Just As I Thought

A Medical Coincidence

Tonight while watching “Judging Amy,” there was a scene where two doctors were walking down a run-down city street. As they were walking, I could have sworn that the brick looked familiar… then they walked by some white columns and I jumped up – they were walking beside the old exterior set from “St. Elsewhere!”
I have a peculiar talent for recognizing sets and backlots. I’d seen a few up close and personal during a few studio tours in L.A. a few years back, and peeked into a few sound stages (thanks, Jeff K.) as well. And even before that, I could pinpoint redressed locations in all manner of TV and film.
elsewhere1980.jpgThe building used in “St. Elsewhere” was a real building in Boston, but most scenes that took place “outside” of the building were filmed somewhere on a backlot. Unfortunately, I don’t know where that backlot is. I believe it was the CBS Studio Center (that’s where the interiors were done). But I’ve seen those steps and columns once or twice since the series ended.
I once walked all over Boston looking for this building – all the tourist information points one toward Cheers, located right on the Common. But no one seemed to know where the St. Elsewhere building was. Remembering that a “T” elevated track passed just beside it, I began following tracks until I came upon Franklin Square Park, and there it was! I have a photo of myself in front of it, I’ll scan that in and post it here.

TRIVIA NOTE: The 20,000 square foot studio sound stage for ST. ELSEWHERE/NBC/1982-88, which recreated a six-floor hospital, was the longest set in television history. The series creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey modeled the set design of St. Eligius Hospital after floor plans of a real New York hospital. The building seen as St. Elsewhere was actually the Franklin Square House, a French Second Empire designed structure built in 1868. It is located at 11 East Newton Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Although never used as a hospital, it has been the site of the St. James Hotel (its original function), the New England Conservatory of Music and as of late a senior citizen’s housing development.

Did you ever notice that the interior set of the Stevens’ house in “Bewitched” is the interior of the Bellows’ house in “I Dream of Jeannie,” and the Kravitz’s house is the same as Major Nelson’s house?

Possibly the most over-used backlot set is the Warner Bros. park – you’ve seen it and it’s fountain in the opening of “Friends,” as well as in “1776”, “Bewitched,” “The Partridge Family,” and any number of sitcoms and movies. I can spot it instantly, along with the town square set used in “The Music Man” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Is this a talent, or a curse?

[Speaking of St. Elsewhere, here’s an interesting webpage that claims that because the end of St. Elsewhere featured the twist premise that everything which came before was a fantasy, only the last five minutes of St. Elsewhere ever really happened at all – and dozens of other shows never happened because they were part of the St. Elsewhere world. Read it. It starts to make sense.]

1 comment

  • Hello. I enjoyed your comments and I have a similar useless talent for spotting sets and backgrounds. It is not as developed as yours. One thing that has been bothering me is that I have wondered if the house on Judging Amy is the same as the Partridge Family house? What do you think? This question is what lead me to your website.

    They did a lot of great exterior shots of the Warner Bros. neighborhood on The Drew Carey Show.

    I live in Houston and there is gated street that has a house that looks likes Samantha’s. If you use your imagination, there are homes on the same street that look like the Clampett’s and the Munster’s.

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