Hollywood Hell

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By Eliana Schneider

While on vacation in Los Angeles last month, browsing the funky vintage shops and coffee houses on Melrose Avenue, I was stopped by a TV studio employee.  The man held out passes to a show later that day to my two friends and I.  Since the Hollywood Hills were in full view, we accepted.

Although we had never heard of the show City Guys, the studio man said it was a comedy about two New York City college students.  We were sternly instructed to be at the studio by 2 p.m. or we’d risk losing our seats.  So instead of enjoying the shops on Melrose, we ran for the car and raced to the Hills.

We were the only people in line when we got there.  When I asked the usher how long we would be waiting, she said this was just the preliminary line.  From there we would line up to be seated, where we would have to wait until 4 p.m. for the show to begin.  We had to commit to stay in the studio until the taping ended, which wouldn’t be until 7:30 p.m.  I think my mouth gaped because I had no idea we were in for such a long day.  I noticed others joining the line.  They were all rowdy kids in shredded jeans who pushed each other around and swore their mouths off.

I started doubting our decision to stay but with the scorching sun above, I thought sitting in an air-conditioned studio wouldn’t be so bad.  Besides, I figured I could always fake an emergency if I wanted to leave early.  I started thinking up “emergencies” – allergic reactions, can’t breathe, stomach aches, appendicitis, nausea, female cramps (which always works).

My two friends, both L.A. natives who had never been to a taping, assured me the shows always finished earlier than expected.  “It will be so much fun.  People get stuff like T-shirts and food.  There’ll be cool producers around,” they promised.  So, we waited, then sweated and waited some more.

Finally, at 4 p.m. we were led inside the studio, but not before we passed through a metal detector.  Everyone had to empty their pockets.  A tall, bouncer-like, bald guy in a uniform was frisking people.  I was afraid they would start going through my bag.  It was a little pathetic for a TV show.

When we got to our seats, I asked the usher for directions to the rest rooms.  “Oh no,” she said.  “You’ll have to wait.”  So, I waited.  When I approached the usher a second time, she yelled at me to sit down and wait until I was called to go to the rest room.  I needed to go now.  The usher assured me I would be in the first “Bathroom Group,” whatever that meant.  It turned out to be a sort of prison line up, where five other “need–to-go-to-the-washroom-really-badly” audience members and I were led single file through the studio to the washroom with guards in front and behind us.  We were under strict orders to stay tightly in line. I looked at the teenage guy behind me and shook my head.  “I feel like I’m on a school trip,” I said.  But then I got the eye from an usher, so I quickly whipped my head back around.

City Guys turned out to be one of those really bad high school series like Saved by the Bell.  After the first few scenes, my excitement died down when take after take and be reshot because one of the actors messed up.

There were six main characters, three girls (the popular one, the hysterical one and the smart one) and three guys (the cool one, the jock one and the smart one) – bad, melodramatic acting across the board.  The popular girl kept flipping her hair and every time she came off camera she said to the director, “Oh, that was so bad.  That just didn’t’ work out!”  Come to think of it, maybe she was the smart one.

My friends and I began fidgeting in our seats.  We were getting so hungry that even the plastic food on the set looked good. Scene after scene about the popular girl taking diet pills flashed in front of us.

During the show the audience co-ordinator, an annoying comedian wearing John Lennon glasses, demanded we laugh and giggle to fit the show’s soundtrack.  The ushers, on the other hand, surrounded the audience like secret service agents and yelled if we laughed too loudly.

Toward the end, my eyes were shut and I was praying for the taping to finish.  The episode ended with the popular girl’s friends confronting her about taking drugs after she faints.  “I’m okay guys, now that you’re all here,” she said.

We were finally released from the studio at 7:30.  We managed to push our way through the mob of teeny boppers.

I braced myself for sunlight but it was gone.  “We wasted our whole day in that place,” said my L.A. friend.  I’ve never sat still for so long.

That’s the last time you’ll catch me at a show taping.  I’d rather see the finished product from the comfort of my own living room with a washroom and full-stocked fridge nearby.  But in this case, I’d rather stand on Sunset Boulevard at three in the morning with the prostitutes and drug dealers than watch a finished episode of City Guys.

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