
TV show tickets are free. You can get TV show tickets online through various web sites. There is some overlap between websites, but no one web site handles all the studios, so it’s best to check several. The Audiences Unlimited site, www.tvtickets.com has a good selection, as does www.tvtix.com. Many shows require audience members to be at least 18 years old. Some have a minimum age limit of 16. If you want to take your kids to a taping, www.jampackedtvshows.com has tickets to Nickelodeon shows that accept audience members as young as eight years old. Some game shows that film outside of Hollywood also have a minimum age of eight.
Most weekdays, you can find people handing out TV show tickets in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. Of the Hollywood studios, the majority of them use the online audience ticket web sites listed above. For shows taping on the Paramount lot, you can call the studio directly at (323) 956-1777 for tickets. As a last resort, you can show up at the taping and see if there are any seats left after all the ticketed people have been seated.
Do not bring cameras, video or audio recorders, or cell phones with you to the studio. Leave them in the car or the hotel room. You won’t be allowed to take them inside. Also leave pocket knives behind as well as anything else that might be construed as a weapon. You will be going through a security check point. Food is not generally permitted, but I have seen plenty of people finishing up their fast food burgers or beverages while waiting in line and nobody questioned the Power Bar and bottle of water that lives in my purse.
When you print your ticket from the internet, it might say to wear formal attire. When have you ever seen TV audience members wearing formal attire? Ignore this and use your common sense. If you’re going to see a sitcom, the audience won’t be seen. Jeans or shorts are fine, but they tend to keep the studios quite cold, so long pants and a sweater are a good idea. On talk shows and occasionally on game shows, the audience is sometimes seen. If you want to be seated in an area where you might be on television, dress appropriately.
They distribute more tickets than they have seats because they know a lot of people who get tickets won’t show up. So having a ticket does not guarantee that you will get in. Be in line at the call time if you want to be sure of getting a seat. If it’s a really popular show, be early.
Standing in line is part of the process. If it’s raining, they try to move you indoors so you don’t have to wait in the rain. You may be in line anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The location of the line may move several times before you enter the studio.
Finally you get ushered into the studio. There are not usually assigned seats. You are expected to fill up the rows in order as directed. After another while of waiting, a comedian comes out to warm up the audience and get you into a laughing mood. Depending on the comedian, this may involve a lot of audience participation, so if you have any great impressions of people, animals or random sound effects, practice up ahead of time, just in case.
As the comedian gets you laughing, production crew are wandering around the set making last minute adjustments. At last, the moment you’ve been waiting for: they’re ready to begin.
Watching a sitcom being taped is nothing like watching a sitcom on TV. It is a live theatre performance. You don’t have to enjoy watching a particular show to enjoy watching that show being taped. It’s a completely different experience. It’s all about the spontaneity of watching the actors deliver the lines one way and then try them again a different way, or simply watching them flub a line or have a laughing fit and have to redo the scene. Since it is live, the actors can hear you. You can’t scold the characters during taping the way you might yell at them on your TV. If you do, you’ll be thrown out.
Occasionally there may be a scene that was prerecorded that they play for you on overhead TV monitors to help you follow the story. Your warm-up person may be around to continue the laughs between takes as they reposition cameras for the next scene. If you’re lucky, a celebrity or two may break character between takes to come up to the audience and say hello. In any case, you have the pleasure of seeing these TV stars just twenty feet away as they perform their scenes. What better way to feel like you’re in Hollywood?
Most tickets are now issued online up to the day before the show. If you’re visiting from out of town and didn’t print your tickets in advance, you can access the internet to print your ticket at CyberJava internet cafe on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and La Brea. To get TV tickets online visit www.tvtickets.com, www.tvtix.com, or www.jampackedtvshows.com (only site for Nickelodeon shows).
Paramount Studios: (323) 956-1777
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (866) JIMMY TIX, (Call weekdays 1-4pm PST) www.1iota.com
Other LA TV show tapings outside of Hollywood that are not listed on the web sites above:
NBC Studios in Burbank:
Jay Leno Tickets: 818-840-3537
Ellen Tickets: www.ellentv.com or call 818-260-5600
Last Call with Carson Daly tickets at www.1aiota.com or (866) 546-6984.