CALL ME INDESTRUCTIBLE

As you may have surmised from earlier accounts of special effects-packed episodes, getting the chance to see one of these "high-tech" shows being filmed is a real treat!  It takes a little patience, however, as these filmings often take much longer than standard episode filmings!  But for those who wait it out, the glimpses behind-the-scenes at Hollywood's magic are well worth it.  Add to that an outrageously funny plot, a great guest star, and you have the makings of one terrific evening!

September 12, 1990 was a hot day in Culver City.  Guests arriving at the recently renamed Columbia Studios were detoured to a back gate to enter for the show, since Columbia's City of Hope dinner was taking place elsewhere on the lot and the VIPs were arriving through the Overland gate for the special benefit.  Slowly, small groups of people were led across the vast studio lot to the correct soundstage.

Once in our seats we were entertained by Robert G. Lee, who had to keep our spirits up past the usual 7 o'clock start, since the show was somewhat delayed.  The stars were finally introduced, but there were further delays when one of the lights on the set failed.  However, by 7:30 the show started at last!  By this time we were extremely curious as to what the show would be about, as a full-sized small airplane (sans full wingspan and propeller) sat on the third set and green screens and a motorcycle were present behind that.

The first scene, which took place in the apartment went fairly smoothly, although Bronson did get the giggles before shooting began.  At one point Balki explains how "Ted Koppell would go . . . " but Bronson forgot the second name he was supposed to say, so he thought a moment then added, " . . . he would!"  They tried to restart but couldn't seem to get going, so taking his cue from some earlier dialogue Bronson suggested to Mark, "Tell me about the sexual revolution."  Mark reacted accordingly, which kept the audience in hysterics.

The next scene brought everyone to the third set, where the first special effects of the show would take place.  The plane was tested and we could see that it pivoted on special machinery to tilt as if diving or going up.  A large lamp was diffused with a special yellow gel which cast "sunlight" upon the plane and smoke blowers were used with large fans to make it look like the plane was zipping through clouds.  The cameras and cameraman were hoisted up on cranes to shoot the action.  After everything was prepared, the actors appeared.  We could see special guest star Kenneth Mars as he arrived on the set in costume.  Mark had already climbed up into the plane and was sitting in the back as the cameras checked their angles.  The small video camera mounted atop Camera B was aimed right at Mark, and so the audience could see him sitting in the plane on all the monitors.  Mark became aware of this and lifted his fingers to form "goggle" around his eyes, which made everyone in the audience laugh.  Bronson and Kenneth Mars finally made their way up and into the plane and Kenneth also entertained before the shot by miming that he was washing the plane's windshield (there was no glass windows on the plane at all).

The scene went incredibly well and no retakes were needed.  Even Kenneth Mars managed to jump off the plane's wing onto some mattress pads with no trouble!

The next scene took place in the apartment and Bronson was throwing out a line but couldn't quite remember what he was supposed to be saying.  He was given the line from offstage, to which he stated "I think I'll say it like that!", with an "Okey dokey" to follow.  When they retook the scene Bronson wouldn't take his hand off Mark's face for one joke and this made them both laugh.  Bronson was called upon to break the "sugar glass" vase over his head twice and overacted being dizzy after the director had yelled cut.

During the next break between scenes the director ordered what is called a "wild track" of the air traffic controller's voice.  This is when the audio is recorded separately to be used later in editing.  The audience has to be quiet while this type of additional soundtrack is being recorded.

The next scene involved the guys climbing out of the window onto the fire escape.  The fire escape is actually located outside the apartment but can be moved if necessary.  The cameras are simply wheeled around to the outside of the set to film.  Bronson had already tied the bunjee cord to his ankle when he messed up a line and had to untie the cord to say it again.  After this scene was shot, they went back to get a pick-up of Mark pouring hot water into a cup.  When the scene was first shot, Mark faked pouring water which Bronson pretended to drink.  For this take, an actual boiling pot was brought out which Mark poured.  This shot was then cut into the show before Bronson drinks to make it look like he swallowed the boiling water.

There was a break as the boys went through their "hair" treatment, then came back out to shoot the scene after they'd taken the bunjee cord plunge (which, by the way, had them landing on mattresses underneath the fire escape).  This scene was filmed twice and Mark actually did go flying across the room after untying Bronson's leg!  After the scene was done, you could see Bronson on the set showing his badly rope-burned leg to the director.

Once again the cameras moved clear to the other side of the studio as they filmed the motorcycle scene.  The motorcycle was mounted to bounce and jiggle in front of a green screen.  The background film of the road going by was added later.  The wind machines were brought in again and the light with the "sun" gel on it added a machine in front to recreate shadows whizzing by.  They filmed this scene twice as well, with Bronson and Mark nudging each other with their elbows as they "rode" the motorcycle.

There were long pauses between each scene as the cast went through costume changes and sets and equipment were set up.  There was a long pause between this scene and the next and we could see unit production manager and first assistant director, Miles Kristman, sitting in the plane to help set up shots.

In the next part of the show, Bronson has to climb out onto the wing of the plane.  He climbed out all right but then the door just wouldn't shut behind him!  He fumbled with it for some time, trying again and again.  Finally he managed to get it closed over enough to be okay.  The scene was halted as Bronson's harness, which was on underneath his clothing, was fastened to wires so he could "fly" off the plane's wing.  They filmed this portion twice, too, and soon Bronson was safely on the ground and unfastened.

As the cast waited for the next scene to be filmed, Bronson looked up into the audience where a majority of the audience were still there (some bus groups had to leave).  "Everyone left is invited to Mark's house for coffee!" he joked.  Someone on the set got back at Bronson by pretending to give directions to Bronson's house instead!

The next scene is the last one with Kenneth Mars and the airplane and it went smoothly except Bronson just couldn't seem to get out " . . . playing with a full deck chair."  He eventually did, of course.

Finally everyone was moved back to the center set for the last scene.  Mark was sitting on the couch drinking a soda and comedian Robert Lee kept doing sound effects for things on the set and would slurp each time Mark took a sip, which Mark played along with.  Robert also did sound effects for the front door closing slowly after the guys went outside to wait for their entrance cue.  The last scene was filmed twice and they were done at last but we couldn't wait to see the finished product on TV, which as you know was fantastic!

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