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Savannah businesses, local crew shine on NBC series ‘Council of Dads’

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When NBC’s “Council of Dads” premieres Tuesday, March 24, there’s no doubt that Savannah’s famous Live Oaks will be a familiar sight to viewers in the Hostess City, but many of your favorite businesses will also be getting their time to shine during the show’s 10-episode first season.

Based on the book by Savannah native Bruce Feiler, one of the first places viewers are likely to recognize when tuning in is The Original Crab Shack, nestled on the banks of Chimney Creek. The popular Tybee Island restaurant served as a filming location for several episodes, including the pilot episode.

“They were very easy to work with,” Crab Shack owner Jack Flanigan said of the production team.

The restaurant closed for two days during filming, but for other days it remained open for business.

“They basically put up a wall and a mural and so they kind of separated the restaurant for us. They would film on one side and we’d be open on the other side,” Crab Shack general manager Justin Fowler said. “And it was actually cool because the customers wanted to know what was going on and it gave them something to talk about and the servers something to talk about.”

The Crab Shack previously served as a filming location for the 1999 film “The General’s Daughter,” which starred John Travolta, but the restaurant didn’t get any name recognition in the production. That’s not the case in “Council of Dads,” Flanigan said.

“They’ve got it as The Crab Shack, that’s the only reason I did it, the main reason,” he said.

Flanigan and Fowler said they’d had a peek at the show and that the production team did a great job at making the Hostess City shine.

“Savannah looked good, the whole city looked good,” Fowler said. “You can tell that it’s Savannah. It’s not like they came in here and made it like somewhere else.”

Downtown on Bull Street, Jessica Osborne and Melissa Taylor, co-owners of E. Shaver, Bookseller, which served as a filming location for two days, said even with a full production crew inside, the experience was a positive one that went off without a hitch.

“We completely closed for them because this is a small and tight space and there’s really just no way you can film in here while we’re open,” Osborne said. “I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were in the shop and the equipment. It was like a clown car.”

The crew filmed in the bookstore’s two back rooms and also procured books for the set, Taylor said.

“They set up the night before, came in and got everything ready to go that morning and filmed all afternoon and early evening and cleaned up the next day,” she said. “They completely kept to their schedule and they actually were done early, which in film is incredibly unusual.”

“Council of Dads” wasn’t the first production the bookstore has been involved with, having stood in for other cities such as New York and Los Angeles in the past, but Taylor and Osborne said they’re excited to see Savannah play herself on the small screen.

“We’re looking forward to the show. We’re excited to see E. Shaver on the little screen,” Osborne said.

Rody’s Audio Warehouse on Savannah’s southside made sure things went smoothly behind the scenes by handling and storing some electronic equipment, but it also got some screen time with crews filming at Rody’s Records on Habersham Street.

“The experiences were positive and we would be happy to assist in the future if called upon,” said Rody’s sales manager Bob Hall.

While you’ll recognize plenty of Savannah sights, you might also hear some familiar tunes during the show’s first season as well.

“They asked us to be a backup band in a scene, but when we went for the meet and greet we just went ahead and played our songs and the writers loved it, so the producers picked up two of our songs for episode two, so we’re actually playing our songs in the background in the show,” said Savannah musician Rachael Shaner of Lulu The Giant.

“They’re tentatively picking up three more (songs), so we’ve just been recording and getting those to them,” Shaner said.

The story behind how Shaner came to be involved with ‘Council of Dads’ almost sounds like a television script itself.

“I got in a car wreck four years ago and I had my bass in the back of the car and I was doing a photo shoot for the speakeasy night for the Savannah Food & Wine Festival, so I was dressed like a flapper,” Shaner recalled.

Moments after the wreck, a good Samaritan who just happened to be a casting director came to Shaner’s aid to make sure she was OK. The two women exchanged numbers, and years later the opportunity to appear in “Council of Dads” presented itself.

“Four years later she texted and asked if Lulu The Giant was still in Savannah and if we were off of the road and not touring and if we could come in for a meet and greet the next day,” Shaner said. “It was pretty wild.”

While the exact economic impact numbers aren’t available yet, Beth Nelson, the executive director of the Savannah Regional Film Commission, said she expects the impact to both the business community and crew members to be significant.

“Because they were based here and here for so long, there will definitely be a big economic impact in this area,” she said. “These restaurants and places that the cast members visited on the show are real and they’re going to get national exposure, too.”

An authentic Savannah experience

Nelson said production on the pilot began in March 2019 while NBC Universal was in the area shooting the Hulu series “The Act” and and took about a month to complete.

“They always wanted to make it a Savannah show since that’s the way (the book) was written,” Nelson said.

A few months later, after the decision was made to go forward with the series, the writers came back to the city and immersed themselves in all things Savannah.

“They went crabbing, they went kayaking, then went into local restaurants and they talked to local people. They just really wanted to get the authentic feel of Savannah,” she said.

After spending time in Savannah, the team left to work on the show, then returned around the end of August and began filming and wrapped up in February, she said.

Nelson said that compared with feature films, a television series typically spends more time in the area and takes longer to complete, which results in more positive economic impact and stability for crew members and businesses.

“We hope it will be a successful series and come back for many seasons to come,” she said. “When that happens, it provides some stability to the crew because they know they will have work coming year after year, and businesses will know they are going to get that business and things be a little more predicable than normal in this industry.”

Like the business community, Nelson said she’s looking forward to seeing Savannah on national television.

“It’s thrilling to show the world not only the beauty of Savannah, but also to have Savannah out there presented as a modern, diverse community with intelligent, caring family-oriented people living here,” she said. “I think that’s going to be exciting, too, to have our reputation out there on national television.”

“Council of Dads” premieres on NBC on March 24 at 10 p.m. EST.

Savannah Morning News
March 23, 2020