October 18th, 2013

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Learn the TV history of the Sennett lot

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Carole Lombard poses prettily while Madalynne Fields and Daphne Pollard play a fashion version of Mutt and Jeff in this still from the Mack Sennett short "The Girl From Nowhere." What makes this distinctive was that "Nowhere" probably was Lombard's first film for Sennett at his new "somewhere" -- specifically an area he labeled "Studio City," near North Hollywood in the eastern part of the San Fernando Valley. (Sennett's previous headquarters were near Echo Park.) The new studio opened for business in May 1928, and "Nowhere" was released that August. (There rarely was much of a lapse between filming of a Sennett short and its release.)

Mack and fellow comedy veteran Al Christie wouldn't hold onto the property for very long, thanks both to changing tastes in comedy and the Depression. Over the years, a number of studios filmed there, most notably Republic Pictures, which in turn leased the lot to producers of that new medium called television. Finally, CBS leased the 70-acre site in 1963 (which it purchased four years later), renamed it the CBS Studio Center, and hosted many of its series there (although it would lease soundstages to series that ran on other networks). From "Gunsmoke" to "Gilligan's Island," from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to most episodes of "Seinfeld," chances are at least one of your favorite series called the studio its home. Saturday, the site's half-century of TV production is being honored at a local library.

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Nearly 100 TV series have used the property at one time or another, according to the CBS Studio Center Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBS_Studio_Center), including "The Big Valley"...

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..."The Bob Newhart Show" (as well as his later series, "Newhart")...

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..."Hot In Cleveland"...

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...and "Remington Steele"...

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...and it's been the home of KCBS and KCAL's local newscasts since 2007. Several movies have also been filmed there, notably "The Muppet Movie," Drew Barrymore's "Boys On The Side" and the Steve Martin "Father Of The Bride." (See some more on its history at http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/46765.html.)

Marc Wanamaker and Mary Mallory, both of whom are well-versed in Los Angeles (and television) history, will conduct a powerpoint presentation on the 50 fascinating years CBS has administered the site. If you're in the neighborhood Saturday, don't miss it.
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