The Warner Brothers tour office is only 10 minutes from my hotel, and I wander down there at 10, for my tour.
Our guide is Thom, who as well as having an encyclopaedic knowledge of Warner Brothers, as you would expect, also seems to particularly enthusiastic about genre shows. He claims to be the only fan of the sadly cancelled Invasion – I correct him on this matter.
We begin with a tour of the backlots, with Thom reeling off a list of shows that each building appeared in. Many of the backlot sets are used for externals only. Some buildings are less than 10 feet deep, facade and nothing else. Others are proper buildings, but the interiors house offices. However, some are ‘practical’ sets, with insides as well as outsides. We are taken into one in particular, and find ourselves walking into the Geller’s house, from Friends, with the staircase where young Ross pined over his Casio keyboard while Monica and Rachel got ready for their prom dance.
There are so many things that appear familiar – the old lady’s house and the chinese shop out of Gremlims, Merlot’s Bar, from True Blood, the elevated railway staircase and the old original ambulance bay from ER (the bay used in later series has since been remodelled). Many of the buildings have 2 or 3 front entrances, so the same set can be used for more than one building.
We move on, and are taken to a post-production suite, where they are working on an episode of Chuck. They demonstrate how they build the soundtrack, first with the dialog, from multiple takes, then with background noises and sound effects, then with music.
We see an ADR room, where dialog can be rerecorded and synchronised to the video. We are taken on a tour of the workshops, where sets are built, props manufactured and signs and backgrounds painted or printed.
Lunch is in the fine dining room, and is included in the deluxe tour. I don’t see any stars, but that may be because I am concentrating on the best steak I have ever eaten.
After lunch we are taken on a tour of the prop and furniture store. We then tour the frontlot – the actual studio buildings. We are allowed into 2 lots where filming is not currently taking place. First the apartment courtyard from Chuck, including Chuck’s own apartment and bedroom. Next, we are taken into the set of The Big Bang Theory, where Thom explains the writing/rehearsal/recording schedule to us. Finally we are taken into Central Perk, from Friends, which has been set up as a permanent exhibit.
After six hours, we say goodbye to Thom, and exit through the gift shop. A brilliant tour, and a day well spent.