Reality show: TV treasures on display

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Walking into the "Television: Out of the Box" exhibit at the Paley Center for Media's Los Angeles location is like cracking open a pop culture time capsule. If you're a fan of TV, there's bound to be an artifact or costume from a show that brings back memories.

The exhibit, curated by archivists from Warner Bros. Television, opened last summer and will be on display until sometime in 2015.

Wardrobe worn by the cast of hit series ("ER" and "The Big Bang Theory") share display space with animation cells from Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons (Scooby-Doo). Costumes from the sci-fi show "Babylon 5" are along the same wall as a lizard head and model shuttlecraft from the original 1980s "V."

Lisa Gregorian, chief marketing officer for Warner Bros. Television Group, said Warner Bros. has produced programming from multiple genres and for every broadcast network for almost 60 years.

"We had the ability to cover 50 years of television across all of the big players," she said in a recent phone interview. Warner Bros. Television routinely interacts with TV fans at the annual San Diego Comic-Con; "Television: Out of the Box" offers another point of contact. "We looked at this and said, 'Why leave all of these items in storage when we can share them?' "

PG graphic: Paley Center for Media
(Click image for larger version)

It took about nine months to upgrade the Paley exhibit space and choose objects from Warner Bros.' vast collection for display. Where does it all come from?

"You know the final scene in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' where they've got the Ark of the Covenant in that crate? It looks something like that, a huge warehouse with lots of shelves and hanging racks," said Lynn Borzumato, one of five Warner Bros. archivists who worked on the project.

During a TV show's run, Ms. Borzumato keeps a running spread sheet of memorable props and costumes featured in every episode of the Warner Bros. programs she's assigned to. When a show enters its final season, she sends a wish list to the program's producers requesting items to add to the Warner Bros. archives and soliciting their ideas for what should be preserved.

"You start with the big stuff and start filtering down because you want to represent the milestones in a series so fans who might not have seen all the episodes but who saw the more popular episodes or know these characters can say, 'I recognize this,' " she said.

That explains the presence of Smelly Cat kitty litter among the "Friends" memorabilia. Sometimes a show's cast offers input, too. Archivist Nina Smith said "Knots Landing" star Donna Mills was at the exhibit's opening and was disappointed that none of her wardrobe from the show was on display. So she loaned the exhibit a white cashmere dress she'd kept, and it was added to the exhibit's "Knots" section.

'Television: Out of the Box' at the Paley Center for Media

  • Where:

    465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif., 90210.

  • Hours:

    Noon-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

  • Cost:

    $10 adults, $8 seniors/students, $5 children under 13, 50 percent discount for Paley Center members.

  • Details:

    or 1-310-786-1000.

At a memorial service for Joseph Barbera, archivist Mark Greenhalgh said he learned from veteran TV executive Fred Silverman that a particular story board was used in the pitch that sold CBS on buying "Scooby-Doo." When this exhibit came about, he wanted to include it.

" 'Scooby-Doo' is such a franchise and you look at this and think, that's the starting point right there, that was the board that made the decision," he said. "It's a great honor to put that on display for people to see."

Archivist Leith Adams said some items from HBO, which is also part of the Time Warner conglomerate, are on display, including items from "The Sopranos," "Entourage" and "Band of Brothers."

"We'd love for our HBO cousins to give us some 'Game of Thrones,' which they will," Ms. Gregorian said. "At the time the exhibit was happening, they were shooting. It's really a living, breathing archive. We had something from 'Big Bang Theory' and they pulled it back for shooting in the show. Sometimes props move back and forth."

Ms. Gregorian said with the prospect of a "Veronica Mars" movie, they're giving consideration to adding items from that series to the exhibit, which routinely rotates items on and off display.

Other areas inside the exhibit include Theme Song Theater, which offers clips and sing-along opportunities with the theme songs from "Friends," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Gilligan's Island," "Welcome Back, Kotter" and other programs.

Visitors can sit in a booth from Monk's Diner from "Seinfeld," or they can perch on a couch in a re-creation of the Central Perk set from "Friends."

Another area is dedicated to producer David L. Wolper, best known for the miniseries "Roots" and "The Thorn Birds."

There's a possibility this exhibit could travel or be installed elsewhere after 2015, but nothing has been determined so far. So TV fans visiting Los Angeles, plan accordingly.

"The expressions people have on their face when they see this exhibit expresses a memory we're generating that they don't have anywhere else," Ms. Gregorian said. "We're connecting fans to a good memory we provided for them."

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TV writer Rob Owen: or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published April 28, 2013 4:00 AM


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