New York media weathers storms

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NEW YORK -- Wednesday morning's heavy thunderstorms and flash floods in New York played havoc on the city's media outlets, with extensive water damage at CBS' "The Early Show" less than an hour before airtime forcing an evacuation and a move across town to the CBS Broadcast Center.

Film crews also had problems Wednesday, with water-damaged crews and travel plans gone awry.

It had been raining already as the "Early Show" crew got ready for the two-hour broadcast, but around 6:20 a.m. there were shouts from the studio and control room that water was flowing into the below-ground location at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

"Water and electricity, it's not a great combination," senior executive producer Michael Bass said. "It was literally pouring on us."

The decision was made immediately to move the show across town to the CBS Broadcast Center studio, where the "CBS Evening News" originates. More than 40 "Early Show" on-air and behind-the-scenes staff jumped into cabs four at a time. Bass said that assistant director Anthony Jones -- who was directing Wednesday -- and the rest of the staff did a terrific job getting everything ready within 20 minutes or so in an unfamiliar control room for the 7 a.m. air time.

Bass also praised the on-air staff for their cool professionalism in working in a studio meant for one person, not four.

"We were on the brink of total disaster and they came through with flying colors," he said.

The show wasn't without its problems, however. A camera went to black for about two seconds, though the audio remained. Julie Chen, who was reporting from Los Angeles, couldn't hear Harry Smith and Hannah Storm in New York and had to be fed cues.

Crews were in the "Early Show" studios, which are blocks away from other CBS offices, assessing whether the network will be able to work there today and trying to dry it out.

"They're fairly confident they'll get it in shape for (today)," Bass said Wednesday afternoon.

There were no reports of problems at the Rockefeller Plaza studios of NBC's "Today" or the Times Square studio of ABC's "Good Morning America." Diane Sawyer even was able to go outside later in the program to do a segment on a smart car.

There were other scattered reports of water-related problems at News Corp. and Time Warner.

One of the few major studio productions shooting in the city -- Columbia Pictures' action comedy "You Don't Mess With Zohan," starring Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider -- had some wet equipment that needed to be dried for a night shoot at Columbus Circle. But the biggest headaches came early in the morning.

"We wrapped at 5:45 a.m. at the Hotel Gansevoort (in the Meatpacking District), and a lot of people couldn't get home," production coordinator Michael Boonstra said. "People were waiting hours for taxis, and our accountants took hours to get in to the (West Village) production office today."

Problems stretched beyond the city's borders, as filmmakers of the indie teen comedy "Harold" discovered. About 40 crew members arrived two to three hours late to the film's set in Great Neck, N.Y., usually a half-hour drive from Midtown. Many of them needed to get from the outer boroughs to vans at three pickup points in Manhattan, said MEGA Films producer Morris S. Levy, delaying the film's noon call time by about three hours.

But all was well in the city according to the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, which at press time was unable to provide the number of film and TV productions filming around the city. A spokesperson said there wasn't a single phone call reporting floods, delays or complaints.
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