Where exactly is Anytown, USA?
Location, location, location. The setting of any movie or TV show is always important to me, as the culture of a place definitely shapes the people who live there. Some shows have made a point to specifically avoid stating the setting, classifying it as “Anytown, USA”. That’s not good enough for me. Today I am directly targeting three shows I am a fan of, in order to properly “out” where they take place based on unique tips.
First is a flawless sitcom/drama, except for that weird last season and final episode. The original ‘70’s show: The Wonder Years.
Accent: flat/neutral. Therefore, this show does not take place in South East, Midwest, or New England.
Ethnicity: Dan Lauria, who plays Kevin Arnold’s dad, Jack, is full Italian. Though this is never addressed in the show, there is no denying that Kevin and his sister Karen (who actually was Italian, but British) could pass as Italians as well.
Therefore, The Wonder Years had to take place in a state that has a decent amount of Italians living it. Italians don’t just live anywhere.
Also, the state has to have a decent amount of Jews as well. Paul Pfeiffer, Michael (Karen’s boyfriend/husband played by Friends star David Schwimmer), and Mr. Cantwell (Kevin’s science teacher played by the legendary Ben Stein) are Jewish.
There is no ocean in sight. The climate is not especially cold or hot.
The result: Pennsylvania. Thirteen percent of its population is Italian, and Jews represent 4% of the religion there, which are both actually high percentages compared to most states. The Wonder Years takes place in Pennsylvania.
Next up is a show that for its four years on the air has received great reviews and ratings but suddenly was cancelled in May 2009: My Name is Earl.
Accent: Southern. When the show comes on, with title card displayed, there are palm trees visibly displayed in the background. It has been stated they are on Central Time.
The only state that fits this mold is the panhandle of Florida. Since the city isn’t specified as a “beach town”, I rule out Panama City.
The result: Pensacola, FL. Not far from the Alabama border, this would explain the small town feel and heavy accent. My Name is Earl takes place in Florida.
Lastly, everybody’s favorite show to try to figure out. A show that for 20 years specifically makes sure the location is vague. Yes, Springfield is the city. But Missouri is never listed as the state: The Simpsons.
I can rule out the states of Utah, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska because on at least one occurrence a Simpson character has made a reference to these states regarding them as a different state from their own.
Geographical traits: Tall mountains, farmland, and a coastline.
The creator of the show, Matt Groening, is from Oregon. There is a Flanders, OR (which most likely Ned Flanders gets his name from).
The result: Oregon. The Simpsons takes place in Oregon.
With just a few clues, I can always crack the case of “The Missing Setting”. It’s easy, with a little help from Wikipedia and a 4th grade geography class.
And a little help from my friends…