Location, location, location: When soaps go on the road

Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 4:41:46 PM
Location, location, location: When soaps go on the road

In their heyday, soap operas traveled the global to make their stories even more magical. After years of tightening their belts, soaps are once again on the move -- and we have a list of some of the most memorable location shoots of all time.

Any real estate broker will tell you it is all about "location, location, location." At one point, soap opera producers agreed. Sometimes they were right, and sometimes they were wrong. Here is a list of locations that worked and some that cost lots of money and were not worth it.

1. The very first soap location shoot happened on The Edge of Night. Producer Erwin Nicholson thought getting out of the studio would be great for private eye Steve Guthrie (Denny Albee). The show went to upstate New York. The scenes were filled with real fire and action. Nicholson, always a PR master, decided he wanted a name to play the hulking villain. He turned to Star Wars actor David Prowse (Darth Vader). I loved the shoot. It was put to good use. The weeks of shows would have had a much different and duller vibe had they been done at the studio. I also recall getting a major scoop when I interviewed Prowse. Sitting in a New York restaurant, Prowse said he wanted to share a secret. It had to be off the record. He leaned forward and whispered "Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father." It was a hard secret to keep. Once they say those three words, "Off the record," you cannot use it. I was also doing movie reviews at the time. I was crazed that I could not reveal the twist.

2. The second location shoot that worked was for All My Children's star-crossed lovers Cliff (Peter Bergman) and Nina (Taylor Miller). At long last, their wedding was shot in Connecticut. The 1980 ceremony took place on location at Waveny House in New Canaan, Connecticut. The late great writer Doug Marland had a wonderful house in New Canaan. The site for the wedding was a 1912 mansion with over 200 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds, which stood in for Cortlandt Manor. It looked like a fairy tale. There was a glass carriage worthy of Cinderella. Playing out that day was the romance of Chuck (Richard Van Vleet) and Donna (Candy Early). The show was perfect -- not so perfect if you asked the actors. In those days, shows were required to feed the actors the same food their characters were chowing down. The spread was sumptuous, and the actors scarfed it down. Sadly, the food they ate was the same food that was to be used on air. To keep it looking great and fresh, that food was shellacked, Van Vleet recalls being sick as a dog for days.

3. The Bold and the Beautiful has taken viewers all over California, from Farmer's Market to Catalina Island. A major international hit, the show has gone on location to France, Italy, and Abu Dhabi. My favorite was when they went to the Los Angeles animal shelter. Every pet I have had as an adult has been from a shelter. To see the characters of Liam and Hope bond over pets needing a home was perfect. So, "Aw, isn't that cute?" It did not hurt that Bob Barker, as famous for wanting animals neutered as he is for hosting The Price is Right, was also there. According to the shelter, after the televised visit from B&B, they saw their traffic go up ten percent. If that is not an "aw" moment, nothing is.

4. Ellen Wheeler's decision to save Guiding Light by shooting on location was a disaster. You cannot blame a girl for trying to save her show. It might have worked if the attempt had not looked so chintzy. The show headed to Pea Pack, New Jersey. The camera work was so shaky, I needed Dramamine when I watched. Wheeler's own office was used for many a set. I am no interior decorator, but even I noticed that every place in Springfield had the same green grass cloth walls.

Wheeler is credited with Guiding Light's transition to a new filming method. The show moved away from traditional three-camera filming in a "proscenium" stage setting, and in early 2008 began to broadcast episodes that were recorded on digital cameras. Kim Zimmer (Reva) has been very open about her disdain of Wheeler's regime: "I froze my balls off in Pea Pack, New Jersey. Instead of storylines actors just walked around in a park." Last year, there was speculation about an online reboot of GL, à la All My Children and One Life to Live. We know how that worked out. For now, the project is as backburner as Scott on General Hospital.

5. One Life to Live sent Bo to Paris in the early 1990s. Bob Woods (Bo) did not call it a fun trip. "Everyone says, 'How great, you get to go to Paris.' For all we saw of Paris, we could have been at the studio. It would have been easier on us and the budget," Woods recalled of the time in Paris. Woods is not a complainer. The really sad thing about the shoot is how awful it was. It would have looked the same or better if they'd shot it in my basement with a tin Eiffel Tower souvenir. The sound quality would have been better. Heck, I would have whipped up French toast with real Ohio maple syrup.

6. ABC took most of the cast from Loving to the soap The City in 1995. The show was set in New York City. At the time, primetime shows such as Hill Street Blues were using hand-held cameras. A little of that bobbing and weaving goes along way. Sometimes watching it felt like being trapped in a VitaMix blender. The show also used film. Most soaps then, as now, were videotaped. I recall one scene when a character was Rollerblading in Central Park and fell. It looked so real -- because it was. The director loved the shot. The poor actor had to redo the fall three times. While the "on location, all the time" spirit of The City only lasted two years, it had an A-list soap cast: Amelia Heinle, Laura Wright, Debbi Morgan, Catherine Hickland, Lisa Lo Cicero, Ted King, Darnell Williams, Roscoe Born, and Morgan Fairchild.

It's your turn. What soaps on location memories do you have? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or click here to send us Feedback.

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