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…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CZRudxD-NQ

Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

tunnel