There is perhaps nothing that says "That's Hollywood" more than attending a free TV show taping in Hollywood, California. It is a great opportunity to see your favorite television stars live and in person. It is one of the best free things to do in LA. A majority of TV shows tape in Burbank, Studio City, or Culver City, but there are still plenty that tape right in Hollywood. There are sometimes opportunities to be a "crowd filler" in a movie, too.
There are seasonal highs and lows with most shows taking the summer off and beginning taping in the fall, but you can usually get TV show tickets for something taping somewhere in LA, even in the offseason. There are a variety of shows to choose from such as talk shows, game shows, sitcoms, reality shows, and children's shows.
Most production studios are smaller than they appear on TV. The audience is no more than 20 or 30 feet away from the actors or talk show host, so you can count on it being a very intimate experience. Most shows have audience etiquette guidelines like what to wear and what not to bring. You should plan to spend three to six hours to attend a taping.
You can get tickets by writing in to show, applying online, or by using a ticket broker, also known as an audience services company.
How to Get TV Tickets
All TV show tickets are free. Having a ticket in hand does not always guarantee a seat at the show, with some exceptions like the free ticket service site, 1iota.com.
Since some people who make reservations flake out, shows and service companies usually over-book an audience for a show. Besides overbooking, another reason that you might get bumped from being in the audience is if the cast or crew happen to have a large number of guests for a particular show, then fewer seats are available for the public. You should get to the taping early for the best chance of getting in.
A few shows ask you to write in or call for tickets, but most are represented by an audience company that makes tickets available online in advance. You can order your tickets and print them out at home. Or, if you are staying at a hotel, you can ask the concierge or front desk if they can reserve and print the tickets for you, or use the hotel's business center, if available.
For shows that have not filled up online, you can often find audience hunters in front of Hollywood's Chinese Theatre distributing same-day tickets.
Online Reservations with Audience Services
Multiple online audience services companies offer tickets for some of the same shows. Tickets are usually released 30 days in advance. Popular sitcoms and talk shows may sell out the day they are released.
- Audiences Unlimited represents a variety of sitcoms like "The Big Bang Theory," "Dr. Phil Show," "America's Funniest Home Videos," and more.
- On Camera Audiences specializes in providing audiences for talent shows like "Dancing with the Stars," "America's Got Talent," and "So You Think You Can Dance," game shows like "The Price is Right," "Family Feud," and Let's Make a Deal, talk shows, and more.
- TV Tix makes arrangements for "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy," "Real Time with Bill Maher," as well as other sitcoms and talk shows.
- 1iota offers tickets to "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "The Late Late Show with James Corden," "Conan," "The Voice," and more. Also, you can also request tickets to Jimmy Kimmel by phone, weekdays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (866) JIMMY TIX.
- You can apply online for tickets to the Ellen Show or contact the studio no later than noon the day of the taping to see if you can get a standby ticket by calling (818) 954-5929.
Reality shows book up quickly. On Camera Audiences, the agency with the most reality show tickets, lets you sign up for email updates to let you know when tickets become available.
When you book your tickets, each studio will have specific instructions for you. Most studios have some general rules that apply across the board.
Most studios prohibit bringing food into the studio. Have a good meal before you go as you may be in the studio for up to six hours or more. If the taping runs very long, you might luck out and get a cold slice of cold pizza, a half sandwich, or a handful of candy from the production team to tide you over, but sometimes not. Some studios may allow a sealed bottle of water or a sealed protein bar. If you are standing in line outside the studio, eat all the food you have while in line. They will require you to toss out the remnants upon entering the studio.
Some studios require business casual attire especially if the cameras show the audience often, particularly for reality and talk shows. Read the instructions on your tickets. If you are not in proper attire, you may be relegated to a spot behind a pole somewhere, or put into an overflow room off camera. Well-dressed people have a better chance of getting the good seats and being on camera.
For sitcoms, the audience is never seen, so if shorts and T-shirts are all you have with you, then choose a sitcom.
Most studios are very cold because the studio lights can be very hot on stage for the guests and actors. Bring a sweater or jacket, even if it is hot out. The studios can get frigid, and you will be there quite a while.
