When it comes to recycling in Hollywood, off the air doesn’t mean off the lot.Television shows may die, but their walls and windows have an afterlife.
Bits and pieces of old programs such as Benson, The Facts of Life, Married with Children and countless others are still working in Hollywood — as repurposed scenery for current shows.
Not every recycled set is instantly recognizable, but the White House’s Oval Office does tend to get resurrected. Leonard Harman, art director for NBC’s recently canceled The Event, says President Elias Martinez’ Oval Office began life on either 24 or The West Wing and was also seen on Heroes. Geena Davis’ Oval Office from Commander in Chief had cameos in the films National Treasure: Book of Secrets and W.
Disney/ABC Television Group began recycling sets in the early 1990s, says Charles Gooden, backlot and set-inventory director at ABC Studios. “It was one of the starring moments of my career when Frank G. Wells [president and chief operating officer of Disney at the time] contacted me on the backlot and requested that we start an official program to recycle and repurpose sets for the environmental benefit.”
Environmental groups had requested that Disney do more to actively protect the environment because lauan, a flexible hardwood often used for set walls, typically comes from the tropical rain forest. Now, “all of our lauan comes from a certified rain forest steward, which means that every time we cut a tree down, we plant two seedlings,” Gooden says.
The Tim Allen comedy Home Improvement helped pioneer repurposing stock scenery from the environmental set-inventory group Gooden created, and some of its walls are still being reused. In fact, most ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channel shows, including Desperate Housewives and Wizards of Waverly Place, repurpose their own scenery.
In 1990, Sony Pictures (then Columbia) began repurposing its sets too. Sony Pictures Television Group has repurposed scenery from series such as 227, The King of Queens and, recently, Mr. Sunshine for ABC, and Rules of Engagement and Mad Love for CBS.
At NBCUniversal, repurposing and recycling scenery began around 1999. Right now, pieces from Will & Grace, Seinfeld and Life are on the proverbial shelf, awaiting a second chance under the hot lights, says Shannon Schaefer Bart, NBCUniversal’s sustainable-production manager.