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Network Pilots Back in a New York Groove

As NYC sees sharp rise in TV production, eight Big Apple pilots nail down series orders

Smash | Photo: Will Hart/NBC

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A year after the studios serenaded the city with a Bronx cheer, New York is challenging Los Angeles’ sovereignty as the center of the broadcast universe.

According to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, a record 20 pilots were filmed in Gotham over the winter and spring, a striking figure when compared to the measly three shot in 2010. Of these, eight were given series orders. Boasting a slate of four new series produced in New York, procedural-happy CBS has taken a particular shine to the Big Apple. Queens’ Silvercup Studios is home to all three of the network’s fall dramas—A Gifted Man (CBS Television Studios), Person of Interest (Warner Bros. Television), and Unforgettable (Sony Television Studios)—while midseason NYPD drama The 2-2 is being shot in Manhattan.

Although it’s set in Brooklyn’s hipster enclave Williamsburg, the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls is being shot in front of a live studio audience on Warner Bros.’ Burbank lot. (But for site-specific curios like NBC’s 30 Rock, network sitcoms are almost always shot in L.A.)

Also stopping traffic this summer is ABC’s retro-chic trolley dolly drama, Pan Am. Produced by Sony’s TV unit, this latest look back at the early ’60s is shooting at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens and in various locations across the city. Greenwich Village has also been a favorite backdrop thus far; not only does Christina Ricci’s character reside in the neighborhood, but bohemia’s main drag, MacDougal Street, has served as a stand-in for a quiet via in Rome.

Perhaps the one new show that could not have been shot anywhere else is NBC’s mid-season musical, Smash. Originally developed for Showtime by Bob Greenblatt—the executive brought his passion project with him to NBC in November, when he was named the network’s entertainment chairman—Smash stars Katharine McPhee as a struggling actress vying for the lead in a Broadway show about Marilyn Monroe. Even in interior shots, the city asserts itself; if nothing else, you will never see a more authentic New York apartment on the small screen.

Along with the glamour and gritty authenticity afforded by filming in New York, the studios are being lured back by financial incentives. The New York State Film Production tax credit program offers a 30 percent chit for qualified production expenditures, to the tune of $420 million per year. The credit has helped attract as many as 75 new projects to the state since the year began, which in turn will pump an estimated $1 billion into the state economy.

Neighboring states haven’t always embraced the concept of a tax credit. New Jersey suspended its incentive program for a number of months before the state legislature reversed course, voting to up its allocation from $10 million per year to $50 million.