Archive for March 20th, 2006

No I can’t stop yelling! ‘Cause this is the way I talk!

Technically it’s not television, but I just had to share this with our readers. It’s the trailer for the most hotly anticipated film of 2006. No, it’s not Superman or X-Men, it’s Mother$#*$&% Snakes on a Plane!

March 20th, 2006

Adventures in Audiencing

As our intrepid reporter Maggie noted earlier, Tina Fey is working on a pilot for NBC that we're very excited about. Last week Maggie found an invitation to attend the taping of said pilot and I, as an invalid/vacationer (mild appendicitis!) decided to spend the day in Studio 8H, the legendary home of Saturday Night Live.

The call time was 12:20 so I showed up at 11:30 expecting to be told I was too late and hundreds of Tina Fey fans had camped out overnight to beat me out for a place in line. Actually I was the first one there, which I believe makes me the biggest Tina Fey fan in New York City; something I've long suspected but never confirmed. After searching the labyrinthine mezzanine at 30 Rockefeller Center for any sign of the alleged NBC pages who were supposed to lead me to the line I finally found someone with a walkie talkie who radioed upstairs and was told that the call time was 12:20. They do things by the book at NBC.

At 12:20 I arrived at the line where I signed a waiver giving up my right to privacy and got ticket number 43. I was told to come back in 30 minutes when they would let me in. 30 minutes later I was told to come back 30 minutes later. This is something I would expect from a film shoot, not a TV show.

Finally at 1:30 I got in line behind number 42 and was ushered through the metal detectors and onto an elevator that brought me to the 9th floor. The hallway was filled with 8×10 black and white pictures of the SNL shows I grew up with, essentially the years that Phil Hartman was on the show. It was kind of exciting.

Then we waited in line some more.

Then we were seated in the balcony of Studio 8H. I was a little disappointed because I had hoped to sit in those great seats they have down front where J.B. Smoove and Paula Pell sometimes ask questions during the monologue. But of course the whole place was rearranged. Half the studio was curtained off and the middle section where those floor seats usually are was hidden. I managed to sneak a peek but there was nothing going on over there. What we did have was a single set for "The Girlie Show" which according to the graphics I saw on the monitors stars Rachel Dratch as an old woman.

There was an old man sitting in front of me who obviously wanted to chat but I wasn't in the mood. He started talking to the guy next to me and I listened in. He's been to almost every episode of SNL since the very first one. It seems that he and his wife wait in the ticket line every week the show is on. I'm pretty sure they met in the line. They make the Star Wars nerds look like casual fans.

We spent a while sitting around while an NBC page tried to entertain us. He managed to engage about 10% of the crowd but I spent most of the time reading. Former UCB and Conan regular, and Arrested Development "Country Club Waiter" Jack McBrayer came up dressed as an NBC page and explained that he plays a page on the show. He offered to answer any of our questions. Someone in the audience asked if he had ever been on TV before. Ahhh, stardom.

After about 90 minutes the studio started to fill up with crew members. It was a staggering array of people who moved very quickly. I watched closely but I had a very hard time determining who was in charge. There was one guy who seemed to be the director, but I think he was really the assistant director and the director just sat behind a monitor the whole time. After a while it dawned on me that we weren't going to see a show, we were just there to fill in the seats while they shot the paid extras playing audience members on the ground floor.

Here's a summary of what I managed to pick up. Tina Fey is the head writer of "The Girlie Show" which is a really boring TV show starring Rachel Dratch. Alec Baldwin is a network executive who wants to get big-time movie star Tracy Morgan on the show. Tina doesn't want this, but as far as I can tell Tracy shows up on the show and the audience goes nuts, which forces Tina to accept that he will make the show more popular.

All we got to see was the part where Tracy Morgan comes on stage and utters the immortal lines "I'm from the government and I'm here to inspect your chicken nuggets" which we were told to react very favorably to. He follows that up with "Honky Grandma must be trippin'" which gets an even bigger response. Then he takes his shirt off and tells America he's coming to their house. All of this makes the crowd go wild.

The show is what TV people call a "single camera" show, which means they only use three cameras instead of four and they shoot it like a movie rather than doing the whole thing at once. Since the audience was the focus of the scenes they didn't bother bringing out the Honky Grandma (presumably Rachel Dratch) and I didn't catch a glimpse of Mr. Baldwin or the talented and lovely Ms. Fey who was the only reason I was there.

I did, however, get a lot of reading done.

March 20th, 2006


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