Kung Fu

The new "Kung Fu" series is predictably terrible, though I am contractually obliged to watch anything set in San Francisco, especially if there is chop-socky involved. But the most distracting part is SF's alternate geography.

First of all, her family owns a small, faltering dim sum restaurant in Chinatown (in a building that is 25'x100' at best, but still only has like 6 tables in it), but instead of living in Chinatown, they have a huge house in the chilly, pine-tree suburb of... Cow Hollow?

Our hero takes a walk to clear her head, so she strolls past the Ferry Building on the new jetty that is 500' offshore. Either that or Treasure Island has been relocated. Or hey, maybe they moved and re-landscaped Alcatraz instead!

Ah, the wide, bustling, spotless streets of San Francisco's Chinatown that is totally not at all Vancouver:

Then it's time to spy on some smugglers, so they go down to "the docks" which someone's phone helpfully shows us are located at the corner of Fillmore and Marina. A neighborhood famous, of course, for its abandoned yet well-lit oil refinery:

And finally, one they got right. They visit the SF DA's office, and at first I was going to goof on this for being a weird stand-in for 850 Bryant, but this seems to actually be the Earl Warren Building, which is in fact where the DA's office is! Whew.

I mean, it's no Bullitt.

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26 Responses:

  1. Koleslaw says:

    Alternate geographies of places I know about bug me too. My favorite example is the movie Stripes.

    Early in the movie, Bill Murray is taking a woman to the airport in his cab. He drives down a street, makes a right turn onto a bridge, and then stops and throws the keys in the water.

    Those scenes were shot in Louisville, KY. He's actually driving down Main Street then taking a right onto 2nd Street and the "2nd Street Bridge" (It's actually called the George Rodgers Clark Memorial Bridge, but no one calls it that) to Indiana. Driving to Indiana is the exact opposite thing you would do if you wanted to be at the airport.

    • Mark D Mills says:

      As a Louisville type I can tell you we tend to treat that scene as canon that he rips off horrible but clueless passengers.

  2. Dude says:

    I have yet to watch this, but yours is the sort of reaction I expected when Mick LaSalle also rolled his eyes at the blatant Canadian landscape. Hell, when I interviewed Keith Knight last year for his SF-set Hulu series Woke, he was sooooo lamentable about the fact that Hulu made them shoot it in Vacouver.

    I mean, it's no Bullitt.

    Yeah, there's lotsa fun to be had watching the geographical fuck-ups in Bullitt or 007's A View to a Kill (below), BUT... not in last year's The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss! What the fuck was even with the geography in that flick (which was already a piece of shit)? It "takes place" in SF, was actually shot in Australia, and looks like... I have no fuckin' idea what universe they're even showing?!

    But seriously, I still love the goofy View to a Kill chase that turns Market St. into a Möbius strip pocket-dimension:

    • Dude says:

      After 29 years (!!), I'm still confounded as to how the SF residents in this video are able to view one another from across the City with their naked eyes:

  3. Ben says:

    Luther was kind of the opposite of this for London, at least those parts I thought I recognised. I felt like I could trace where Idris Elba was walking on my mental map of the city.

  4. Andreas says:

    I’ve not seen Kung Fu yet, but Warrior is another recent Kung Fu series set in SF (inspired by the writing of Bruce Lee). I’m enjoying it a lot, and the end credit tunes are amazing.

    (Plus, less confusing geography because the show is set in the 1800s and it all burned down anyway)

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, I've been enjoying Warrior, even the one where they said, "Fuck it, we're just gonna do Mortal Combat for one episode and then never mention it again."

      One weird thing about that show is that they call the white gang members "ducks", which is historically accurate, but none of them are Australian, which is where that phrase came from!

      And as always the streets are waaaaaayyyy too wide.

  5. Michael says:

    Living in Vancouver often seeing shows that get shot here give me a headache because most of the sequencing of scenes makes zero geographic sense.

