Videogames blink, but make no sound. The lips of arcade patrons are moving. There is not a syllable to be heard. This still world continues until it is broken by a single word.
Cut!” shouts director Pamela Fryman.
A drone of noise fills Stage 22 on the Fox Studio lot on this Friday morning in mid-August. The large crowd that had stood silently by begins to swarm over the arcade area that is actually a set for the CBS series “How I Met Your Mother.” And it is for a critical scene for the season opener of the Monday-night comedy.
Josh Radnor and Sarah Chalke are seated inside an arcade driving game. The type of game doesn’t matter. It is the dialogue between the actors that is important. At the end of last season, Ted (Radnor) decided he was going to ask Stella (Chalke) to marry him.
You can find out what happens when “How I Met Your Mother” joins a long list of returning shows that will open their new seasons this week. And mixed in with those returning shows are a few new series such as the CBS comedy “Worst Week” and the NBC action series “Knight Rider.” Although a few new shows have launched and a couple of old favorites have already returned to the airwaves, this week is the official start of the 2008-2009 TV season.
Over the next hour, Chalke offers a wide variety of responses to the big question. Those responses come with kisses, some big laughs and at least one guest actor. The short scenes will eventually be edited together in a quick montage that ends with ... well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Series star Jason Segel arrives. He will start the new season riding a wave of success. The feature film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which was written and starred Segel, was a big summer hit. Segel stays on the set for only a few seconds before he heads to his dressing room to wait until he is needed.
As soon as Fryman has what she needs, she sends cast and crew on a lunch break. That gives Chalke time to talk about returning for at least four episodes of the CBS comedy while managing to continue her work on “Scrubs.” NBC canceled the medical comedy last year. But it was brought back to life for at least another year on ABC.
Time management has not been a problem for Chalke. Most of this year’s “Scrubs” episodes will be done when the series returns early in 2009.
“We have worked straight through from last year,” Chalke says. “That means we have 14 of the 18 shows done.”
The Canadian actress is seated only a few feet away from one of the show’s permanent sets, the local bar. Sets are built on each side of a small walkway. On one side are the sets, like character’s apartments, needed each week. Sets needed for one episode, like the arcade, are built on the other side of the walkway.
Chalke was only supposed to be on “How I Met Your Mother” for one episode. But the response was so positive producers brought her back. On that first episode, since she plays a doctor on both series, Chalke wore her “Scrubs” lab coat. A pocket protector covered her “Scrubs” name on the pocket.
She often gets asked whether she will become the “Mother” in the show’s title. Chalke stresses she only knows what is happening in the current episode. And production of that episode will bring cast and crew back to the set in less than an hour.