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Walking Tour of the Boston Legal Sound Stages

Boston Legal Forum member "Crabby" visited the sound stages of Boston Legal at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, California for a tour of the sound stages. She drew the layout of the three sound stages and detailed what comprised each set and other interesting observations she noted from her day on the set.

Boston Legal Office set

“Boston Legal” – Firm Offices set

Figure 1 – Elevators
Figure 2 – Lobby; “Crane, Poole, and Schmidt” logo is on right wall; stairwell leading to nowhere is at the end.
Figure 3 – Season 1- 2.5: Tara Wilson’s office Season 2.5: Rotated office between Garrett and Sara; Squid’s office Season 3: Claire’s new office
Figure 4 – Conference Room; podium is on upper left corner, shelf with coffee and water is on lower left; small table is in lower bottom.  Right glass wall cantilevers on gimbles to allow cameras to get in.
Figure 5 – Kitchen; sink and major appliances on right; seating on left
Figure 6 - Shirley Schmidt and/or Paul Lewiston office. Depending on scene needed, the office is re-dressed. Paul’s desk is situated horizontal in the upper half of the room, while Shirley’s desk is as shown. Green indicates couch placement with end tables. A flat screen TV is in upper right.
Figure 7 – Secretarial Pool/Law Library; where Melissa Hughes sits and Brad and Denise flirt. A computer is at each desk and a bookcase and file cabinets are in lower half of the room.
Figure 8 – Denny Crane’s inner sanctum; desk is in lower half with bookcase and cabinet. Couch is located in upper right.
Figure 9 – Denny’s balcony. ‘nuff said.
Figure 10 – Alan Shore’s austere office. Two couches. No diplomas. One wine fridge is in the lower right corner.
Figure 11 – Brad Chase and/or Denise Bauer office; like Schmidt and Lewiston, room is re-dressed depending on scene needed. Denise’s desk is horizontal at the center of the room, whereas Brad’s office is as shown with one table behind the desk and a couch on the far right.
Figure 12 – Coho’s new office is under construction.

Office Set Walking Tour of the Crane, Poole, and Schmidt Law Firm set
by Crabby

Upon entering the soundstage, a real (not part of the set) craft services line is seen before entering the enclosed set. Up on the walls are various joke signs like “Happy 75th Birthday, Denny! from Shirley Schmidt” and “Sushi compliments of Adam Arkin.”

We enter the hallway towards Coho’s new office under construction (Fig. 12) and turn right into the lobby and elevator areas (Fig. 1, 2). A reception desk is on the left while a waiting area is set up on the right. At the end of the lobby is a stairwell where a certain paralegal flirts with employees while Brad looks on with regret.

We turn left to see the Kitchen (Fig. 5) on the left, where Denise “accidentally” shoved Squid’s Blackberry into the waste basket. Speaking of Squid, her office (Fig. 3) is on the right. Marlene Stanger’s name is still on the door. They haven’t personalized the room for Claire yet. Continuing down the left is the massive conference room (Fig. 4) where all the major deals are made and Alan Shore can repeatedly say the word, “lesbian” to make Brad uncomfortable.

We backtrack to find the secretarial pool/law library on the right (Fig. 7). Depending on the scene needed, the desks can be replaced with bookshelves to hide Brad and Denise’s flirtations. At the moment it is a secretarial pool, intimating that Melissa will be in a scene.

On our left is Shirley Schmidt’s office (Fig. 6), only because it’s decorated with Asian-inspired décor. On the bottom right corner is a cabinet with bourbon glasses and an interesting collection of Chinese zodiac sculpture blocks topped with pewter heads. Each head resembles the Year of the Rat, Year of the Ox, etc. She loves orchids, which are everywhere. A picture of a Labrador is on the left side table near the couch. The diplomas in Shirley’s office are Harvard law degree of “Juris Doctor,” given June 10, 1970; Wellesley School of Letters and Science of “Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science,” given June 9, 1966; and a United States District Court Federal Bar Association “Litigator of the Year Award,” given August 1, 1982. There’s a (joke?) award on the shelf above the zodiac animals called “The Doctors Award” for Transgender Surgery Excellence to a “Doctor Mercer.”  When a Paul Lewiston scene is called for, the desk is rotated and put in the upper half of the room in front of the large window. I’m not sure about his décor style.

