For the truly TV addicted, a summer vacation fly-fishing in Montana or camping in the Grand Canyon is probably about as appealing as waiting for the cable guy. But leaving your living room for some fresh air doesn’t have to cause separation anxiety. Uprooted couch potatoes can find comfort visiting the great landmarks of television — the houses and hangouts familiar to you from your small screen. Although most shows are shot indoors, in the vicinity of Burbank, Calif., cast and crew often strike out into the real world to film exteriors, which give their productions an eensy taste of authenticity. And that means there’s a real-life Cheers, the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston, where a would-be Sam pours gin fizzes, and a Ponderosa Ranch in Nevada, where pint-size Bonanza fans can saddle up on ponies. To help you plan your tour, we present an east-to-west Baedeker’s of the box.
Friends — 90 Bedford Street, New York City
There’s no huge window, no balcony, and definitely no sign of a monkey. ”Well, does any show realistically portray New York apartments?” asks Sara Wofford, 24, a literature student. Wofford, with her mother, Carol Haerer, lives in the West Village building that appears in each episode of Friends — indeed, they live in what is supposed to be Monica and Rachel’s apartment. The Friends crew once came up and dumped laundry out the window for the episode in which Rachel dumped a beau. The apartment’s not open for tourists, but Friends fans do stop in at Chez Michallet, the French restaurant at the building’s base. Yes, it serves cappuccino.
The Love Boat — In the U.S., ships depart from Anchorage, Fort Lauderdale, L.A., and New York City; 800-LOVE-BOAT
Fans of The Love Boat: Come aboard, they’re expecting you! And they’ve got a raft of tie-ins to prove it. On Princess Cruises, passengers leave shore to the sound of the Love Boat theme song, climb the Love Boat staircase, and occasionally watch Love Boat reruns in their cabins. What’s more, each Valentine’s Day Gavin MacLeod (a.k.a. Captain Stubing) and his wife join about 4,000 couples in renewing their wedding vows. In the late ’70s and ’80s, the show used five of the Princess fleet’s boats for on-location shoots, but Love Boat cocreator Doug Cramer says the experience was ”a nightmare.” The show had to cope with lifeboat drills, and actual passengers sometimes objected to being filmed. ”There were a few embarrassing situations where people were traveling with someone other than their husband or wife.”
ER — 1740 West Taylor, Chicago
They considered a meatpacking plant, an elementary school, and a dozen other locations, but in the end, the producers of ER reluctantly decided to shoot exterior hospital scenes at, of all places, a hospital. As expected, using the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center as a backdrop was a logistical headache — with pesky real-life patients interrupting filming as often as 10 times a day. But some of the patients who were carried past the camera crews apparently enjoyed their brush with Hollywood. Explains Karyn McCarthy, ER’s location manager: ”It took their minds off their real pain.”
Designing Women — 1321 South Scott Street, Little Rock, Ark.; 501-374-9979
Oh, that tricky line between reality and sitcomedy. Consider the Villa Marre in Little Rock, Ark., where the sassy Designing Women up shop. ”It’s amazing how many people come in and ask where the Sugarbakers are,” says a spokeswoman from the mansion-turned-Victorian museum. ”I just try to charm my way out of it and say, ‘Oh well, they had an appointment and Delta just ran over to get her nails done.”’ The house — a former ballet school that some employees say is haunted by friendly spirits — got its starring role thanks to producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, nostalgic Little Rock natives who cast it despite the show’s Atlanta setting. Tourists take note: Suzanne Sugarbaker’s workplace is just seven blocks from the former home of another, uh, gourmand, Bill Clinton.