    Also: That CGI of the “Golden Gate Bridge” makes the bridge appear gigantic.

  6. thielges says:

    The Man in the High Castle‘s “SF” was annoying. Yeah, it was at least filmed on the west coast but nothing was identifiably San Francisco except for a couple of quick establishing flash scenes of the GG Bridge.

    From this we can infer that SF must be a really aggravating/inconvenient/expensive place for production crews to work.

    • jwz says:

      That's entirely possible and would not be surprising, but, given that pretty much the entirety of filmed entertainment happens in LA, Georgia or Vancouver, that might be like assuming that the Cayman Islands are just a really convenient place to run a business.

      • Jeremy Wilson says:

        Don't forget Toronto! Our shit dollar compared to the US dollar, plus highly skilled trades and amazing tax breaks means half of all Netflix shows get shot here.

      • Michael says:

        There’s one other aspect I was told by a guy in the industry as to why Canada is “nicer” for them to work in: They need less security. Apparently also, at least when shooting in NYC, there is a lot of extra cost for “security" they just don’t need in Canada. The guy who told me that claimed to be a location scout for the industry.

        He didn’t go into any more detail, but the implication I got is that there is a kind of “that’s a pretty film set you have there, would be a shame if something happened to it” going on.

    • BHN says:

      Is it a cop-out to point out that you shouldn't expect our reality's SF to match that in a series based on something written by Philip K. Dick?

      Breaking reality halfway through is almost a trademark of his work. Welcome to the police station Deckard has never even heard of in 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'.

  7. xrayspx says:

    We're coming to the end of a Fringe Binge, and...yeah. Boston is so CLEAN, and mere minutes from downtown Manhattan. That's actually the biggest sin, the number of times they leave Cambridge in the afternoon, arriving in NYC, still in the afternoon, without having had time for a 10 minute conversation along the way.

    The Beacon Hill "meatpacking and warehouse" district was a favorite too.

  8. a frog says:

    I am contractually obliged to watch anything set in San Francisco

    Not... Surely not... Full | Fuller House? You have been spared of that, at least? If not, I weep for your soul.

  9. Marin Steve says:

    Growing up in Honolulu while they were filming Hawaii-5-0 taught me that a show can be filmed on location, and still might as well have been done as CGI.

  10. David Konerding says:

    One of my favorite pastimes while watching all the various movies and shows I watch is identifying the exterior shooting locations. You can tell a southern california landscape in a second (although it can be hard to tell from South Africa and Australia at times), Vancouver from the East Coast, from the trees and greenery. I've been tripped up recently because more shows are filming in eastern europe, which has its own "look".

  11. margaret says:

    i watched 48 hours last night and didn't notice any breaks in space/time, however, a glance at imdb confirms anything north of camp pendelton is largely interchangeable to me. veronica mars, on the other hand, had yelling at the tv every episode.

    • yanate says:

      Lol, everytime I see the overhead exterior of the motel (even now) I start to jones for fish tacos from South Beach and the little waffle ice cream sandwiches next door.

  12. nooj says:

    2012 shot-for-shot remake of the Bullitt car chase scene in the show Alcatraz:

  13. phuzz says:

    They were filming something just a couple of roads up from where I live last month (Alex Rider, never heard of it before), but judging from the synopsis I can only guess that they're pretending that Bristol is Amsterdam? I don't think they can get away with pretending it's the south of France.

  14. Rodger says:

    To add to your list of shows - go watch "Way of the Househusband" if you haven't yet.

  15. Watching the first non-pilot episode now. A motorized cable car just drove by. Although I suppose that counts as "incorrectly regarded as goofs" since actual SF has them too!

    • jwz says:

      Apparently you can photoshop Transamerica and Coit into any skyline and you're good to go.

      Wait until you get to the single BART track 30' above Ellis Street.

    • jwz says:

      Maybe this show is actually set inside the SF level of "Hyperbowl".

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