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Shows That Recycle Sets From Other Shows


 

This is not new, but I was waiting until I could get an appropriate picture to go with it: you may or may not have read the speculation that the most successful comedy on TV, Two and a Half Men (successful in terms of ratings and money, I mean), uses a set that’s very similar to the set from the later seasons of Laverne and Shirley. The decorations and props are different, but the set on the current show is structurally exactly the same as the set Laverne and Shirley lived in after they moved to Los Angeles: the door and small staircase at the left, the large glass doors at the back, the kitchen at the right. Here’s a picture of (most of) the later L&S set:

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And here’s a composite of two pictures of part of the Men set (I wanted to find a long shot, but there don’t seem to be many long shots of the whole set).

two-half-men1111tv_two_and_a_half_men021

Now, it appears that the production staff of Two and a Half Men officially denies that their set is based on the older set, saying that the resemblance is simply because “the two sets share a Spanish Colonial style.” I don’t really buy it; it’s true that the Spanish Colonial approach will lead to similar designs, but it seems doubtful that two sets would wind up with the same basic layout unless one was at least partly inspired by the other. Though I suppose that it could simply be that the rigid nature of four-camera sitcom layout — everything has to be side-by-side, facing the audience — makes it possible that two shows could come up with the same layout on their own. And one possible argument that the sets aren’t the same is that they are produced by different companies and shot on different stages. Traditionally, recycling of sets and costumes is done within a studio; when The Odd Couple was canceled, Paramount redecorated the set and made it into the apartment for a new show called… Laverne and Shirley. Circle of TV life.

(It may be that one factor in Men‘s success is simply that — whatever the origin — it has a good, solid, old-fashioned sitcom set, with everything laid out properly and plenty of room for the actors to move around, run up and down the stairs, make wacky entrances from different places, etc. Men is not a show I can love, but I respect the fact that it knew enough to incorporate certain basics, like a set that values space and comic potential over realism, and isn’t over-decorated.)

Of course one of the reasons we wind up looking for these similarities between shows from different eras and different studios is that the amount of out-and-out recycling is less than it used to be. Or at least less obvious. TV is an outgrowth of the B-movie, where sets and costumes were constantly reused (and even A movies used to recycle sets and costumes from any movie that was no longer in release), and so any studio would use the same living rooms, lobbies, high school halls, etc. from one show to the next. Or even within a show; TGIF viewers still have fond memories of the time Boy Meets World dumped an apartment set that had been built for the hip young teacher… and the kids moved into a brand-new apartment that was structurally exactly the same as last year’s apartment, but with different furniture. I think that now they usually try to make sure a new set will have a different structure/layout from the one that stood there before. It can still be spotted by alert eyes, though; I found this post noting that Fox recycled the Wolfram & Hart set from Angel when creating the corporate office for its short-lived show The Loop.


 
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Shows That Recycle Sets From Other Shows

  1. Don’t forget entire houses that are reused. Drew Carey’s house, for example, as seen from the outside on the eponymous show is actually located on the studio lot street that now serves as Wysteria Lane on Desperate Housewives (something I found out when I was there a few years ago).

    • I remember when Hanging with Mr. Cooper first began they used the Growing Pains set and there was actually kind of a ceremonial “passing of the set” from Alan Thicke to Marc Curry.

      I also remember Warner Bros sitcoms constantly reusing that same prop airplane: Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Fresh Prince, Full House. They also all seemed to reuse the exact same gag where the crazy pilot jumps out, leaving our main character to fend for themselves and they get hung up in a tree. I guess America forests are just littered with crashed planes.

      • I guess America forests are just littered with crashed planes.

        Actually, sadly, they are.

  2. Despite my distaste for Two and Half Men in general, I do have to give it credit for extreme competence. It almost makes you life through force of habit more than anything else. The set design is just one aspect of that.

    I was trying to think of sitcoms with poorly designed sets, and the recent show that really stands out in my mind is The Return of Jezebel James. The apartment in that show was so huge and sparsely decorated that the emptiness was actually distracting. I think the writers meant for the emptiness of the place to signify a character trait, but the set in general really hurt the show’s comic potential. Among other things, of course. There was a lot about that show that just felt off. It earned its quick cancellation.

  3. Deep Space Nine did a lot of set reuse. Remember Terok Nor (the upside down DS9), or the Valiant (the Defiant with zero changes), or the Defiant II (the Defiant again with zero changes).

  4. Saved by the bell, That’s so Raven, and iCarly all used the same school set..

  5. Dog with a blog of Disney uses the twao and half men set

  6. The L&S set and Two-And-Half-Men set are not the same set. The apartment set from L&S used from 1980 until the show’s end in 1983 (the Burbank apartment) was a culmination of several set pieces that had been used quite a bit on the Paramount lot. After L&S ended, the set was dismantled and was used over and over again for other movies and TV shows. Whether it still exists or not, I don’t know, but I can tell you, it would not have been entirely intact by the time 2 1/2 Men went on the air.

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