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Part 2: Tour Of The Sets

Shortly after being screened Peter's favorite episode of the series, Being Tommy Dawkins (which, at that point, had yet to air in the United States), his assistant Louis gave me the grand tour of the sets. The ones that stand out in my mind are the halls of Pleasantville High, the Dawkins' household, downtown Pleasantville and the Hungry Bucket, the Pleasantville High cafeteria, Merton's lair, the Factory, and an alleyway. All of the sets are meticulously detailed, and Louis tossed out a couple of interesting notes. The floors in Tommy's house aren't wooden as they appear to be on-screen, just painted to give them that appearance. Louis also pointed out that there was one shot in Stormy Weather where Tommy was supposed to crash through the window of a downtown business, but the network's Standards and Practices nixed that idea. The now-intact window is emblazoned with 'Standards & Practices' in homage. (There's a similar gag in Anti-Claus Is Coming To Town, where Tommy tells Roger that he can't let him die, shortly before tossing down a parachute labeled 'S&P'.) Filming Merton's Lair in the first season was apparently a nightmare, as it had a fixed ceiling and provided little in the way of flexibility. Since then, the Lair has been reconstructed and now has wild walls that can expand and contract as filming requires. As a result, it seems far small in person than it does on television. Though several of the sets had gotten their last days of screen time, the Lair apparently wasn't among them, as a table in the center of the room was still marked 'Hot Set', lingo meaning that items shouldn't be moved or in any way disturbed so as to maintain continuity between shots. Despite its relatively tiny size, the Lair is easily the coolest set, with something of interest in nearly every inch.

Camera trickery also makes the Factory seem much larger than it really is, though there are still a couple of portions that rarely get any screen time. One is a nook near the bar filled top to bottom with vinyl, and I think it was from there that Danny whipped out a copy of Michael Jackson's Bad which later got a laugh from Corey Feldman. There's also a faux-aquarium with backlit colored plastic cases containing rubber animals, and that isn't featured too terribly often due to lighting concerns, along with a bowling shoe return area. The spherical lights on the tables in the Factory are squishy, as you might've noticed with Merton's game show buzzer action in Anti-Claus Is Coming To Town. Danny was demonstrating this to me, and somehow one of the lights got really bright after he whacked it, leading Danny to think he possessed some sort of undiscovered superhuman abilities.

Since much of the series takes place in darker sets like the Factory, the Lair, and the Pleasantville park, many episodes have a scene or two in the more brightly-lit Pleasantville High for the sake of contrast. That was originally the plan for N'Sipid, but the time it would take to swap equipment led to Merton's protest scene being shot outside the Factory instead of in the school. There was a drum kit in the Pleasantville cafeteria, the only remnant of a huge jam session from a couple of days earlier. Pat, one of the crew members, can really pound out the beats. Apparently quite a bit of effort went into making the lockers of Pleasantville High appear sufficiently battered, riddled with the same sorts of dents and scrawled with as much graffiti as I seem to remember from my stint in high school. Danny pointed out one locker with 'Justin Channell was here', referring to the webmaster of the Big Wolf fan page appropriately titled "The Big Wolf Fan Page". The walls are covered with cheesy 'no smoking' PSA-style posters. I didn't ask if these played a part in an upcoming episode, but those posters don't stand out in my mind as a Pleasantville High mainstay. Most of the set seemed to be devoted to hallways, but Louis showed me one room that was used for a variety of purposes, ranging from standing in as a classroom to the group therapy bit from Anti-Claus Is Coming To Town.

Another stop on the Louis train was the prop room. CinéGroupe is holding onto as many of the props as possible for use in future, entirely unrelated projects, and the majority of the gems were apparently boxed up. A couple of items did stand out, including a pair of Hungry Bucket tubs and the Armand Benzakian CD that Merton uses to win friends and influence people in the early moments of She Will, She Will Rock You. The entrance to the prop room is plastered with photos of Merton, including the bald photo from Stalk Like An Egyptian, and an outline of Merton has been spraypainted on the floor.

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