The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons

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.

Accent: flat/neutral.

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…

12 thoughts on “The Wonder States- Using Deductive Reasoning to Determine the Setting of The Wonder Years, My Name is Earl, and The Simpsons

  1. My name is earl takes place in Van Nuys,Some of the shopping centers and stores are on Balboa blvd & n. Balboa and Hearts Coffee Shop is at 16918 Saticoy st. These shops were in the episode when the lottery ticket was blowing around on the ground.


  2. For “The Wonder Years” in season 3 ep 3 called “Wayne on Wheels” Wayne gets his learner’s permit sent to him. I paused to see a close up of the envelope. Wayne is covering the name of the city with his thumb, but you can still clearly see California, and the zip code 90230. I did a little detective work, (because I have absolutely nothing better to do with my time), and looked up the zip code: it’s Culver City, California. According to Wikipedia: “Co-creator Neal Marlens wanted the setting to be Huntington, Long Island, where he grew up. ABC insisted that the location remain nonspecific (the colloquial “Anywhere, USA”)”


  3. Thank you for not being the only one who notices that My Name is Earl is set in an imaginary county in the panhandle of Florida. When Officer Jeff Hoyne inadvertently outs Earl as a snitch, he remarks “So it looks like I’m the one going to sunny Tallahassee.”


  4. My name is Earl can’t be in Florida because as it rarely rains on the show, it is meant to take place in a semi-arid area. The palm trees are mainly desert palms and you can tell as they drive to surrounding towns around Camden County that they are in a dry area. Florida has a LOT of trees and other vegetation so it definitely can’t be the Florida Panhandle.
    Plus they were able to drive to Vegas in a night to get married(Joy and Earl). The best fit is Kansas or Oklahoma.


  5. My Name Is Earl…both palm trees and tumbleweeds appear in several episodes. It’s really not supposed to be any specific place, but if you had to pick a location, the Texas Gulf Coast would be the most likely place it might be with Arizona a close second.


  6. My name is earl is shot in california… but does not take place in California. According to the creators Camden is modeled after the Virginia community he grew up in… but is obviously in a warmer climate…its stated in the show that they are central time zone.
    The wonder years.You ruled out new England because new englanders have accents… most new englanders do not have accents.. there are sub regions in new England that speak with different accents i.e. boston interestingly enough the vast majority of PA speaks with what we new englanders consider an accent… listen close next time you stop for scrapple on your way to Hershey… as far as the Simpsons go you may be correct.. however one of the charecters will definately take a vacation there as soon as the writers see this post.


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