So someone asked me what it’s like a while ago to attend a tv taping and I never got around to posting. Here’s what BIG BANG was like.
You show up early, even noon for a 6 p.m. call to get in if you are General admission. I was VIP so I had to be there by 6:30 to keep my seat. I got there just in time due to unforeseen difficulties I won’t go into. Some shows bus you, because I was late, a security guy drove me in a golf cart, everyone else walked in escorted by ushers/security so they walked across the lot past sound stages for other shows and movies including The Conners, Mom, and Ellen. Once you got to the stage, they had metal detectors and collected cell phones and ID to identify them, putting them in zip lock bags. That was new. They didn’t used to do that but cells are much more common now. The seating is just like they showed on the making of special tonight. Bleachers raised and up stairs facing the sets with the most common apartment sets right in front of you and the rest stretching to each side.
A comedian starts warming you up around 7 and they start filming around 7:15 or 7:30. You play various games and trivia as you wait and sometimes they have you watch pretaped footage on monitors and record your laughter or just play it to bring you up to speed. In our case, they played a previous episode of the show they wanted to get better laugh track for. They had also pretaped a lot of scenes with the big name guest stars: William Shatner, Joe Magianella, Kareem Abdul Jabber, Wil Wheaton, and Kevin Smith.
So they announce the scenes and there is a loud alarm to let people know to be quiet, that tape is rolling, and then the actors play out the scene. They run it at least twice, sometimes more, and if the actors mess up, they may repeat various bits of it until they are satisfied. All the while, the warmup guy is encouraging you to act like you’ve never seen it and laugh accordingly.
They move from set to set with cameras on wheels, makeup and sound carts, etc. and a large number of crew from lighting and props people to writers, producers, sound people, cameraman, assistant directors, even hair and costume, and the director leading it all. They also have script people following continuity and taking notes or reading lines as needed for actors.
You go through each scene in order, pretaped ones being played at the appropriate time, so you can follow the storyline. The entire process can take from 3 to 6 hours or even longer. I was at one taping that ran 7 or 8 hours once. this was 3.5, mostly due to all the pretaped segments, which were over half the show. It was the D&D episode.
Somewhere in the middle, at this one, they fed us each a slice of pizza and gave us a small bottle of water. If you need a bathroom break, you just have to sneak out when they are between setups and an usher will take you.
That’s pretty much it. It can be long, the seats can be uncomfortable, and it can be cramped. But it is basically live theatre with a lot of cameras, lights, mics and stuff partially blocking your view and the sets are a bit more distant than a stage and spread out so they are sometimes off to the side and you have to watch the monitor to follow the action. In this case, they actually rolled screens in front of the set not being used at the time. Never been to a taping where they did that before and I found it kind of annoying as it helped further block our view, but that’s what they did.
Also, Kaley and Johnny came up and chatted with us briefly at one point as well.
So that’s what it’s like to go. Now, if you are guest of crew, which I was not this time but have been in the past, you get to go mingle with cast and crew on the set after the taping, but I didn’t do that here. I did it for CHEERS and CHARLES IN CHARGE and SEINFELD back in the day though.