ABC’s supernatural drama “666 Park Avenue” premiered on Sunday to mixed reviews and soft ratings, but some New Yorkers had already sworn off the show’s titular address by the first commercial break.
That’s because most locals knew right away that the exterior location used in the show’s establishing shots is nowhere near Park Avenue. In fact, it’s the famous Ansonia building on Broadway between 73rd and 74th streets -- clear across town on the other side of Central Park. Built in 1889, the building was modeled in the Parisian neoclassical style of Beaux Art and remains one of the Upper West Side’s most recognizable landmarks.
As even the average first-year Gothamite knows, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side are distinct neighborhoods with vastly different characteristics. Such distinctions present more than a logistical problem for producers of “666 Park Avenue,” who apparently strove to marry the Ansonia’s gothic sensibilities with Park Avenue swank. The series stars Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams as the owners of the fictional Drake, a luxury building located at 999 Park Avenue, which may or may not be haunted. (The shadows cast by the building’s numbers read 666, the mark of the beast.)
In reality, that address would put the building on Park Avenue and East 84th Street, and many New Yorkers were quick to complain that producers hadn’t strove for more authenticity.
“Once again, Hollywood seems to be playing fast-and-loose with New York, and especially with our Upper West Side,” wrote Stan Solomon, a columnist for the West Side Rag. “And this time they are picking on one of our true icons.”
Solomon goes on to theorize that the press release for “666 Park Avenue” was written by “some Left Coast type totally unfamiliar with New York real estate.”
On Sunday, when the show premiered, Twitter sentiments among some locals were the same, as tweets remarking about the location snafu came rolling in.
Dodai Stewart, a deputy editor at Jezebel, tweeted, “666 park avenue requires too much suspension of disbelief. Ansonia is on the west side.”
Stephanie Schweitzer, a New York actress, had a similar reaction. “I find it annoying that the exterior used on 666 Park Ave is the Ansonia -- a historic, landmark Upper West Side building,” she posted.
And New Yorkers weren’t the only ones who noticed. Exacerbated tweets came in from the West Coast as well. Adrian McKinty, identified on his blog as an Irish writer living in Seattle, posted, “ABC's 666 Park Avenue filmed exteriors at the Ansonia Building. This is like setting a show in London & shooting it at the Eiffel Tower.”
Some high-ranking executives involved with the series had reportedly anticipated that the West Side location would be a turnoff to New Yorkers, but finding a building that captured the storyline’s supernatural underpinnings took precedence over such details.
“New Yorkers are often very critical about when people don’t get the city right,” David Wilcox, an executive producer on the show, told Fangora. “But that said, as much of the show [as possible] is grounded and real, and we strive to have a high degree of verisimilitude in our writing. There’s always a little bit of license that you take in playing to the wish-fulfillment of what the show is.”
While every New York-based series takes the occasional liberty with local real estate, some strive to be more authentic than others. NBC’s Broadway-themed “Smash” gets it right more often than not, including an interior scene last year filmed at the famous Theater District hangout Joe Allen. (Careful viewers noted that table lamps were added to soften the decor, but let’s not nitpick.)
HBO’s dramedy “Girls,” which centers on a group of 20-something Brooklynites, has likewise been praised for its heavy use of authentic New York locations, but as Mashable pointed out this summer, locations scouts seem to prefer Manhattan locations to Brooklyn ones.
And of course, there is “Girls’” predecessor, “Sex in the City,” which is perhaps the New Yorkiest show of the last two decades. Imagine fans’ surprise when they discover that Carrie Bradshaw’s signature Upper East Side brownstone is actually located at 64 Perry Street in the West Village.
Ultimately, New Yorkers will forgive an occasional location blunder -- if the show is good. But if “666 Park Avenue” doesn’t live up to its hype in the next few weeks, producers hoping for a New York audience might want to consider selling their souls to the devil.
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