Bob Young and David Kendal were looking for an "average city" to set their new situation comedy, Melissa & Joey.
A high percentage of glass manufacturers was a must.
"There really needed to be several major glass companies in any city we selected, so Toledo made it to the short list right away," joked Mr. Young, who with Mr. Kendal created, executive-produces, and writes for the sitcom.
Plus, added Mr. Kendal, "[Toledo] sounded like a friendly place."
Perhaps it's best to go with their version, since the truth behind the Melissa & Joey-Toledo connection is considerably less interesting. The ABC Family network, which airs the sitcom at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, suggested a Midwest setting.
From there Mr. Young and Mr. Kendal searched for the right city to best serve the plot.
Toledo, Young said, is just the kind of "not-big, not-tiny city where Mel Burke could be a city councilman and she could really have her hands in everything that's going on. It's not like being in Chicago where if she does something wrong there's 65 guys from blogs and newspapers descending on her to crush her skull."
Still, for a show rooted to Toledo, Melissa & Joey doesn't go out of its way to share its Glass City ties. Other than the occasional establishing shots of the downtown skyline, Fifth Third Field, and other random city locations — all of which were available to the producers as "licensable shots" — there's very few unique-to-Toledo specifics in Melissa & Joey. Don't look for recognizable local political figures like Mayor Mike Bell or U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) to pop up for cameos. And city icons will be limited to guest appearances, such as a Mud Hens pennant on a wall, to subtly provide a sense of location.
Even the daytime and nighttime exterior shots of Mel's two-story home aren't true to the area.
"Her house is a house here in Los Angeles that we selected because it's architecturally believable from Toledo," Mr. Young said. "Our production designer basically surveyed architectural styles of Toledo and tried to find something here in L.A. that resembled that."
The advantage, they said, is if production needs an outside shot of the home for a Christmas or Halloween episode, it's much simpler and cost effective to shoot in Los Angeles than in Toledo. But don't look for any winter-themed stories.
"We'll basically probably avoid snow scenes because we don't have the ability to deal with them," Mr. Young said. "We can deal with fall, spring, and summer. Shoveling snow off the front lawn and trying to start your car, we won't be dealing with that."
Mr. Young and Mr. Kendal have never been to Toledo. They joked about spending a half-hour to 45 minutes researching the city on the Internet as they initially developed the series, which may come across as sacrilege to Toledoans, but in the world of sitcoms that's the norm.
"Bob and I have both done a lot of TV shows and set them in a variety of places, many of the places we have yet to go to," Mr. Kendal said.
Mr. Young worked on Facts of Life in the 1980s, which was set in Peekskill, N.Y., a place he's never been. Mr. Kendal worked on Growing Pains in the 1980s, "which was set in Long Island, but was cleverly shot on a soundstage in Burbank (Calif.)," he said.
They worked together on Boy Meets World in the 1990s, which that was set in Philadelphia. "And the only reason I know Philadelphia is that I'm born there," Mr. Kendal said. "And again, it was cleverly shot on a soundstage in Burbank."
Melissa & Joey is already approved for 10 shows, and they expect it to be given the green light for another 10 more episodes to round out the season. If fortune should favor Melissa & Joey and it's renewed for a second season — and handed a bigger budget — then maybe expect to see more of Toledo in a sitcom that's set in Toledo.
Contact Kirk Baird at:
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