Los Angeles TV Tapings: Behind the Scenes

Kim Kardashian on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC Paul Drinkwater/NBC
By Tara de Lis

Being part of the audience for the taping of a television show might be the quintessential L.A. experience. This is a great way to see Hollywood at work, to find out how your favorite sitcom or talk show is made, and to catch a glimpse of your favorite TV personalities. Timing is important -- remember that most series go on hiatus between March and July. And tickets to the top shows are in greater demand than others, so getting your hands on them takes advance planning -- and possibly some waiting in line.

Request tickets as far in advance as possible. Several episodes may be shot on a single day, so you may be required to remain in the theater for up to four hours (in addition to the recommended 1-hr. early check-in). If you phone at the last moment, you may luck into tickets for your top choice. More likely, however, you'll be given a list of shows that are currently filming, and you won't recognize many of the titles; studios are always taping pilots, few of which end up on the air. But you never know who may be starring in them -- look at all the famous faces that have launched new sitcoms in the past couple of years. Tickets are always free, are usually limited to two per person, and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Many shows don't admit children under the age of 10; in some cases, no one under the age of 18 is admitted.

The sets of most talk shows are kept at a cool temperature (the hot lights raise the temperature on stage), so be sure to bring a sweater or jacket. And if you dress well -- no T-shirts or shorts -- your chances of getting a front-row seat increase dramatically.

Photo Caption: Kim Kardashian on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC.
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Muscial guest Paul Weller on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Photo by: Adam Larkey/ABC Adam Larkey/ABC
Tickets are sometimes given away to the public outside popular tourist sites such as Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and Universal Studios in the Valley; L.A.'s visitor information centers in downtown and Hollywood often have tickets as well. But if you're determined to see a particular show, contact the following suppliers:

Audiences Unlimited, Inc. (www.tvtickets.com) is a good place to start. It distributes tickets for most of the top sitcoms, including Hot in Cleveland, Rules of Engagement, and more. This service is organized and informative (as is its website), and fully sanctioned by production companies and networks. ABC, for example, no longer handles ticket distribution directly, but refers most inquiries to Audiences Unlimited Inc. TVTIX.COM (tel. 323/653-4105; www.tvtix.com) also distributes tickets for numerous talk and game shows, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jeopardy!

You also may want to contact the networks for information on a specific show, including some whose tickets are not available at the above agencies. At ABC, most ticket inquiries are referred to Audiences Unlimited (see above), but you may want to check out ABC's website at www.abc.com for a colorful look at their lineup and links to specific show sites.

Photo Caption: Muscial guest Paul Weller on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Photo by Adam Larkey/ABC.
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"The Price is Right" - still popular since it began in the 1950s. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS. Monty Brinton/CBS
For CBS Television City, 7800 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036, call tel. 323/575-2458 between Monday and Friday from 9am to 5pm to see what's being filmed while you're in town. Tickets for CBS tapings are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis; you can write in advance to reserve them or pick them up at the studio the day of the show. Tickets for many CBS sitcoms are also available from Audiences Unlimited (see above). For tickets to The Price Is Right, call the 24-hour ticket hot line at tel. 323/575-2449 or log on to www.cbs.com/daytime/the_price_is_right/tickets.

Photo Caption: "The Price is Right." Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS.
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Jay Leno with guest Martha Stewart on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC Paul Drinkwater/NBC
For NBC, 3000 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank, CA 91523 (tel. 818/840-3537), call to see what's on while you're in L.A. Tickets for NBC tapings, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (minimum age to attend this show is 16), can be obtained four ways: 1.) Pick them up at the NBC ticket counter on the day of the show -- two tickets per person are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket counter off California Avenue starting at 8am (be sure to get there early); 2.) at least 6 weeks before your visit, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your ticket request to the address above; 3.) go to the Audiences Unlimited ticket booth at Universal Studios Hollywood; 4.) via the show's website at www.tonightshow/tickets.com. When writing to the studio for option 2, be sure to include show name, number of tickets (four per request), and dates desired. All the NBC shows are represented online at either www.nbc.com or www.tvtickets.com.

Photo Caption: Jay Leno with guest Martha Stewart on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC.
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"Dr. Phil" is filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA. Robert Trachtenberg
Paramount Studios also offers free tickets to their live-audience shows. All you need to do is call one of the friendly employees at Paramount Guest Relations (tel. 323/956-1777; www.paramountstudios.com) between 9am and 5pm on weekdays and make a reservation. For seating reservations for Dr. Phil, book ahead online at www.drphil.com/shows/page/be_in_the_audience/.

Universal Studios (tel. 800/864-8377; www.universalstudios.com) also offers free tickets to their live-audience shows. At the amusement park's Audiences Unlimited ticket booth, you can obtain free tickets to join the audience for any TV shows that are taping during your visit (subject to availability).

Photo Caption: "Dr. Phil" is filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA.
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Host Wayne Brady and contestant on "Let's Make a Deal." Photo by: Sonja Flemming/CBS Sonja Flemming/CBS
So you've been thinking of taking a chance on fame and fortune the next time you're in L.A., eh? Well, both are more attainable than you might think -- actress Markie Post's career began with her audition for a game show; and as far as fortune goes, somebody has to win the big money.

If you're serious about trying to get on a show, be sure you have some flexibility in your schedule; although most production companies go out of their way to give priority to out-of-town contestants, you should be prepared to return to Los Angeles one or more times for a final audition and/or taping. Here are some tips that might help you prepare:

The Bubblier, the Better: Be friendly, cheerful, and bright at your audition and during taping. Be good-natured when you lose or make mistakes, and above all, be exuberant if you win the "big money." When you're onstage, nothing feels quite real.

Dress for Success: Contestant coordinators look for players who won't alienate viewers. It's awfully hard for a granny in the heartland to relate to a trendy big-city type. So dress as conservatively as possible for your auditions, and avoid the fashion no-nos -- white, black, stripes, metallics -- that would require lighting and camera adjustments.

Most Unglamorous Advice: Remember income taxes. Should you be lucky enough to win big, bear in mind that all cash winnings, as well as the retail value of all your prizes, will be reported to the IRS as earnings.

Photo Caption: Host Wayne Brady and contestant on "Let's Make a Deal." Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS.
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Hosts Vanna White and Pat Sajak of "Wheel of Fortune." Photo: Carol Kaelson Carol Kaelson
Jeopardy!: Trivia quiz not for the fainthearted (the contestant, that is; watching isn't nearly as difficult!). Call tel. 310/244-5367 or log on to www.sonypictures.com/tv/shows/jeopardy.

Wheel of Fortune: Less about your skill with the "hangman"-style puzzles than your luck spinning the carnival wheel. Call tel. 213/520-5555 or log on to www.wheeloffortune.com.

The Price Is Right: Contestants are chosen from the studio audience to test their shopping expertise. Call tel. 323/575-2448 or log on to www.cbs.com/daytime/price/tickets.

Photo Caption: Hosts Vanna White and Pat Sajak of "Wheel of Fortune." Photo by Carol Kaelson.
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