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'Guardian' crew ensures city references are authentic on CBS drama

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Story and photos by Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- It's Pittsburgh by way of Hollywood on the set of CBS's legal drama "The Guardian." Midway through its third season, the Pittsburgh-set series continues to export our city to the rest of the country and the world (an Australian fan visited Pittsburgh earlier this fall because of the show, which also airs overseas).

Office of Burton Fallin (Dabney Coleman) on the set of "The Guardian."
Click photo for larger image.

More On 'The Guardian'

More photos: 'Guardian' angels bring Pittsburgh to Hollywood.

Aside from occasional week-long shoots on the streets of Pittsburgh, most of the scenes featured on "The Guardian" emanate from the Sony studios in Southern California, where the production crew takes great care to throw in little Pittsburgh touches.

Of course, not every Pittsburgh reference makes locals happy. Last week's episode included a put-down of Dormont that upset some residents and Mayor Tom Lloyd. In the episode, Lulu Archer (Wendy Moniz) tried to win a case for a poor client who'd been squatting in a home slated for demolition. Burton Fallin (Dabney Coleman), lawyer for the developer, offered the man a free apartment in Dormont as compensation.

"Dormont?" Lulu said. "That's not a very nice neighborhood."

Series creator David Hollander, a native of neighboring Mt. Lebanon, described it as a simple negotiation scene between two lawyers, one attempting to win more money from the other.

"It certainly wasn't meant as a personal jab at Dormont ..." Hollander wrote in an e-mail yesterday. "If feelings were hurt, I send my apologies."

Upsetting Pittsburghers is rare for "The Guardian." Usually crews have little difficulty getting cooperation from locals in making the show as realistic as possible. For an episode earlier this season, property master Matt Cavaliero tried to duplicate body bags used by the Allegheny County Coroner for use in a scene.

"We try to make it as accurate as possible," he said, crediting the coroner's office for providing photos of the body bags as models. "A lot of people would say it's incidental, but we try to the best of our ability to make it so that it's the way it's supposed to be."

Cavaliero has put Iron City beer magnets on refrigerators, a University of Pittsburgh mouse pad on the show's police station set, uses to-go coffee cups from Coffee Tree Roasters and Nicholas Coffee in Market Square, and got a box from A&B Donuts in Munhall.

In his office, Pittsburgh detritus is everywhere. Printouts from the Port Authority Web site are taped to the wall, Pittsburgh phone books are on a nearby shelf and files of Pittsburgh "stuff" fill the room.

"My difficulty is not getting the stuff; it's getting the stuff on the air," Cavaliero said. "A lot of times we have more stuff than we can handle."

"The Guardian" is pre-empted tonight (a new episode airs Dec. 16), but these pictures will at least give you a glimpse behind the scenes.

TV Editor Rob Owen can be reached at or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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