Thursday, May 31, 2012
I started your thesis for you. It was a painstaking process of consulting Wikipedia's extensive "List of programs broadcast by..." database and fansites cross-referencing dialogue to tell me exactly where Pawnee is located in the state of Indiana, but after more time than I care to admit, I've finally mapped every single narrative TV show airing and set in the US that I could think of and locate. I'm sure I missed something, but you get what you pay for.
Good timing helps. The network axe has wiped dots like I Hate My Teenage Daughter's ostensible Austin off the map, and pilot season hasn't yet revealed (to me, anyway) what small town the CW is occupying next. So what remains are the renewals and the new summer series like Longmire (in Wyoming) and Dallas (in the past), but Nashville will have to wait a few months.
I'm starting to get a complex about the underrepresentation of Texas in general and Houston in specific on TV. We do get deodorant here. One in twelve Americans are Texans, and more of us are familiar with Houston than Seattle or Philadelphia, to name two of the more popular television settings beyond the big three. Instead Texans get GCB and The Client List, a staggeringly diverse array of hypocrites and sex workers in knockoff-LA neighborhoods. Friday Night Lights is our The Wire—it may be set way out west, but life in Dillon's basically the same as life in Bryan/College Station, at the center of the Houston-Dallas-San Antonio triangle, only with less Mexican food—but Texas has five of the 20 biggest cities in the country, too.
That said, population isn't the only salient factor here. Deferring to Foreign Policy's Global Cities Index, which ranks worldwide urban centers by influence, nine US cities rank among the 65 most powerful in the world:
7. Los Angeles
12. San Francisco
13. Washington, DC
That's better. All nine are home to at least one current series, nominally or otherwise. New York and Los Angeles claim the most, followed by Chicago. Then Boston, Miami, and DC. The two Tyler Perry TBS sitcoms raise Atlanta's stature, with The Walking Dead wandering around nearby. And San Francisco and Houston have one each (Fairly Legal and The Client List, respectively). Add Seattle, Philadelphia, and Portland and you have the 12 major centers of US TV right now.
Venture deeper into the country, though, and the coverage is surprising. The Midwest, the Southwest, the Gulf Coast—producers are getting imaginative. Though Breaking Bad, for instance, actually lives in ABQ, this kind of geographic representation is mostly nominal. Two of those three dots in Colorado are for South Park and Community, neither of which is all that detailed in its depiction of Colorado life. (The third is for Last Man Standing, which is mostly beyond my purview.) But it's a start, nonetheless, and if I were to look up where each show is filmed and study each series for its representation of culture, I'd be the one pursuing a master's.
I was most delighted to see the Midwest spread beyond upscale Chicago: South Dakota (Warehouse 13), Nebraska (Hell on Wheels), Kansas/Missouri (Switched at Birth), Iowa (Supernatural), Minnesota (The Big C), Wisconsin (Battleground). Turns out Indiana signifies cheery determination (The Middle, Parks and Recreation) and Ohio signifies past-its-sell-by-date (Hot in Cleveland, Glee). And both are a hop and a skip from Raylan Givens in Kentucky. Crossover, please!
Posted by Brandon Nowalk at 4:38 AM