When visiting the set of ABC’s The Kids are Alright you will instantly get flashbacks to the 70’s as there are a variety of props that would remind you may have had in your parents or grandparents house. We were greeted by Caleb Foote who plays Eddie Cleary on set where he showed us around. These of some of the items I spotted that I remembered as a kid. How many items do you remember?
Things From The Kids Are Alright Set That Will Remind You Of Your Childhood
TV Tray Tables & Eureka Bagged Vacuum
Caleb Foote says they work 5 days a week to shoot one episode. First, there will be a reading, then they get the final script, memorize it over the weekend and shoot on Monday. It’s like boom, boom, boom, get it done. He said there are long hours up to 12 a day but it’s the best job and he wouldn’t want to do anything else.
After the set visit, we talked with production designer Michael Whetstone, set decorator Claudette Didul, creator and showrunner Tim Doyle, and costume designer Susan Michalek who discussed more on the TV series along with the costumes used on the show.
Production & Set Design with Micheal Whetstone & Claudette Didul
Micheal Whetstone: “The way a TV show works is you make a pilot. And then you wait and see if it gets picked up. So this house is based on a house that we found for the pilot back in March. I think it was built in 1932 and was very small. It was one of the first ranch houses in Studio City or something. And our director loved it.”
“The director wanted it to feel crowded. When you’d walk through it, you’ll say oh, I’m gonna make it 25% bigger for shooting. We didn’t really do that. I’ll show you a few secret things we did to make it more shootable.”
“So inside, this probably either reminds you of your parents’ house or your grandparents’ house or somebody in the past of your life. A lot of that is due to the research we did at the beginning, and then Claudette’s eye for detail. When you walk through you’ll see layers and layers of encyclopedias and games… Every single thing has what we like to call a proof of authenticity. Nothing hits this set…that’s not of the right era, Claudette goes through Sears catalogs.”
Claudette Didul: “We do hit situations, though, where we have a lot of gags on the episodes. And we have to duplicate things. So sometimes it’s hard to find duplicated light fixtures and stuff like that. So we do have to cheat such as running to Target, perhaps, to get something. Lampshades aren’t always vintage, ‘Cause a lot of times, 50 years later, they’re falling apart.”
“We actually lucked out with a couple of estate sales. We literally took this whole drapery rig right out of the house as is, and it is so fragile that I couldn’t get it dry cleaned. But it looks awesome!”
Secrets of the Set
- The couch is different from the pilot to the second episode. The fabric is the same but the framework of the couch is different.
- Inside the living room is a moving wall where the camera and the dolly can go behind the TV to shoot because the set is too tight. And there will be a light reflecting as if the TV were on.
- The wallpaper is not vintage, it’s reproduction.
- The pictures in the kitchen are from production designer, Micheal Whetstone’s house such as the copper molds.
- The mom on the show is always doing something in every scene such as sewing, laundry, pulling a cookbook, etc.
- Everyone has a towel in the bathroom and none of them match.
- There is a secret door behind one of the closets in the bedroom that leads to nowhere for now. But it may be in a future episode and may lead to the basement.
- They built a 7,000 square foot real backyard in the parking lot so it was real on TV. The grass is artificial but everything else is real.
Talking with Creator & Showrunner Tim Doyle
This show is based on Tim’s life that he created and written. The pilot was shot at a house in Sherman Oaks and then they came back to the stage where Michael built the same house for the show. And the narration for the show comes from Tim, himself. He continues to talk about the show and some memories from his childhood.
Tim Doyle: “Well, right now we’re doing a thing in the backyard where the boys are playing with gunpowder and chemicals! Which was something that we all did when I was little, we basically spent the whole summer trying to figure out how to blow ourselves up.
“And Mom and Dad would just kinda watch and go, ‘Oh, look what they’re up to.’ Yeah! No, it’s, it’s a funny thing. It’s amazing that we all survived that period. But again, some of us didn’t!”
“We had one phone centrally located in the dining room. And if we wanted to talk to a girlfriend, or just wanted to be able to talk without everybody overhearing, you sat on the floor in the closet. Those little specific details really make the show very interesting to me! I hope to other people, too. Maybe you don’t have that exact same thing, but you totally get it. You know, because you didn’t have a phone in your pocket back then if you wanted to have a little bit of a private life, you had to be resourceful!”
“I often go back to my oldest brother and ask him to remember or review things for me such as ‘There was a thing with Mom when she had her operation?’ You know, they all knew more about that stuff than I did, ’cause I was sort of just listening at the door. There’s a lot of stuff like that. We got something coming up about the Vietnam draft, hopefully. And again, my two oldest brothers were both in the crosshairs of the Vietnam situation at that time and had to figure out how they were gonna deal with it. So stuff like that’s interesting. But it wasn’t so much a part of my life as a 12-year-old.”
Costume Designs with Susan Michalek
Susan Michalek: “So it’s set in 1972 and there’s a family who is sort of stuck in the late sixties except for the oldest son Lawrence – you probably all saw the pilot, right. He brings the 70s into the family ‘cause they’re sort of stuck in this smaller world. But Caleb’s character is a little bit in the seventies too.”
“It’s all supposed to look like hand-me-downs except it’s happier because it’s on ABC. So it’s sort of colorful hand-me-downs. There’s just a ton of research we did for it. Because, you know, you have to…even though I was alive at that time.. (to Caleb) you weren’t. So sort of dull and slightly sad fitting room.”
“So when I’m putting a show together, like lining up the clothes, I’ll put them on the wall so I can see what goes cause I don’t want two characters in the same color. And there’s so many of them I like to get different colors, so it all looks good. And we keep track of everything that shoots on set. It has to be kept track of because we don’t shoot in order. “
“There are about 50-52 wardrobe changes per episode and then there’ll be some for the background actors too. It’s fun to go into another world, not always be – I normally I do shows/sitcoms that are fashion-y. “
Be sure to tune into ABC on Tuesdays 8:30/7:30c to watch The Kids are Alright.
Set in the 1970s, this ensemble comedy follows a traditional Irish-Catholic family, the Clearys, as they navigate big and small changes during one of America’s most turbulent decades. In a working-class neighborhood outside Los Angeles, Mike and Peggy raise eight boisterous boys who live out their days with little supervision. The household is turned upside down when oldest son Lawrence returns home and announces he’s quitting the seminary to go off and “save the world.” Times are changing and this family will never be the same. There are 10 people, three bedrooms, one bathroom and everyone in it for themselves.