7 Favorite TV Towns

By Jada A. Graves, Staff WriterDec. 13, 2010
By Jada A. Graves, Staff WriterDec. 13, 2010, at 11:24 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

7 Favorite TV Towns

Ah, television. A great outlet for escapism and -- occasionally -- vacation planning. Wouldn't you love to relax in Central Perk with Friends or rehash current events at the Cheers bar?  

Some of the more unsavory TV towns are (thankfully) impossible to plot on a map. Vampires roam the fictional towns of Bon Temps, La. (from HBO's True Blood), Mystic Falls, Va. (the CW's The Vampire Diaries) and Sunnyvale, Calif. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, WB Television Network). Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher also dealt with her share of questionable residents in the small fishing village of Cabot Cove, Maine. And The Simpsons and their resilient and ambiguous town of Springfield have withstood everything from attempted murders to nuclear explosions.

Other well-loved primetime shows take place in cities that are worth exploring. Here's our list of some television favorites and the cities they call home.  

[See a photo recap of 7 Favorite TV Towns]

Glee is a popular television show that centers on a high school teacher, Mr. Schuester (actor Matthew Morrison), and his show choir of misfits. Most of the action takes place in the fictional William McKinley High School of the small town Lima, Ohio, as both the students and teacher try to return the glee club to its former glory. On occasion, however, the class does break free of the school halls to visit the town's best restaurant, Breadstix.

This hour-long musical comedy is shot almost entirely on a Paramount Studios soundstage, nearly 2,000 miles away from Lima in the not-so-quaint city of Los Angeles. The choir room, auditorium, principal's office and even Mr. Schuester's apartment are sets.

The bad news is the real Lima doesn't have a restaurant called Breadstix. The good news is this northwest Ohio city has more going for it than the Fox show might have led you to believe. Visit in spring or fall, that way you can stroll through Lima's beautiful parks. Do you like history? Then swing by the Allen County Courthouse, where members of the bank robber John Dillinger's gang were tried for killing county sheriff Jesse Sarber when they broke Dillinger out of the Allen County Jail in 1933. And the arts are indeed popular here -- Lima is quite proud of its symphony orchestra -- so consider taking in a performance.

The NBC mockumentary The Office depicts the day-to-day life of employees at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. an office-supplies distributor with a regional branch office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. When the frustrated officemates aren't working, they like to go shopping at The Mall at Steamtown or happy hour at Poor Richards Pub.

The show's creatorswork hard to integrate real-life Scranton references into the lives of its characters. For example, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) listens to a local country radio station, "Froggy 101," and many people gas-up at Joe's Kwik Mart. Nevertheless, most episodes have been entirely shot on a Chandler Valley Center Studios soundstage in Van Nuys, Calif. The opening credits do show the Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company building, located in downtown Scranton.

If you're a die-hard fan, it's time you make a pilgrimage to Scranton. The Office Fan Tours is a group of local fans that run weekly treks through the most mentioned landmarks on the show. You'll stop by Poor Richards Pub, swing by Lake Scranton and get a peek at The Mall at Steamtown. The four-hour tours are about $45 per person.

The medical drama Grey's Anatomy follows surgical resident Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her colleagues as they try to negotiate the surgical hierarchy of a Seattle hospital. The doctors rarely leave the grounds of Seattle Grace Mercy West, but trauma cases have taken them to the city's western ferry docks. After a shift, they like to throw back a few at Joe's, a bar close to the hospital.

Regardless of where the characters live, the show itself lives on a suite of sets at The Prospect Studios in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. On occasion, ABC does use exterior shots of Seattle's Harborview Medical Center to double for Grey's Anatomy's fictional hospital. And the exterior of the house that Meredith and her friends live in is located in the elite Queen Anne Hill neighborhood (although its purported address, 613 Harper Lane, doesn't exist).

You can't while away an afternoon in Joe's, but fret not -- Seattle has plenty of local beer and quirky-cool spots to toss them back in. Visit the Capitol Hill neighborhood for a bar crawl. Or stay wired with a cup of coffee like the docs do -- there's no better place to try an independent dive where the owners roast their own beans. And contrary to popular belief, it's not always raining. Take advantage of a sunny afternoon and stroll through the gorgeous Olympic Sculpture Park.

