The location: Brown University.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Brown University, an Ivy League school founded in 1764.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. In Providence, Rhode Island.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In the third season, Seth Cohen plans to go to Brown (after he graduates from the Harbor School), in part to get far away from Newport. (Ryan and Marissa plan to go to U.C. Berkeley.)

    His girlfriend, Summer, decides to apply to Brown as well, so she can be close to Seth. But getting into Brown isn't easy, and it turns out that Summer is admitted, but Seth isn't. Fearing she will pass up her chance to go to the prestigious university, Seth doesn't tell her that he failed to get in. Instead, he pretends he no longer loves her, and that he has simply chosen not to go to Brown - all so she won't miss the opportunity because of him.

    We first see the Brown campus in Episode 22 (of the third season) "The College Try", when Seth goes to Brown to try to talk them into admitting him. Seth fails to talk the Head of Admissions into letting him in. Summer spots him, and wants to know why he's at Brown, since he isn't supposed to be going there. While there, he accidentally bumps into Anna (an old flame), leading Summer to believe that he broke up with her so he could be with Anna. But he eventually confesses the truth to Summer, and gets admitted to an art design school near Brown (based on his comic book creations), so he and Summer can still be near each other.

    We see Brown again in the fourth season, in Episode 1, "The Avengers", in a scene where Summer and her activist friend, Che, pass out literature at the University, protesting caged chickens.  The scene is mostly played for laughs.

    (This scene was shot at a different location than the Season 4 scenes.)

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A University campus - but no where near Rhode Island.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. Although they do throw in an occasional establishing shot of the real Brown campus, most of the Brown shots were really filmed on the campus of USC (the University of Southern California), in Los Angeles, most often near the middle of the campus.

    The scenes of Seth strolling on campus (and his walking scenes with Anna) were shot on the north side of of the Bovard Administration Building, looking west across Associates Park, towards the Physical Education building, with Seth heading towards Founders Park.

    USC is located south of downtown L.A., just north of Exposition Park (with its museums and Olympic Coliseum), and just south of the Shrine Auditorium. The exact address is 3535 S Figueroa Street. The USC campus is just west of the Harbor (110) Freeway, and is bounded by Exposition Blvd (on the south), Jefferson Blvd (on the north), Figueroa Street (on the east) and Vermont Avenue (on the west).

    Here is a map link to the school's exact location. Here is an aerial shot of the campus from Live Local.

    The campus is open to the public, so feel free to drop by for a visit. But be aware that, while the campus itself is safe, the areas surrounding USC may be unsafe, so exercise reasonable caution.

    And here is a link to the USC's official website. (And to be fair, here is a link to the real Brown's website.)

    ( They originally planned to shoot the Brown scenes at Occidental College, but that fell through, so they moved on to USC. They considered shooting at Pomona College in Claremont, California (according to this article), and may yet return to shoot there. So not all future Brown scenes may be at USC...)

    [ As O.C. fans know, when Seth & Summer went to Brown, Ryan opted to go to UC Berkeley. Well, as you might expect, the Berkeley scenes weren't really shot at Berkeley, either. They were shot at USC's cross-town rival: UCLA. ]

    Update: In the 4th Season, when they needed to do that chicken protest scene on the Brown campus, it turns out they didn't use USC. Instead, they filmed on the campus of El Segundo High School, where a number of other productions have been shot. (For instance, it was Arcadia High in "Joan of Arcadia", and was also in the movies "Superbad" and  "The Hot Chick".)

    El Segundo High is located at 640 Main Street, in  El Segundo, CA, just south of LAX.  Here is a Bing aerial map link.

    And here is a photo of of the school that I shot a few years ago:

(The red arrow points to the archways near where the scene was shot.)

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. As a UCLA alumn, I've visited the USC campus, but not often enough to immediately recognize it. Fortunately, I have a friend named Barry Waite, who graduated from USC. So I sent him some screencaps from the show, and he confirmed my hunch that the "Brown" scenes were shot near the middle of the USC campus. (Thanks, Barry.)

    As for the later scene at El Segundo High, t
    he architecture at the school is reminiscent enough of the USC campus that they fooled me.  I just assumed that they had shot all of their Brown scenes at USC. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally found out the truth, when an alum of El Segundo High, Krista Melton, emailed me to let me know that she had started watching the show and had spotted her alma mater in the episode.  (Thanks, Krista!)

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