Universal Studios, California

Why Don't You Get A Job? by The Offspring

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I guess all his money
Well, it isn't enough
'Cause that girl's
Got expensive taste Read full Lyrics
Some songs aren't so much about a place, but the videos for them were filmed in an interesting place. The Offspring's 1999 hit "Why Don't You Get a Job?" was shot on the back lot of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal StudiosUniversal Studios
This song has a rather hazy following amongst Offspring fans. Hardcore punk types see it as a sell-out song, made to be deliberately mainstream and populist. More moderate fans rally around the song, happy to apologize for them. "Well, excuse them for making something popular!" Nevertheless, the video does make it clear that they were looking to cash in on the mainstream market; it's a ballad you can march to, goes out of its way to please everybody, and has elements and shout-outs to other Offspring songs. So it's also good for introducing new fans to the group.

And really, since when was making music that a lot of people would enjoy a bad thing for a punk rock band to do? Honestly! Punk's been popular for some four decades now; it's time to quit pretending that it's just for cool marginalized hipsters who are set bitterly against the establishment. Your mom listens to punk now, deal with it.

Visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood are often there for the rides and shows, forgetting that actual movies and TV show episodes get filmed there all the time. The re-use of sets time and time again through the ages instills this subconscious memory effect. Film geeks love to watch for sets to pop up in new works - the same kind of film geeks who compile YouTube clips of every single use of the Wilhelm Scream in film and TV.

Anyway, that big city square with all the buildings around it which the Offspring are marching around on is called "Courthouse Square." Its first use dates all the way back to Ma and Pa Kettle of the 1950s. Shows filmed here include Twilight Zone episodes, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Music Man, Simon & Simon, Leave It to Beaver, Gremlins, Sneakers, Batman & Robin, and most notably, all three Back to the Future movies used this area as part of their set.

The Bates motel at Universal<br>Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/" target="_blank">Loren Javier</a>, via Flickr, CC 2.0The Bates motel at Universal
Photo: Loren Javier, via Flickr, CC 2.0
Another Universal back-lot area which appears in the Offspring's video (mostly in the beginning when Dexter Holland is making his hang-glider entrance) is Colonial Street. This street has been called on to play a lot of roles throughout the years. It has the Allison Home, which scared the crackers out of Don Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. It has "building #3," which you'd recognize immediately as the home of The Munsters. Other bits and pieces of the street are used in such works as Murder, She Wrote, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Psycho, The 'Burbs, Bedtime for Bonzo, and, of course, the street is currently Wisteria Lane of Desperate Housewives fame.

Taken together, these two areas can serve perfectly as a downtown location and a suburban neighborhood, hence filling the need for most domestic dramas and modern comedies. Incidentally, don't look for the street to be consistent from one filming to another. The buildings move! The whole set-up is built to be easy to rearrange, shuffling the houses around and adding and subtracting buildings as need be. For one thing, the famous Psycho house has been dismantled. For another, the courthouse with the famous clock tower from Back to the Future got its clock tower portion removed for Ghost Whisperer. These buildings are like Legos; they can mix and match parts for any scene.

Finally, large parts of the back lot were destroyed in the 2008 three-alarm fire. Is that a big bummer or what? While the studio executives announced that nothing irreplaceable was lost... well, we certainly lost a lot of history. These weren't just set pieces; they were real places in the minds of viewers going back half a century.

All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.

Pete Trbovich
August 6, 2012
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