On the CBS show The Good Wife, actress Julianna Marguiles plays Alicia Florrick, the wife of a former Chicago attorney who is sentenced to jail following a political corruption scandal. As a result, Florrick returns to her old position as a junior litigator at a local law firm to rebuild both her professional and personal life.

A lot of the show's action takes place in the courtroom or at the fictional law offices of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner, but beloved Chicago institutions like the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Chicago Bulls have been mentioned. Still, The Good Wife's principal photography takes place in New York City. The law firm, Alicia's apartment and other sets occupy the Broadway Stages in Brooklyn.

This season The Good Wife weathered some controversy for what some perceived as a parody of Chicago's revered Steppenwolf company. You can determine yourself how true those accusations were by taking in one of the troupe's performances at their theater in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the Near North Side. In fact, you could spend a whole day exploring the countless top sites nearby: Navy Pier, the John Hancock Observatory and the truly Magnificent Mile should make your short list of must-sees.

The HBO comedy Eastbound & Down follows the life of Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), a major league baseball player that moves back to his hometown of Shelby, N.C. following his firing from the league for bad behavior. Powers tries to rebuild his life by working as a gym teacher in his old middle school.

The series' first season was actually filmed close to 300 miles away from Shelby, and according to sources like The Shelby Star, "there's nothing inherently Shelby about the program. No livermush, SunDrop or Earl Scruggs references." By the second season, Kenny Powers is hiding out in Mexico (which production wise, is really Puerto Rico) after a second attempt at a professional sports career has fallen flat.

For the record, livermush refers to the local pork loaf somewhat similar to paté. And the best time for a taste test would be at Cleveland County's annual Shelby Fall Festival and Livermush Expo, usually held in October. You can wash your food down with Sun-Drop, a popular citrus soda sold in the area as well as other Carolina towns. And to hear Earl Scruggs -- a popular bluegrass musician from Shelby who popularized the three-finger style on the five-string banjo -- just turn to one of the local country radio stations.

On the Showtime series Dexter, title character Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) works as a forensic bloodstain analyst with the Miami Metro Police Department to cover up his real passion for serial killing. His M.O.? Murdering other serial killers and criminals that the city's justice system has been unable to apprehend.

Dexter has done a lot of exterior filming in Miami, but the show's "beach" is oftentimes Los Alamitos Beach of Long Beach, Calif. Exterior shots of the Miami Metro Police Station are actually shot in Marina Del Ray, which is also in California. And sets for the police department and Dexter's Coconut Grove apartment are inside the Sunset Gower Studios of Hollywood, Calif.

Dexter has sought out new victims everywhere from Ocean Drive to the Everglades, so if you want to see some recognizable show landmarks, you can start your tour in one of those areas. He disposes of bodies in the Biscayne Bay -- a practice we don't recommend -- but you can take a sightseeing cruise along those waters, and get a glimpse of the bayside mansions of Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan and Shaquille O'Neal. On a different day you can swing by the Coconut Grove neighborhood to visit the vintage Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

The critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Given only two years to live, he begins producing and selling methamphetamine to provide a financial cushion for his family.

Unlike the other shows on our list, this AMC TV show is filmed on location in -- Albuquerque, NM. The cast and crew do soundstage work at Albuquerque Studios, but Walter's meth-lab RV has been spotted at the KiMo Theatre (located just off the legendary Route 66) and Eddie Garcia Park in Bernalillo County.

New Mexico's most populous city is sometimes overshadowed by its gallery-packed cousin, Santa Fe. But you shouldn't sell this adobe-haven short. Take the hour-long road trip down (in a drug-free RV, of course) to discover Albuquerque's own art scene, and to buy a few Native American crafts as souvenirs. Or plan your visit for October to snap a few photos of the International Balloon Fiesta.

Jada A. Graves, Staff Writer

Jada A. Graves is the Careers product manager at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter @jada...  Read more

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