I am someone who really loves great TV and equally interested in delving a bit deeper into how great TV is made. There's something very fascinating in how shows make it from studio to screen, so I try to catch any chance to go behind the scenes. NBC Studios holds some of the most famous studios in the world and has an incredibly central location in the heart of New York. Over the years, this building has been home to some pretty iconic programming; including Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show and 30 Rock. And I was more than keen to walk the hallways of entertainment royalty on The Tour at NBC Studios. I entered 30 Rockefeller Plaza through the main doors and was instantly impressed by the grand lobby in black and gold. The first stage of the tour began with a short introduction from "America's favourite weather man", Al Roker. Using archive footage, he told the story of NBC from the very beginning and warm us up for what we were about to experience.
As we left the theatre and walked up a modest stairwell, we entered into the gloriously restored Art Deco Rotunda. It was part of the original building and used to welcome the audience members attending RCA radio Shows. In the 1970s it had been sadly demolished to make way for more practical functions of shipping and editing rooms, however with the return of The Tonight Show, it also returned in 2015. The wall of the stunning circular reception area originally held a mural of photographs, but moving the times, now has rather impressive video screens curving around the space.
We first visited the studio of Nightly News with Lester Holt, passing by many dressing rooms and production crew en route. As you know, NBC is a working studio, so there's a certain air of excitement and action everywhere you walk. The studio was dark and lined with thousands of lighting fixtures overhead. The NBC guides had incredible knowledge about the space, explaining everything we were seeing in great detail and how a standard night on the show would work. This studio is also a live studio, meaning that if there was to be any breaking news, it could be up and ready to go within minutes. Luckily nothing broke while we were there, so we could enjoy it and move on.
The tours at NBC vary depending on when you visit and what may be happening in the world at that time. As we were visiting on the weekend, we got to see a different tour than on a weekday, as we got to go behind the scenes at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. One of the highlights of the tour was to see The Muppets pipes, which date back to 1964. The story goes that The Muppets turned up early for an appearance on The Jack Paar Program, and with time to spare, came across a set of dusty pipes in their dressing room. Seeing them as a blank canvas, they created a wonderful mix of colourful characters and luckily the creative creatures have stood the test of time and several studio makeovers. They were somewhat of an urban myth around the studios, however in 2010 Jimmy Fallon encouraged them to be part of the NBC Tour.
Being a Sunday tour, we then got to see one of NBC's biggest treasures - the Saturday Night Live studio. Also known as Studio 8H, it was once the world largest radio studio, constructed for Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1933. The stage was fresh from the night before, with all the sketch sets still out on the floor. It was interesting to see how the grid like floor system allowed for a lot of different scenes to be created in a relatively small space. As there is a lot of superstition around entertainment, the audience chairs used on the balcony level are the very same ones since the beginning of SNL in 1975. These were actually on-loan from Yankee Stadium, but I don't think they'll be expecting them back any time soon.
The Tour at NBC Studios was a really impressive experience, being an Aladdin's cave of entertainment treasures. Not only in the main studios, but every corridor we walked through had gems of interest and contained all the excitement of a live working studio. The interior itself is very true to its Art Deco roots and it's fascinating how the studio has grown and changed over time. It was a great insight into how the NBC Studio runs and certainly enjoyed by this TV fan.
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