As we all enjoy watching Parv, Gonzo and Nick travel around the USA in the new SBS2 series Unplanned America (screening every Monday night at 9.30pm), we reflect on ten TV series that will help give you your own tour of the varied and wild landscape that the USA presents to us travellers. We start off travelling to the sun-soaked scenery of Miami with…
Where? Miami, Floria
A show which uses it’s landscape well, constantly referring to it and taking us to both noticeable and hidden spots around the city of Miami. The atmosphere Dexter portrays here is one of luxury, with Miami sugarcoating layers of a seedy underbelly with picture-perfect beauty.
The marina is a big focus on the series of Dexter, and hence, the harbour life one would get from Miami. Sure, the series is primarily about a serial killer trying to go about his business while questioning his existence, but the setting of this unique show is hard to brush past. In basing the show on the literature of Jeff Lindsay, screenwriter James Manos Jr really zoned in on the psychology of Dexter, contrasting his extremely dark psyche with the grandness of sun-kissed Miami. It really is a show which lives and dies with its setting.
Other shows filmed or set in Miami: Charlie’s Angels, Nip/Tuck, Miami Vice, Burn Notice
The Wire (2002-2008)
Where? Baltimore, Maryland
This show would not have been as effective in any other city. The cracked buildings and general disarray of some of the darker corners of Baltimore are used here to really set up the ambiance of The Wire. What’s more is that each layer of the city is carefully peeled back season after season, taking you from the drab corners of Baltimore to what should be the more affluent areas, and then showing them to be just as worn down.
The Wire really takes you into it’s world, and this is why it has remained as acclaimed as it has over the years. When you think of a snapshot of a particular area in America, The Wire is a necessity.
Bringing a real human element into the darker recesses of Baltimore – from a small block of projects to the houses of parliament – really painted the city in a new light, as such, there are people who travel to the city just to try and re-live the experiences they had watching the show throughout it’s acclaimed five-season run.
Other shows filmed or set in Baltimore: Hannibal, Men, In Treatment, The Corner
30 Rock (2006-2013)
Where? New York City
30 Rock cannot at all exist without New York City; hell, it’s even named after one of the city’s most famous buildings. The exceedingly hilarious series introduced some of the most endearing (and flat-out ridiculous) characters in TV history, and grounded them all with a real sense of where they are from and what city they represent. Many of the sequences on this show not only utilise the many areas of NYC, but they are dependent on these locations.
It’s a city which TV shows seem to enjoy capturing, and one of the most familiar in the world. From Seinfeld to Sex and the City to Girls to Louie, 30 Rock is in great company as a series that lets you explore New York (and for those that have been before: gives us painful reminders of how fun it can be).
Other shows filmed or set in New York City: Seinfeld, Girls, Sex & the City, Louie, Sesame Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Heroes, Flight of the Conchords
Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
Where? Dillon, Texas
The character-driven story – centered around the football-loving town of Dillon, Texas – stands as one of the most brilliantly written and acted TV series on the 21st century. It’s not uncommon to see the sport of football weaved into a story about coming-of-age, camaraderie, and respect, but Friday Night Lights does so with an endearing sense of loyalty to the characters who the writers build from the very first episode.
The thick, hearty Texas accents all shine here, with the wide-eyed innocence of characters as they eventually jet into other cities of the USA in select episodes really distinguishing Texans among other Americans. The hospitality and sense of community here is the heart of the show, really showing small-town Texas in the most beautiful of lights.
Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Where? Albuquerque, New Mexico
The quiet area of Albuquerque was the perfect place for Walter White to break bad and begin building his blue-meth empire. The neighboring dessert played a big part in this series, hosting some of the most memorable scenes, from Walter and Jesse’s ‘first cook’ to that haunting showdown in the final season.
Breaking Bad is a comprehensive tour of Albuquerque, and while there were no monuments and tourist locations that really stick out, the atmosphere of a quiet city plunged into the depths by one mans self-absorbed obsession and his constant battle with suppliers, distributors, and fellow kingpins, is so incredibly well done that the city has become synonymous with Breaking Bad. Of course, this is only one-side of the city – the very dark side – but Breaking Bad manages to capture that slice in a way only a few TV series have ever done with their setting.
Other series filmed or based in Albuquerque: Roswell, Regigo, Wildfire
This brings to an end the first five TV series that take us on a journey around the USA… for more USA adventures, tune into Unplanned America, every Monday night on SBS2 at 9.30pm. For more details about the show, head to the official website.