Primetime Across America


Now that we’re quickly approaching the new primetime television season, we thought it might be interesting to turn our typical “what shows are people watching in the local markets” analysis on its ear. Instead, how about we take a look at which markets shows are watching, so to speak.

So here’s a quick look at the primetime fall season from the perspective of where the shows fictionally take place. It’s not where they are actually shot, necessarily. But if primetime were real, here’s where the stories that are being told would be happening.

Not surprisingly a large majority of the programs that will be airing in the fall season take place where the writers, network executives, and cast and crew tend to be – in New York City and Los Angeles. 43% of all located programs are set in these two cities alone. Of the 70 shows that have identifiable locations, 19 shows are set in NYC (27% of the total) and another 11 are set in LA (16%). Chicago is the setting for six shows, while Washington, DC and Colorado each have 3. Las Vegas is the fictional home for two.

So in reality, outside of the Top Three US TV markets, stories on Primetime television can take place anywhere. For some shows, such as Indiana’s “The Middle” and “Parks and Recreation”, Alabama’s “Hart of Dixie” and especially Tenneessee’s “Nashville” and Nevada’s “Vegas”, the geography plays an important role in anchoring a show to its time, place, or culture. For others, the location may as well have come from throwing darts at a dartboard. “The Neighbors” takes place in a fictional gated community in NJ, “The Mentalist” takes place in Sacramento, “Arrow” is set in somewhere called “Starling City” – which we’ve tracked down to being in California, according to one source.

In a sense, unless you’re tied to a particular geography for the narrative, it just doesn’t matter if the gated community is in Jersey or Starling City is in California. You may not even know where they are, even if you never miss an episode.

(“Community”, set in Greendale, CO, takes it a step further as they make it nearly blatant that they’re in LA rather than Colorado – there are often palm trees visible yet never any snow. In Colorado.)

So for this season, some of the geographic themes have been consolidated into a few cities. New York and Chicago will cover the gritty urban crime scene, DC and Virginia will represent the government, spooky sci-fi will generally be in dark wet places like Portland, Oregon, and fictionalized Storybrooke, Maine and Mystic Falls, Virginia. Quirky and hip? That’s still going to be in NYC and LA.

But don’t worry – no matter where you go, your doctors will always be young and good looking. This is television, after all.

Viewers in Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Phoenix, Miami, or Minneapolis? Well, it’s football season. So you will have plenty to cheer about for your hometowns on broadcast television until the writers of new scripted series takes a new look at the map and say to themselves “Where are the stories we can tell?”

Click here for the Fall 2012 Primetime Across America map.

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