Seeing Stars: The Studio Tours 

 
3000 West Alameda Avenue (at Bob Hope Drive),
Burbank, CA. / (818) 840-3537 or (818) 840-4444



In early July 2012, NBC has stopped their studio tours.

NBC sold the Burbank studio property (40 acres in all) and relocated its facilities to a new, state-of-the-art facility at their Universal City Hollywood studios (Universal is owned by NBC.)

The old Burbank studio was acquired by the Santa Monica-based "Worthe Real Estate Group", which is currently negotiating new leases for the old Tonight Show studio space.  They also plan to build four new sound stages at the studio.  The Internet company IHeartRadio has already moved in.

As of 2014, the soap opera "Days of Our Lives", still films there.

I will leave this page up for a while, for those interested in reading about the old NBC tour.  But bear in mind that this article was written back when the studio tour was still being held.




Of all the commercial TV networks, only NBC Studios in Burbank offers the public a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of its television operation.

ABC TV doesn't offer a guided tour of their studio. Neither does CBS, nor even Fox.  In fact, if you want to see the inside of a TV studio, your only other choice is over at KCET - the local public television (PBS) station, Channel 28 , which offers a free guided tour of its historic Monogram Studios.

The studio tour at NBC isn't free, but it is reasonably priced when compared with the cost of the tours provided by the local motion picture studios. NBC's $8.50 admission charge seems like a bargain compared with the $69 charged by Universal Studios or the $45 charged by nearby Warner Brothers. It also beats the $15 price of the Paramount Studios tour.

The NBC tour is a modest one, though. You'll find no audioanimatronic sharks snapping at your heels here, no 50-foot apes or flying DeLoreans. Unlike Universal, the NBC Studio tour is not a theme park in disguise.

And unlike the Warner Bros tour, there are no mini trams or giant back lots to explore. It's just a 70-minute, indoor walking tour, offering a down-to-earth view of a working television studio.

Their guided studio tour gives you a chance to go where TV history was made; it takes you deep inside the NBC studio. The tour shows you the vast warehouse areas where props are stored, and construction areas where craftsmen are hard at work building realistic sets; it shows you examples of special-effects hardware, and gives you a peek at the NBC wardrobe department. The tour leads you through the studio's labyrinth of hallways, past the makeup department, through the Peacock Store, and out into the parking lot where Jay Leno and other celebrities park their cars. You even get a glimpse of the infamous NBC commissary (made the butt of many jokes by Johnny Carson over the years.)

Then it is up to Studio Three, the set where the "Tonight Show" is taped. (Jay Leno moved the show to this building in 1994, from the historic Studio One where Johnny Carson taped his shows.) There, tour guests get to sit in the same seats as the "Tonight Show" studio audience and see that famous, familiar "Tonight Show" set up-close.

The tour shows you videos about NBC's history, gives you demonstrations of sound-effects machines, and explains how such TV effects as 'chroma key' is brought to life. You might even bump into a minor celebrity along the way. And they accomplish all of this in less than 90 minutes. It's a polished, professional little tour which probably satisfies most tourists' urge for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some aspect of Hollywood.

The problem is that the NBC tour is just a little too slick.  In fact, it's superficial - bordering on condescending.

Tour guests don't actually visit the wardrobe department, for instance, they just walk past it, and look at mannequins in a picture window. Tour guests don't get to see the actual makeup or special-effects departments in action, instead they are merely shown simple display cases filled with related props. The tour guide points to the NBC commissary from afar, but they won't let you actually go inside that well known cafeteria. When they take visitors out to the studio parking lot, they actually expect us to be impressed by the oil stain left by Jay Leno's car.

You get the feeling that someone in charge thinks the tour guests have just fallen off the turnip truck.

When soap opera actress Deidre Hall (from "Days of Our Lives") "accidentally" walks by and waves hello, you're supposed to believe that it was a blissful coincidence.

When they demonstrate the well-known blue-screen process (by making a volunteer "fly" in a Superman cape against a blue background) we are supposed to be dazzled by 20-year-old video technology that in this day of home computers and videocams is old hat to just about everyone taking the tour.

Guests are "treated like tourists" in the worst sense of that term. The well groomed tour guides are friendly and polite, but you are always aware that, as a visitor, you are being kept on a very tight leash. What you see along their short, carefully-orchestrated tour route is what they want you to see - a shallow presentation designed to satisfy the supposedly unsophisticated hordes of tourists with a bare minimum of realism, while keeping them well out of the way of actual studio operations.

Don't come here expecting to explore the secrets of a working TV studio. Most of what they show you is about as spontaneous as a museum display, and the tour group is often simply routed into separate little rooms where they can be amused, but kept safely out from underfoot.

So is the tour worth the price of admission? Well, the cost ($8.50) is certainly low enough, the tour is polished & mildly entertaining, and you do get to take a look inside one of the most famous television studios in Hollywood, however cursory that look might be.  I suppose that just being able to see the inside of the "Tonight Show" studio (without standing in line for hours) might be worth the price of admission for many folks. But at its heart, the tour is a sham... it could be so much better if only it were more authentic and just a bit more spontaneous.

You might be better off simply getting free tickets to the Tonight Show.

A word about crowds: I took the tour at 11 AM on a weekday in late October, and there were about twenty other people in my casual, relaxed group. But I am told that the tours gets much more crowded during the peak summer tourist season, especially on summer weekends when they can sell out early. I suggest you try to visit during the off-season.

Admission Price:

    Adults:                 $8.50
    Seniors (60+):     $7.50
    Children (5 12)    $5.00
    (Children under 5 free.)

Hours: Tours depart at regular intervals from 9 AM to 1 PM on weekdays (Mon-Fri). Closed on Saturday & Sunday (except during peak summer & holiday seasons, when they are open extended hours and on weekends). Phone ahead to be sure.

 Getting there: NBC Studios is located in Burbank, between the Ventura (134) Freeway (on the south), Alameda Avenue (on the north), California Street (on the west), and Bob Hope Drive (on the east). / From the Ventura (134) Freeway east, take the Bob Hope Drive offramp; turn left (north) on Bob Hope Drive (go back under the freeway), then turn left again (west) on Warner Street. (Incidentally, Bob Hope's house is just a few blocks down the street, at 10346 Moorpark Street!)


[For more information on this subject, you can access NBC's official website at: http://www.nbc.com.]



Looking for something in particular? Search the Seeing-Stars website!







[Note: Double-underlined GREEN links are paid advertisements.]


Click Here to Return to the Main Menu

Advertise on seeing-stars.com



Copyright © 2014-Gary Wayne
All Rights Reserved

This webpage is not associated with any business described in the article above, and does not constitute an
endorsement of this or any other business. The photos of celebrities on this page also do not constitute
endorsements by them of any kind, and are used by the author solely to illustrate this online article.
(Click here to read other disclaimers)