Scene around the Sound
Seattle, other Northwest locations are the setting for several new TV series
Ernest A. Jasmin; The News Tribune
Go back a decade or two and you get the impression that TV executives didn't think anyone outside of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago had car chases, drama-filled emergency wards or zany characters worthy of their own sitcoms.
OK, you can point to shows like "WKRP in Cincinnati," "One Day at a Time" (set in Indianapolis) and "Cheers" (Boston), but those are exceptions. The bigger markets have clearly hogged the fictional limelight, and the Pacific Northwest seldom appeared on the map.
In the '90s, at least "Frasier" placed Seattle prominently in the networks' fictional universe - even if stars Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce bring their snooty characters to life on a Los Angeles sound stage.
With "Frasier," the futuristic adventure series "Dark Angel" and a handful of new shows, including CBS' drama "Citizen Baines" and ABC's miniseries "Rose Red" (partially shot at Lakewood's Thornewood Castle), Western Washington will be pretty well-represented this season.
"We wanted to find a very identifiable American locale," "Citizen Baines" writer Lydia Woodward said. "Seattle definitely fit that way; once you put the Space Needle up there, you know exactly where it is.
"It is just a stunningly beautiful town and you also haven't seen that much of it on screen, so it didn't feel overused," she added. "It had a fresh feel to it." Like many shows, the interior shots for "Citizen Baines" are done in Los Angeles. But, unlike the other so-called Seattle series, the show will actually film locally. Woodward and co-producer John Wells plan to inject a bit of authenticity into the show the same way they did for the Chicago-based drama "ER" - by filming regularly in the fictional city it's set in.
The "Citizen Baines" pilot was shot entirely in Pierce and King counties, and the cast and crew plan to shoot a handful of exterior shots on site for each episode. The main character's fictional house is actually someone's real home in Lakewood. The crew has also shot exteriors at places like the University of Washington and Pike Place Market.
"I think it just reinforces the place, which just opens up the show and gives the show more identity," Woodward said.
So is "Baines" the precursor to other TV execs jumping on the Seattle bandwagon - the television equivalent to the "grunge" craze of the early '90s?
Don't count on it.
"So many of them don't even film here," said Suzy Kellett, director of the Washington State Film & Video Office.
"Citizen Baines" is actually the only ongoing Seattle series, though the Stephen King miniseries "Rose Red" was shot in Western Washington, too. British Columbia looks pretty much like Western Washington and a deflated Canadian dollar allows producers to save millions. So shows like "Dark Angel," set in Seattle, and "Wolf Lake," set in the Cascades, shoot north of the border and pretend the characters are in Washington. (Locals who pay close attention may be able to spot the fraud in some of the exterior shots on "Wolf Lake" - especially the trailer.)
And it's not just Washington that's losing out to Canada, Kellett said. Toronto has subbed for New York on more than one occasion. One of the funniest examples of a Canadian city subbing for an American one is Jackie Chan's "Rumble in the Bronx." (Hmmm. The Hudson River looks eerily like the Strait of Georgia.)
"It happens all the time," Kellett said. "Everything that can go to Canada these days is going there. If they can make Boston, New York, Denver, Seattle in Canada, it's going to Canada."
"If 'Citizen Baines' is successful, it absolutely will help us," Kellett said. "It'll raise the profile of the setting."
Oh well. At least it's kind of cool seeing Jessica Alba perched on top of the Space Needle in "Dark Angel."
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* Staff writer Ernest Jasmin covers pop culture. Reach him at 253-274-7389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SIDEBAR: (The Scene)
Airs: 9 p.m. Saturdays on Channel 7. It debuts this weekend.
Actors starring as fake Washingtonians: James Cromwell, Embeth Davidtz, Jane Adams and Jacinda Barrett.
The skinny: Cromwell stars as Elliott Baines, a senator from Washington who's ousted in the first episode. Now he has to deal with real life and get reacquainted with his three daughters. This guy has eerie similarities to ex-Sen. Slade Gorton.
Puget Sound connection: Baines' fictional house is a real residence in Lakewood. Crews shoot most interior shots in Los Angeles but plan to return regularly to capture more Puget Sound flavor.
Airs: 10 p.m. Wednesdays on Channel 7.
Fake Washingtonians: Lou Diamond Phillips, Tim Matheson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
The skinny: Phillips stars in a simple tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy runs into werewolf trouble while looking for girl.
Puget Sound connection: The shape shifters in this new series populate a fictional town in the heart of the Cascades. Filming takes place in British Columbia, though.
Airs: Miniseries set to air on Channel 4 in February.
Fake Washingtonians: Julian Sands, Nancy Travis, Matt Keesler, Kevin Tighe and the late David Dukes.
The skinny: The screenplay is the first thing novelist Stephen King finished as he recovered from getting hit by a van in 1999, said producer Mark Carliner. What better way for a master of the macabre to come back than with a haunted house story?
Puget Sound connection: The haunted house is supposed to be in Seattle, but its exterior is actually Thornewood Castle in Lakewood. Interior shots were filmed late last year on an elaborate set at Seattle's former Sand Point Naval Station.
Airs: 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 5. The new season kicks off this week.
Fake Washingtonians: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves.
The skinny: Frasier (Grammer) and Niles (Pierce) are the Crane brothers - a pair of prissy shrinks who often discuss life and love over a tall mocha. Wow! How Seattle is that?!?
Puget Sound connection: The show's fictional setting is Seattle. Mostly it's shot on a Los Angeles sound stage, but Grammer and company visited Seattle for the 100th episode, which featured a cameo by Tacoma a capella group The Coats.
Airs: 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 13. The new season kicks off Friday.
Fake Washingtonians: Jessica Alba, John Savage and Michael Weatherly.
The skinny: Alba stars as Max, a genetically altered super vixen who can kick a bad guy's butt quicker than you can say "Tae Bo." She evades the military that created her and rounds up her †bermensch siblings.
Puget Sound connection: What will Seattle be like in a generation or two? Hopefully not like in this series, which takes place in the aftermath of a catastrophic technological failure. Like "Wolf Lake," this one's a faker; it's actually shot in Vancouver, B.C.
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