"Bay Area Series Television: A Look Back, A Step Forward"

by Scott Trimble, Bay Area Casting News, March 2000

We all know that our beautiful locations and convenient commute from Hollywood have made the San Francisco Bay Area an attractive place for filming. Sadly, though, this beauty has too often been faked by Hollywood, especially by television series, resulting in missed opportunities for local jobs.

The Bay Area has had all the major genres of television series. There are the sitcoms: Dharma & Greg (1997-), Full House (1987-1995), Hangin' With Mr. Cooper (1992-1996), and Suddenly Susan (1996-). There are the action shows: JAG (1995-), Midnight Caller (1988-1991), Nash Bridges (1996-), and The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977). There are also the dramas: Charmed (1996-), Party of Five (1994-), and the Tales of the City (1993) mini-series. We've even had science-fiction: the pilot of V (1983-1985) showed an alien mothership over the Golden Gate Bridge, Star Trek (1966-)'s Starfleet Command is located here, and each episode of Sliders (1995-) has the cast sliding into a different alternate universe version of San Francisco.

Despite all this great exposure that, no doubt, must do wonders for the Tourism trade, the flipside for us is that only a handful of productions actually shoot on-location here for their whole season most notably The Streets of San Francisco and, of course, Nash Bridges. The rest might come up for an occasional beauty shot (or, if we're lucky, maybe a few whole scenes) but, for the most part, they do their shooting in Los Angeles.

That's why there was such disappointment that recent pilots like Partners (1999) and City Lights / Traffic (1999) didn't get picked up last fall. They could have provided hundreds of jobs for local crew and actors. Ami Zins, the Oakland film commissioner, said, "If Partners had continued, at first they would have done only second-unit work in Oakland, but we hoped that once the show was on a roll, the cast and crew would have decided to spend a whole season living and working in the Bay Area. High Productions was committed to hiring local crew and day-players for the pilot and surely would have continued to operate in the same way."

Spring is here and TV pilot season is about to begin. So far it's not clear which possibilities on the horizon might actually work out for us. Invincible, produced by Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)'s Mel Gibson and Jet Li, already decided to shoot entirely in Canada instead. This Life, from NBC and USA, was recently given the green-light for pre-production, but they say it's too early to know if they'll actually shoot any of it in San Francisco. Viacom Productions shot scenes at the end of January for a pilot called City Lights (not related to last year's pilot) about the San Francisco Police Department, but it remains to be seen what will happen with this show.

©2000 Bay Area Casting News