Tuesday, June 08, 2010

What current medical drama is shot in Howlin' Mad Murdoch's old mental hospital?

Recreaction of intertitle from The A-Team base...Image via Wikipedia
The film version of The A-Team debuts this Friday, hoping to capitalize on nostalgia for the campy and kitsch namesake TV action series from the 1980s. The original A-Team is fondly remembered (by myself as much as anyone) despite the fact that the series was almost defiantly formulaic, to the point that the recurring episode outline makes up a large portion of the show's Wikipedia entry.

As part of that static plot arc, the A-Team would break their pilot, Howlin' Mad Murdoch (played by Dwight "Lt. Reginald Barclay from NextGen" Schultz), out of a VA mental hospital every episode. The exterior shots of that hospital were filmed at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration Hospital in the North Hills, CA, which at the time was still a functioning VA facility. The Sepulveda hospital was controversially shuttered after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and remains out of VA service to this day.

I say controversially because, while the VA stopped using the Sepulveda hospital as a hospital, the Veteran's Administrations today makes an undisclosed amount of money renting out Sepulveda as a filming location. In fact, one highly rated television medical drama uses Sepulveda as its primary hospital set.

What primetime medical drama is currently filmed at Howlin' Mad Murdoch's old mental hospital?

The surgical soap opera in question is none other than Grey's Anatomy, which uses the former Sepulveda VA hospital for most interior shots of the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. (Exterior Seattle Grace shots which actually have to look like Seattle are filmed at the office building housing the ABC affiliate in Seattle, KOMO-TV 4.)

That the former Sepulveda VA is structurally sound enough to house film crews but was deemed by the Veterans Administration too earthquake-damaged to serve as a hospital is viewed by many veterans' advocate groups with suspicion. Some argue that the Northridge quake was just an excuse to cut VA costs by closing the Sepulveda hospital -- and now that money-first philosophy has led to the VA renting out Sepulveda as a film set. As yet, none of the efforts to reopen or replace the Sepulveda VA hospital have proven successful.

That's too bad, but perhaps there's hope. San Fernando Valley veterans, you have a problem. If no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team.