Eat, drink and shop where your TV favorites do. When the ''Entourage,'' ''L Word,'' and other characters go to real-life places, buzz quickly follows

The Entourage boys love Toast. On the Aug. 28 episode, they lunched at the trendy West Hollywood eatery to discuss Vince’s potentially unfaithful girlfriend, Mandy Moore. You didn’t expect them to go to Denny’s, did you? On TV, it’s not who you know, it’s where you go. And ever since NYC’s hippest joints became scene-stealers on Sex and the City, shows like The Comeback, Entourage, and The L Word have added authenticity by shooting in real-life venues. ”We’re doing a show that purports to be about hip L.A. and people in the know,” says L Word creator-exec producer Ilene Chaiken. ”[Authentic locales] are imperative for us to try and sell that idea. We sit down with our writers and say, ‘Where do we all go or where do people like our characters go?’ We design our L.A. material around those ideas.”

So Tina (Laurel Holloman) and Helena (Rachel Shelley) meet for drinks at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. Meanwhile, the Entourage posse frequents celeb-friendly Geisha House, Urth Caffé, Shelter, and Koi, and The Comeback‘s Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) rocks out — in a fringed jacket no less — at The Viper Room. ”It’s absolutely priceless,” says David Rabin, co-owner of NYC’s Lotus, which has benefited from placement on Law & Order and Rescue Me, and in the opening credits of Saturday Night Live. ”It adds credibility because it’s a statement by the shows that we’re not a place that they’re afraid to mention because we’ll be gone six months from now.”

Despite the free props, getting past the velvet ropes isn’t cheap: A one-day shoot at Lotus runs between $4,000 and $15,000, depending on time of day and other variables — though venue owners sometimes negotiate the rate in return for the free publicity. The cost hasn’t deterred modestly budgeted reality shows like America’s Next Top Model, which has set up shop at NYC’s Quo and L.A.’s Dolce. But for producers, the major challenge is getting hot spots on screen before the fickle club crowd moves on. Still, even if you miss the trend, says Top Model exec producer Ken Mok, ”there are always new and exciting places opening every year.”

The L Word
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