Los Angeles is ever-changing. Nowhere is that more evident than at the many film studios that dot the city’s landscape, where façades are regularly altered and rehabbed for each new production that comes along. Case in point? The backlot residence at Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank that portrays the Theta Pi Delta fraternity house on the HBO Max original series “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” Situated on the facility’s Midwest Street, an idyllic Anywhere, U.S.A.-inspired small-town set comprised of a smattering of homes, a town square and a sequence of storefronts, the structure has appeared in countless iterations in countless movies and television shows over the years.
So prolific is the home and its surroundings onscreen, in fact, that historian Steven Bingen states in his 2014 book “Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot,” “The shadow this street has cast on American popular culture is so far-reaching that people watching this real estate on TV today have no idea that the same set was watched by their parents and by their parents’ parents as well. Or that each generation probably assumed against all logic or evidence that their parents or grandparents had probably lived in such a place.” Charming, pastoral and thoroughly photogenic, Midwest Street is the perfect embodiment of small-town Americana. Though it has portrayed copious cities in productions both big and small, the set is perhaps best known as River City, Iowa from “The Music Man,” Hazzard County, Ga. from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Stars Hollow, Conn. from “Gilmore Girls” and Rosewood, Pa. from “Pretty Little Liars.”
Tucked away on the southern portion of the streetscape on a diminutive 240-foot curving roadway lined with pristinely manicured lawns and pruned trees is the Theta Pi Delta fraternity house, one of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” most prominent locations. Created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, the dramedy chronicles the lives of four roommates, Kimberly Finkle (Pauline Chalamet), Bela Malhotra (Amrit Kaur), Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) and Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Scott), as they navigate their freshman year at the fictional Essex College in Vermont. Launched in late 2021 to rave reviews, the series’ sophomore season hit the streamer this past November, garnering much the same response.
Filming of “Sex Lives” is an ambitious affair that had cast and crew traversing both the West and East Coasts to complete season one, with Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. standing in for most Essex exteriors and Warner Bros. Studio serving as a sort of home base, where the show’s many soundstage-built sets were created and production offices set up. The latest season brought with it a significant location change, with the University of Washington in Seattle instead stepping in to portray the college in the majority of outside shots. The new backdrop is much closer to the show’s Los Angeles hub and, therefore, a far more convenient filming site. To help sell the swap, establishing shots of Vassar are peppered throughout each episode.