The great “Dennis” Crane occupies Fig. 8-9, with 8 being his office and 9 being his balcony. On the upper left cabinet next to the scotch glasses and stirrers, lies a clock gift with the inscription “Man of the Year, Dennis Crane” given by the Downtown Boston Business Association. He’s got a medal with a crocodile framed picture of himself on the other side, but my picture is unreadable. Denny received his Harvard Law degree of “Juris Doctor – Cum Laude” on May 21, 1971. He also received his Bachelor of Sciences of Political Science degree from Harvard on June 23, 1967. He was licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts on May 30, 1975. whew. I think I just crossed my eyes looking at all that. But we’re not done.

Now we’re off to the workplace hermitage of Alan Shore (Fig. 10), an “austere” room that apparently James Spader has final input on at all times, prefering it to be minimalist with no diplomas of any kind or wall hangings except for the picture the young girl in “Smile” did, hanging in the bottom right corner over the refrigerated wine cellar (in purple). The glass tabletop is immaculate, with no missing shards. I looked for silicon dust, but no luck.

Here we are at Brad Chase’s office (Fig. 11) as is. Not only do they share bodily fluids, Brad and Denise share this room during filming depending on the scene. Right now, it belongs to Captain Handsome. His diplomas are on the top left wall near his desk. Like it’s been shown in the message boards before, Brad Chase got his Dartmouth Law degree of “Juris Doctor” on June 9, 1997. Now here’s something of interest: he also got his Bachelor of Science degree at Dartmouth – for History! By the way, it was on June 10, 1993.

All the glass office windows rotate open on gimbles to allow cameras in and are made of tempered glass, the same stunt glass that shatters into blunt pebbles for safety issues. Several of the largest panels came from DEK’s former show “Girl’s Club.” It was mentioned that one of the heavier glass walls shattered right next to a big producer, nearly hurting him.

Boston Legal Courtrooms and Judge Chambers

“Boston Legal” – Courtrooms and Judges Chambers

Figure 13 – Permanent set of Season 2 courtroom
Figure 14 – Judge’s chambers
Figure 15 – Elevators
Figure 16 – Rotunda
Figure 17 – Season 1 courtroom. Judge is seated at far left. Immediately in front is a clerk desk with two computers. In the middle are prosecution and
defense tables. Benches line behind them. Jury box is in uppermost section. Bookcases line the hallway leading to this room.

(All hatched areas are under construction)

Stage 22 Walking Tour of the Boston Legal Courtrooms, Judge Chambers
by Crabby

Stage 22 is to the immediate left of Stage 21 and can be entered by going past Coho’s office (Fig. 12) and into the Season 2 permanent courtroom set (Fig. 13). This room is much lighter in color with airy windows on the bottom wall, behind the jury box. On the far left wall are blow ups of the Constitution, framed for all to see. The set up of furniture is an estimation, since it was not dressed for our viewing.

Stepping out into the hallway, we enter Judges Chambers (Fig. 14).

Down the hallway to the left, we pass court house elevators (Fig. 15). On the other side is a large rotunda with no furniture or plants. We weren’t led beyond, hinting that certain areas were still under construction or in the middle of set dressing.

Continuing down the hallway, we reach the permanent set of Season One’s courtroom (Fig. 17). Again, the windows are on the bottom wall, behind a clerk’s desk. Today, this is Hon. Clark Brown’s courtroom – all rise! The prosecution and defense tables are in the middle and are of a darker wood than Season 2’s courtroom. Behind the jury box are portraits of Washington and Lincoln with duplicate blow-ups of the Constitution dead center. A separate courtroom made for Los Angeles scenes from the finale this year. Apparently, it was built so high that the actor who played the judge sunk very low. The prop department had to use an “apple box” (a six inch high) crate to make him sit higher in the seat. Apple boxes are in full or half sizes. A two inch box is called a “pancake box.” These can be slipped under couches as well as having Michael J. Fox, for example, stand on them (*cough* Tom Cruise *cough*).

The Los Angeles courtroom and CPS branch have been moved into storage. They will be expanding both sets to use in the future (maybe Season 3?)


