Recollections of CBS TVC

UPDATED:  AUGUST 3, 2008

Below are comments I've received from web site visitors who have memories to share about Television City.


You mentioned that Three's Company was shot at TV City (Studio 31, if memory serves), and that the Garland show was shot there (Studio 43). It might be of interest to know that the director of the Garland show, Bill Hobin, also directed the first full season of Three's Company. There were a lot of stage lights painted white to accommodate Judy's tastes, and some of those lights were still hanging in the grids at least into the 1980s.

As part of the "future concept" work you noted, the then-employee-parking lot on the west side of the building, near Fairfax, had pilings installed for the eventual build-out. By the time the first TV City expansion in the mid-1970s was done, the building codes had been changed, and all those pilings had to come out. So what seemed like great foresight became a royal pain.

Although the videotape operation was referred to as "the basement," it was actually at ground level. The first four stages are actually built one level up. The main employee entry to the building was up a ramp on the south end of the building, which led to a loading dock that's at stage level, thus the confusion and the "basement" reference re videotape. By that standard, the Artist's Entrance on the north side of the building would also be "in the basement."

That's not the only altitude confusion in the building. In the 1970s, the control room for West Coast network operations (PC-25) was located near videotape in "the basement," but their instructions were broadcast from speakers mounted at ceiling level above the videotape machines. Since tape technicians experienced PC-25 as a voice from above, we always thought of it as "upstairs."

-- Jerry D.
TV City 72-78


Hi! Great vintage TV site! I hope you are still active on it.

I have one piece of conflicting information. I attended a taping of The Danny Kaye Show in December of 1966. The cameras were still either TK-40s or -41s at that time (can't remember if it was Studio 41 or 43) and at that age I didn't yet know how to differentiate the models. I was just wide-eyed at being in a real network color television studio!

The reason I mention this is that your technical notes say the change to the PC-60/70s took place in 1964. Maybe they just hadn't gotten around to 41/43 yet.

Thanks for jogging the memory banks!

-- Richard W.


Regarding my certainty of the studio for The Danny Kaye Show, I remember watching from "bleacher" type seating which wouldn't have been either 31 or 33. As I said, I was still too much of a neophyte (19) to know to look for vents on the viewfinder or bundled camera cables that distinguished between the TK-40s and the -41s. I was familiar with CBS's anti-RCA leanings and both CBS and ABC being dragged kicking and screaming into colorcasting and remember being surprised to see the RCA behemoths. They took your tickets, didn't allow cameras or recording equipment, so I have no reference other than a memory from 40 years ago!

Funny you should mention All in the Family. I attended a taping in either the last half of 1972 or the first half of '73 and remember being in the pit so it must have been [Studio] 33. Again, possibly just for that one week. I can't tell you a thing about the show that night, but the audience situation is etched in my mind as that's the night I met Annette Funicello who sat in front of me. She was there just as another audience member. Very gracious lady and just as beautiful in person as she was on the screen.

-- Richard W.


In the spring of 1954 at age 17, I was asked to represent my school, Wilson High in El Sereno, California, on a short-lived program that aired on CBS and was hosted by Bob Barker. Perhaps it was his first televised show? The program was called "Talent in High" and it showcased local talent. Prizes were presented to first-, second- and third-place finishers. I sang "Three Coins in the Fountain" and finished second. Mom was proud!

Because I am flat out bald, no one believes me when I tell them I had a luxuriant head of curly black hair when the publicity shot of me for the show was taken. I would give my eye tooth (I do have that!) if someone could locate this picture in the archives of CBS and send it to me. I will pay real money for it if only to prove the doubters wrong.

Ah, such vanity. Keep up the good work.

-- Paul V.

If anyone is able to help Paul with his request, please e-mail him at:  vigyikan (at) localnet.com


My first recollection of CBS Television City was as a child going with my parents to see a taping of Art Linkletter's House Party. From my young memory, it seems like it was in Studio 41 in the early 1960s.

My other major memory of CBS-TVC was spending most of the day there sometime in the early 1970s. Our organization had contracted with TVC for the facilities to videotape a season of one of our syndicated TV shows before our own studios were built. I remember that they had to strike the Sonny & Cher set in order to erect (and light) our set, and they had to move the Sony & Cher stuff across the hall, but not before striking part of the set for one of the soaps to make room for the Sonny & Cher stuff. This was one of the larger studios with the fixed seating, but it was not shot with an audience.