Leave Recording Devices Behind
Leave cameras, recorders, and cell phones with cameras in the car or hotel room, or else you might have to check them with security at the studio. Some studios may allow cell phones; check your ticket instructions for guidance.
How to Act
If you appear intoxicated, the studio will not let you in. Restroom opportunities are limited. It is always best to go to the restroom before you are seated.
When you attend a sitcom taping, it is like being at a live theater performance, not like watching TV at home. You cannot yell at the characters, and you cannot keep a running commentary going with your neighbor. When the camera is rolling, you must stay quiet or you can get kicked out. You can, however, laugh if the situation warrants it. You may even get studio prompts, like cue cards or an audience handler may give you a cue to laugh or applaud.
Reality shows, talk shows, and game shows have different levels of audience participation, with audience exclamations sometimes encouraged. Pay attention to the instructions given by your warm-up person, and behave accordingly. Sometimes the best laughers may be rewarded with more camera time.
Attending a sitcom taping can be a lot of fun, even if you do not know the show. It is like watching live theatre, but you get to see the actors flub their lines and try again, or experiment with different variations on a theme. If no one laughs at a joke, they might even try another approach. It can be exciting to see the behind-the-scenes on how a show is strung together. The age limit for most adult sitcoms is 18, but occasionally you can find one with a younger age limit.
Sitcom Taping Times
Most sitcoms are taped weekdays with call times between 3 and 7 p.m. There used to be a taping season, but now you can almost always find something taping.
You may need to stand in line for an hour or so, or you may be directed right to the studio. First, you will pass through security and are checked for recording devices. In the studio, seats are filled in order. There are usually only about 10 rows of seats, so no one is far from the action. There may be multiple sections of seats in front of different sets. In this case, when the action is going on a different set, you may see the action projected on a TV screen.
Although the studio aims to get the show taped within a certain amount of time—usually two hours—unforeseen glitches can occasionally drag the production out for much longer. For example, "Friends" was notorious for having 8-hour tapings. You are expected to stay for the duration. To sit in a live studio audience, you must often commit to staying until a specific time.
Parts of the story may take place in other locations and may have been pre-recorded. The studio may show you the missing scenes on a TV screen.
Once you are seated, the audience warm-up person, usually a comedian, comes out to get the audience in a laughing mood. Usually, the warm-up person will keep you entertained during pauses, like when the cast is changing costumes or the crew is changing camera angles from one part of the set to another.
The entertainment is often interactive, so if you do impressions, you can volunteer. If you are lucky, cast members sometimes come to the audience to visit between scenes.
Sitcom Audience Attire
Sitcom audiences do not usually appear on screen, so the dress code is lax. Shorts and t-shirts are usually OK, but it can get cold in the studio, so wear long pants and bring a jacket or sweater.
For some talk shows, you can find out who the scheduled celebrity guests will be ahead of time. If your dates are flexible, you can check the show's website before checking ticket brokers, to see if they list who will be appearing.
Some talk shows tape more than one episode in a day. Nighttime talk shows aimed at college students frequently do not tape on Fridays, because they assume their target audience is not home watching TV that night.
Talk Show Seating
After waiting in line, sometimes for an hour or more, you will be shown into the studio. Talk shows usually have nicer seating areas than sitcoms because the audience is seen on camera. The areas most visible to the camera are seated first.
If you really want to be on camera, then you should plan on dressing nicely and showing up early. Audience coordinators determine who sits where. Because the audience is seen on camera, the dress code for talk shows is more strictly enforced. Studios know that audiences are usually tourists on vacation, so as long as you are presentable, studios will try to seat you.
A warm-up person will come out to get the audience excited about the show. There is usually less downtime in a talk show taping compared to sitcoms, because there are not as many camera moves and do-overs.
Nighttime talk shows usually have comedy bits that are often pre-recorded. Most studios will show the pre-recorded bits on TV monitors for the audience.
A perk of being in the audience of an evening talk show is that most have musical performances in the studio. "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" is an exception with a separate outdoor concert stage behind the studio which requires a separate ticket. Another studio advantage is that may experience more of the musical performance than the show televises.
