The Emmys and tax credits for 'Jersey Shore'
The state's knickers are in a twist -- most of you still do wear knickers there, don't you? -– over tax credits to keep "Jersey Shore" shooting in Jersey.
The Jersey TV phenom is so notable –- with a long menu of shows like "Jersey Shore," "Boardwalk Empire" and the honest-to-goodness-I-sweah-housewives of the Garden State -- that Jane Lynch riffed on it in a big send-up during her Emmy emceeing chores. Dolled up in a huge black wig and an anything-but-huge skirt, she warned, "Watch out, Hollywood, 'coz Jersey’s taking ovah."
I'm not shaking in my ruby slippers here. Jersey's got a big learning curve.
California goes through the to-woo-Hollywood-or-not-to-woo-Hollywood tax credit blues almost every year; here's the Times' story on Sacramento trying to keep the golden goose of entertainment in the Golden State.
But the Garden State? For them, it's something new altogether.
When legislators there found out that the reality show "Jersey Shore" was lined up to get up to $420,000 in production tax credits for the show's first season, they were aghast on many counts.
Democratic state Sen. Joe Vitale, deploring the "disparaging" stereotypes of "Jersey Shore," called on the governor to veto the tax credit.
Across the legislature and the aisle, Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon remarked sardonically that he cannot believe that "we are paying for fake tanning for 'Snooki' and 'The Situation,' and I am not even sure $420,000 covers that."
Still, he argued, "This is a great investment for the taxpayers, as if they can make a show called 'Jersey Shore' anywhere else."
Don't count on it, Mr. O’Scanlon.
How could they shoot "Jersey Shore" in some place other than Jersey? The same way Swedish American actor Warner Oland could play Charlie Chan. The same way L.A.'s City Hall has doubled for the Vatican and the U.S. Capitol. The same way the Civil War film "Cold Mountain" could be shot in Romania, and the environs of Caltech and USC could work just fine as Harvard in "Legally Blonde."
To filmmakers, a place is what you make it and what you can make people believe it to be. Shoot some establishing footage of the Hollywood sign or the Flatiron Building or -– what is it you've got there in New Jersey, again? Cranberry bogs? -– and you generate a sense of place in a viewer's mind. Then you can get away with almost any geography scramble.
That's been Southern California's enduring appeal for filmmakers; there was always someplace that looked like anyplace else, and any other age. Cecil B. DeMille filmed part of the silent version of "The Ten Commandments" in the sand dunes of the Central Coast.
New Yorkers were furious with me when I visited the real apartment building in ''Seinfeld.'' The exterior of Jerry's echt New York apartment building is actually The Shelley in Los Angeles, west of MacArthur Park. Look closely and you'll see the earthquake reinforcements in the brick walls.
Vasquez Rocks, in northern L.A. County, has done yeoman duty in 1931's "Dracula," in "The Flintstones" and "Star Trek" and in Westerns and other genre productions beyond number. Toronto has stood in for Chicago and New York, and -– are you listening, Jersey? -- according to www.tvtropes.org, scenes of the New Jersey Turnpike in "Being John Malkovich" were, in fact, shot in L.A. Palm trees are a bit of a giveaway.
We've all been the victims of entertainment identity theft. So don't get too cocky, Jersey, or you’ll find your TV bonanza off-shored and outsourced to a place like Florida, where you can tan outdoors, all year 'round, for free.
-- Patt Morrison
Photo: Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, cast member of MTV's "Jersey Shore," stands in the doorway at the home where the show is filmed in Seaside Heights, N.J. Credit: Mel Evans / Associated Press