Boston Legal Restaurant, Jails, Coroner’s Office, Police set

“Boston Legal” – Jail set

Figure 18 – Jails. Upon entering through right, cells are numbered 23-25, with an extra, empty room.
Figure 19 – Coroner’s office under construction. Body freezers are on bottom wall.
Figure 20, 21 – Interrogation rooms.
Figure 22 – Jade Restaurant. Couches in the middle and upper left. Far right are the restrooms. A J-shaped bar with barstools, bar shelving behind.

(Note: Throughout Stage 25, “swing sets” are being built for Joanna’s sex therapist office)

Stage 25 Walking Tour of the City of Boston, Restaurant, Jails, Coroner’s Office, Police, misc.
by Crabby

Stage 25 is located in another building and is about a fourth larger. This area is used primarily to build and house extraneous, often temporary sets. We enter the Jails (Fig. 18) from the right side. The cells are padded with fake cement that is made of plastic – in fact, everything is made of plastic on a set, even the marble you see in the courtroom hallways. Anyway, the jails are empty right now.

We continue on to the Coroner’s Office (Fig. 19), still a work in progress. I peeked inside while someone was still painting and saw several rows of steel body freezers. The paint colors are an institutional pistachio and tan. There is no furniture in there yet. This set is temporary for the “New Kids on the Block” episode.

Further up, we bump into empty Police Interrogation offices (Fig. 20 and 21). The rooms are empty of furniture and wall hangings. I’m assuming that the shared wall will eventually have a one-way mirror set up along it. The colors are murky and suggest foreboding.

Beyond the police interrogation rooms are various walls that will be combined to make up Joanna’s sex therapist office.

The piece de resistance is the Asian-steeped design of the Jade Restaurant (Fig. 22), where CPS winds down for happy hour, a major love connection, or Alan Shore’s Music Man moment about salmon. The entranceway is perfectly round with a non-metallic gold and garnet colored glass bead curtain framing it. The color scheme for this restaurant is the above colors and a dark, cobalt blue. Along each wall are gold Buddha statues, framed by the requisite beaded curtains. The wallpaper is made up of various bamboo designs of different textures and colors. On the middle couch was where Denise and Daniel Post flirted. The J-shaped bar is lined with real liquor bottles. Before the camera gets a bar shot, a prop guy has to move the bottles so that the labels are obscured. There is no product placement on this show and each label must be cleared prior to usage. The furniture is very upscale Pier 1 Imports. Red Chinese lanterns hang from the suspended ceiling.


Boston Legal Set Tour General Notes by Crabby

As for exteriors, BL rents out three streets on the Universal lot to be dressed for Boston’s streets. They are building swing sets that will be a new café/restaurant along one of those streets. They will be moving the completed Coroner’s Office and Judges Chambers (Fig. 19 and 14, respectively) for installation at Universal.

I’m told that the writers don’t enter the set and DEK, unlike many other show creators, rarely comes by himself.  Unlike David Milch (NYPD Blue creator), DEK is very hands off and just concentrates on the writing. If DEK or the writers involve themselves with set design, it is mostly through the propmaster. The director is a guest star on episodic television, which is primarily a writer’s controlled medium. The set decorator has production meetings with the production designer. After a style is accepted, a set designer is assigned to specifically draw up the schematics. The buyer shops and locates all the props and furniture. Each episode films 12 hour days, 8 days total. Each Monday morning, the set needs to be re-dressed for that week’s new episode.  Besides Coho’s new office and re-dressing for Claire’s office, there will be minimal changes to the CPS set for Season 3.

Usually, pilots are filmed in real buildings. Once the show is bought for the year, the set decorator works hard to duplicate the interiors of the building to be used on the soundstage. Since DEK’s BL was already bought for a year (due to being a spin-off), they rented the swing sets for the pilot and then installed them permanently later. One interesting point is making sure the décor works with actors’ complexions and height. In the courtroom, an African-American judge would disappear into the background government seal. Another point is height. When Tom Selleck, who is 6’4”, was working on an episode, they had to pull the picture frames up higher so that there will be an interesting background for him when the camera gets a close up. Likewise, for the Bethany v. Denny scenes, they have to make sure that there is interesting background at a three-foot level.


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