Game shows usually tape multiple episodes in one day. They may tape in the morning, afternoon, or both.
Game Show Audience
Like sitcoms and talk shows, there is usually some waiting in line involved. CBS Television City, where "The Price is Right" is produced, has the advantage of having a shaded seating area for the waiting line.
Some game shows may have the audience appear on camera, while others do not. As with talk shows, if you want to increase your chances of being seen on TV, choose nice, business casual attire.
Reality shows come in many formats, like competition shows and talent contests, like "The Voice," "Dancing With the Stars," and "America's Got Talent." The audience experience varies accordingly. Some shows are harder to get into than others. There are usually waiting lists for "The Voice" and "Dancing with the Stars."
Many reality shows have a lower minimum age requirement than sitcoms or talk shows. Some allow audience members as young as 14.
Reality Show Seating
There are so many reality shows produced in the LA-area that something is always taping. Many of the talent contests tape in large venues that can seat up to 1,000 people, so you have a higher chance of getting a ticket. In some cases, you may only be able to get standing-room-only admission.
For shows that air live, it is absolutely critical that you are in line at call time if you want to get in. You will go through security before getting into the studio. An audience coordinator will determine the seating assignments. A warm-up person will explain how the show will proceed and help get you geared up for the show.
Audiences play a much greater role in reality shows than other kinds of programming and have a much greater chance of being on screen. Follow the dress code specified on your ticket if you want to be on camera. Some shows, like "Dancing With the Stars" may require semi-formal attire. Shows geared toward a younger audience, like MTV shows, might require trendy club attire. Watch the show in advance to get an idea what attire is considered appropriate.
Children's TV Shows
The age limit for most general interest shows is 18 while shows targeted for children may have age limits from 10 to 16. It is rare to find shows that allow audiences under 10, but it occasionally happens. There are far fewer opportunities to be in a children's show audience because there are fewer live shows for children.
The minimum age for audiences is usually set at 10 since attending a TV show taping requires patience and self-restraint, which can be challenging for children under age 10.
Most children's shows that require an audience are either Nickelodeon shows, Disney sitcoms, or game shows. You can get tickets for these shows online from the same adult audience companies.
TV Show Attendance for Groups
If you are traveling to LA with a group of 10 or more people, you should be able to arrange tickets for a TV show taping through a representative at an online audience company.
Use an Audience Representative
For certain productions with many seats to fill, an audience company may pay your organization a per-person fee for bringing them anywhere from 10 to 100 people.
You may not have as many productions to choose from if you are attending with a group because some of the studios seat less than 100 people. But, if you are not too particular about what you see, you may get lucky.
Tickets are usually only released four to six weeks before taping, so you cannot make definitive plans months ahead of time. If you work directly with a group coordinator from an audience company and let them know more about your group, like dates of travel, number of guests, and median age range, you can be notified as soon as something becomes available.
Remember, if you arrange group travel and call more than one audience service, be sure to keep track of each company you contact. Make sure you do not get a block of seats to a particular show from more than one company.
Arrive On Time
It is important that your group shows up on time. Usually, there are more tickets distributed than there are seats, so if a few individuals miss out, it should not be a problem. But, if a whole busload does not show, then that can be problematic. If your group cannot get to the studio on time or will miss the show, make sure you have the audience representative's phone number handy and contact them as soon as you can so they can fill the seats.
Be in a Movie
The same companies who look for audience members for TV shows are often called upon to fill crowd scenes for movies. It is hard to schedule in advance, but if you are interested being a fan in a stadium or in a crowded street scene in the next blockbuster film, you can register at Be in a Movie and find out when crowd scene fillers are needed. You will not get paid, but it can be a fun way to spend the day.
These opportunities take place all over the country, not just in LA, so even if you are not planning a trip to Los Angeles, you can sign up for any movies that are shooting in your neck of the woods.
If you have a large group, Be in a Movie may pay for your organization to attend, which can be a fun fundraising opportunity for your group. Buses may be provided for large groups.