Westminster and Annapolis are on a short list of possible settings for a WB television series about the clashes between the wealthy and the working class of a New England boarding school.
TV producers with the WB -- known for its teen-age hits "Dawson's Creek," "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and "7th Heaven" -- visited both towns this week, scouting possible backdrop sites and meeting with local officials. Toronto and Charlotte, N.C., are also finalists for the program scheduled to premier this summer, sources said.
Local officials were enthusiastic yesterday at the prospect of luring millions of dollars a year and shining the spotlight of national prime-time exposure on their towns.
"The fact that the name of the city or the area gets publicized around the country is something we simply couldn't afford to pay for," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. "If the TV series is successful, there will probably be loyal fans who want to come see the place where it's filmed, and that will increase tourism. It's obviously a very big deal."
Hollywood continues to shoot major feature films in Maryland, most recently Barry Levinson's "Liberty Heights" and "Runaway Bride," starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
The state has played host to one television series, "Homicide: Life on the Street," which NBC canceled in May. The critically acclaimed police drama generated $28 million a year for Baltimore in crew salaries, car rentals, hotels, construction equipment and supplies, catering and other incidentals, according to Jack Gerbes, deputy director with the Maryland Film Office.
Several pilot programs have been shot in Maryland over the years, but none was picked up by a network and kept in the state. Unlike a feature film, which comes and goes in a matter of months with the stars in town sometimes for only a week, a TV series with a full year's order stays around for seven or eight months.
The WB network describes its new series, "Young Americans," as a "blue blood meets blue collar" kind of show, filled with "star-crossed loves, scandalous affairs and culture clashes with local 'townies.'" Set at a New England boarding school, the one-hour drama explores the lives of youths from contrasting backgrounds who are thrown together in their formative years, according to a network news release.
In Westminster, producers looked at the quaint campus of 134-year-old Western Maryland College and West Main Street as possible backdrops.
Annapolis Economic Development Director Susan Zellers said producers visited several locations around town to check out buildings that could pass for a boarding school on film.
"I thought this was a big secret," she said yesterday. "We'd love to have them here, because, unlike movies, which kind of come and go and leave a trail behind them, TV shows tend to be much more sensitive to residents and like to create a relationship with us."
Gerbes said Westminster has a "fantastic reputation" among entertainment industry executives for its cooperation during the 1997 filming of "For Richer or Poorer," starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley as New Yorkers who find new values among the Amish while on the run.
Annapolis streetscapes can be found in "Patriot Games," in "Boys," with Winona Ryder, and in "GI Jane," starring Demi Moore.