Mayor Bloomberg’s much-ballyhooed scheme to get more TV shows that are set in New York actually shot here seemed to go down the tubes last month when none of the seven locally made pilots were picked up by the networks for the fall season.
The city’s long-suffering soundstage community had really gotten its hopes up: A new tax-incentive program had stirred interest (usually only a couple of pilots are made here) and even helped lure Jonny Zero, a Fox drama that was already on the air, from Toronto. But just because it’s cheaper to shoot now doesn’t mean that what’s being shot is worth watching. “It’s disappointing that more of the shows didn’t get picked up,” says the city’s film and television commissioner, Katherine Oliver. “But I think that was for creative—not financial—reasons.” Among the seven were NY70, starring Donnie Wahlberg as a cop in the mean-street seventies; Pros & Cons, with Billy Baldwin as a con artist who moonlights for the FBI; and Love Monkey, which, perhaps, would have revived Jason Priestley’s career.
“We did more than cross our fingers,” says Alan Suna, CEO of Silvercup Studios, home to five of the pilots. “We built additional office infrastructure—spent a lot of money—just to make sure that we could accommodate those shows if they went.”
But they didn’t, apart from the WB’s The Bedford Diaries, which is slated for TV’s Siberia slot—as a mid-season replacement—and may not film locally. So now there’s less prime-time TV production than there was before the tax-break program. Sex and the City is over. Third Watch, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, and even Jonny Zero—on whose set Bloomberg stood in February to declare that things were “booming”—all got canceled.
Kaufman Astoria Studios president Hal Rosenbluth says that “our business is to get projects that are supposed to be in New York.” But Hollywood is fine with faking it. Three new shows— Hot Properties, about four Manhattan real-estate brokers; Related, about four Brooklyn sisters who move to Manhattan; and Everybody Hates Chris, about Chris Rock’s childhood in Brooklyn—got picked up. They’re just being filmed in Los Angeles.
“I want to live in New York again someday, but not right now,” says Suzanne Martin, executive producer of Hot Properties, which she describes as “Designing Women with a Sex and the City attitude.” Her research for the show was checking out Manhattan apartment prices online.