I spent the morning in the booth watching them produce four 30-minute shows (live-to-tape). This didn't seem like a big deal to me at the time because I was used to doing live-to-tape production. However, apparently it was considered "break-neck speed" to some of the CBS crew who apparently were used to a more leisurely pace  :-)

That afternoon, I spent several hours in the cavernous VTR facility (downstairs?), dubbing many episodes of [our program] from two-inch quadruplex tape onto our one-inch Ampex 7900 recorder (Type-A format) for local use at our local facility.

While the tapes were running, I wandered around the room where there was the largest collection of Ampex two-inch quad machines (1200s?) I had ever seen in one place. They were all laid out rank-and-file, two-by-two across the floor. Most of them seemed to be operated in tandem pairs (one as a hot-standby backup for the other). There were the two large tape decks side-by-side (or with one rack in between?), with each VTR's three racks of electronics off to each side. There was an Altec Voice-of the Theatre speaker hanging overhead at each machine to allow high-quality audio monitoring.

I remember around 3:15 P.M. when an operator rolled up a cart with several reels of two-inch video tape and threaded up six of the machines (three pairs) and flipped the remote-control over to Master Control. Then right at 3:29:00, all six machines started recording the CBS Television Network feed from New York which arrived at TVC via coaxial cable from the telco (Western Union or AT&T?).

At exactly 3:30:03 (three seconds to allow for the WCBS local ID), the feed came up out of black and the six machines recorded The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The scene was nearly identical to that photo on your web site showing the first commercial use of the Ampex machine for The CBS Evening News with Douglas Edwards almost 15 years before.

At the end of the newscast, the feed went back to black, and the six machines continued recording another 30-60 seconds of black. Then, they all stopped and went into rewind (by remote from Master Control). A couple minutes later, the operator came back and re-threaed four of the six machines. He cued them all up to 10 seconds of black and flipped the switch back to Master Control.

But two of the reels got taken off their VTR machines and put into 3M blue plastic shipping cases. These were handed to a motorcycle courier still dressed in his black leather outfit and still wearing his helmet.

He grabbed the shipping cases and dropped one into each saddlebag on the back of his idling Harley, and went racing off to the LAX Airport. From there, he put one tape on a regular passenger flight to Anchorage, Alaska, and the other on a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii. This was before the days of satellite distribution of video (and long before direct-broadcast satellite TV as we know today).

Then at 5:29:53 P.M., the first pair of machines started (from Master Control) to feed the Evening News to the CBS West Coast Network. Less than a minute after the machines started, the operator walked over to the standby machine and "tweaked" the capstan servo so that the audio from each VTR matched (by ear). After that, the backup machine tracked the air machine precisely for the rest of the 30 minutes, and Master Control could have switched VTRs without the home audience ever knowing that they were watching another machine. (This is something that was later automated via SMPTE timecode.)

This sequence was repeated again at 5:59:53 P.M. and 6:29:53 P.M. to give the local affiliates the choice of when to run the network news for their local schedule. The reason for having two pair of VTRs handling the news feed was that they had to feed it every half hour back-to-back, and there wasn't time in the brief commercial break to rewind 30 minutes of tape and reliably have it cued up again for the next showing -- so they alternated pairs of machines.

Later that evening (I am told, since I had left for home by then), the same process was repeated for each of the prime-time network shows (although with only one pair of machines, since the entertainment shows weren't fed multiple times, back-to-back like the news was).

Meanwhile, during the afternoon, there were a few "wild-feeds" to the West Coast Network. I remember they fed a particular episode of Maude to a few stations so they could review the content to see if they would have to censor it (for the racy language and content in those days).  :-)

I recall visiting CBS-TVC several times before I realized that the famous tourist attraction, the Los Angeles Farmers' Market, was located adjacent to the property, just to the south-west of TVC if my memory is correct. I found TVC to be much more of a "tourist attraction" to me than the Farmers' Market.

Thanks for your web site content. Great to see pictures of it as I remember.

-- Richard C.