By Paula Hendrickson
While a lot of TV shows still film in Los Angeles, Vancouver or New York, a growing number are now shot outside of those cities. The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead and Rectify are shot in Georgia. Revolution is filmed in Texas. Breaking Bad and Longmire both hail from Albuquerque, N.M.
Some locations are more obvious: Nashville is filmed in Nashville, Tenn., Dallas in Dallas, Chicago Fire in Chicago and Burn Notice in Miami. Back when Chicago-set ER was on the air, the bulk of the show was filmed in L.A., with a few exteriors shot on location in Chicago to add a dash of realism. (Coincidently, former ER star Julianna Margulies’ current show, The Good Wife, is also set in Chicago but is filmed in New York.)
With the majority of TV series, location is merely a backdrop. The events could take place in almost any city. But locations are crucial to three new summer series.
On FX’s The Bridge, which debuted last month, the location is a key plot point. The series kicked off with a body found lying across the U.S.-Mexican border on the Bridge of the Americas between Juarez and El Paso. An adaptation of a Swedish-Danish series, the U.S. version of The Bridge was initially going to be set on the U.S.-Canadian border, but producers quickly realized relocating it to our Southern border would add story depth as a result of ongoing immigration issues.
AMC’s newest drama, Low Winter Sun — adapted from a British miniseries — has been transplanted to Detroit, where the struggling city underscores the plight of the lead characters. The funny thing? The lead actors, Mark Strong and Lennie James (Jericho, The Walking Dead), are both Brits playing Americans. Strong even appeared in the original 2006 British production of Low Winter Sun.
Another British miniseries, Broadchurch, debuts on BBC America this week. The eight-part murder mystery is set in an English seaside town called Broadchurch, and the community itself is pivotal to the storyline. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant (the 10th Doctor) is the co-lead alongside Olivia Colman (Twenty Twelve, Hyde Park on the Hudson). Arthur Darvill (who played one of the 11th Doctor’s companions, Rory) also has a featured role.
When it aired this spring in the U.K., the final episode of Broadchurch became the most-tweeted about British drama ever. (OK, it’s not as if Twitter has been around for decades. And the recent announcement of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor may have already obliterated those numbers. After all, many fans were hoping Colman could become the first female Doctor.)
When you watch these shows, ask yourself if they’d be the same if shot on set or in another location. I think you’ll agree that some series, or miniseries, like The Bridge, Low Winter Sun and Broadchurch really benefit from being filmed in their own very distinctive locations.
The Bridge airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Central on FX.
Broadchurch premieres Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 9 p.m. Central on BBC America.
Low Winter Sun premieres Sunday, Aug. 11, at 9 p.m. Central on AMC. (Immediately following Breaking Bad, which returns Sunday for the last half of its final season.)
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Aug. 7-13, 2013, issue