Saturday, February 5, 2005


I'm not the only one out there who wants to know all the trivia to be discovered about various shows; there are even books out there filled with thousands of nearly-useless (to anybody else!) bits o' knowledge.

(Want a good one? "Television Characters And Story Facts by Vincent Terrace. It's published by MacFarland.)

One such item that has always sent trivia hunters scrambling has been the locations for those shows that never make it clear exactly where they're set.

Oh, they may give you the name of the town, but you never get a fix on exactly what state they may be in. Sometimes you don't even get the town, just the street!

Three such shows from the past were 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Green Acres'/'Petticoat Junction'.

'Blues' was an inner city precinct gritty enough to be found in the Chicago or New York of the early eighties. But in at least one episode, palm trees could be seen in the background during a car chase.

The location for both 'Green Acres' and 'Petticoat Junction' was Hooterville, but what state could lay claim to the town that Time - and Logic - forgot?

In his book "The Hooterville Handbook", Stephen Cox ran through all the pertinent pieces of information that had been parceled out over the episodes. He was able to find correlations in some states, but then other bits of info would contradict those.

The same question (among many!) is raised with 'The Prisoner'. Where exactly was "The Village"?

Several times Number Six was able to escape from The Village by sea, and once when he flew back over the area based on his own coordinates, it was definitely an island.

And yet, in the mind-blowing finale, he was simply able to load up the truck and move away from there and back to London - as if it really was situated in the Portmeirion, Wales, resort in which it was filmed.

And then there's the eternal question of where is the Springfield of 'The Simpsons'? Particulars of that town seem to fluctuate with the needs of an episode, but at the very least it can be said that they are on a coastline for the ocean.

Which ocean? Who knows?

And now this season has brought us two new intriguing questions, both from ABC. Where is the island of 'Lost'? And where is Wisteria Lane in 'Desperate Housewives'?

Someday we may get an answer from Mssrs. Abrams and Lindelof as to the location of the home for the "Lostaways". (The flight left Australia for L.A. and was turning back to Fiji when it broke up in mid-air. They were 1000 miles off-course. The research vessel that shipwrecked there 16 years earlier was three days out of Tahiti.)

But as for Wisteria Lane, we more than likely will never get an answer from the creator of 'Desperate Housewives'.But that's not stopping some intrepid reporters from trying to find out......

By John Cook
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

The cool oceanic breeze stirring the night air feels like Southern California to me. But the stately houses that line the slightly winding street -- a grab bag of styles from ranch to colonial to Gothic manor, all decked out in comfy pastels -- would look at home anywhere, from Savannah to Seattle.

There's really only one man who knows where we are, and he's not telling.

"Let me assure you that Wisteria Lane is in a state that will never be revealed," says Marc Cherry, flashing a mischievous feline grin.

"There's a state in my head," Cherry says, "but I will never ever reveal it."

Still, we have some clues. Take the Wisteria: They don't call it Wisteria Lane for nothing. The kudzulike flowering vine, which inspired Cherry because of its omnipresence in the South, from which his family hails, festoons many of the houses. (Well, plastic facsimiles do.)

And Wisteria doesn't grow just anywhere.

"It wouldn't grow in New England, where the soil freezes too long," says Kristine Johnson, a forester at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and wisteria connoisseur. "Once you get west of Missouri, you wouldn't see it in the Plains. You could probably grow it in Chicago, if you pamper it. If I had to put your town somewhere, I'd put it in upper South Carolina or Piedmont North Carolina."

That rules out Massachusetts, which is where Marcia Cross, who plays Bree, says she thinks the show is set (she grew up there). Eva Longoria, who plays Gabrielle and hails from Texas, says it's the Lone Star State. Neither knows for sure.

Wisteria does indeed grow in Chicago, which might explain the actual Wisteria Lane in Schaumburg and the Wisteria Court in Naperville.

It could also explain the brief appearance, in Episode 10, of what appears to have been a copy of this very newspaper.

As we noted at the time, Nicollette Sheridan's Edie swiped a newspaper from Mrs. Huber's porch that bore a striking resemblance to the Chicago Tribune, including the blue banner with the words "-ago Tribune" visible.

So what'll it be: Naperville or Schaumburg?

"If a Tribune was used," Cherry says, "it was a prop guy having fun. Some Teamster wanted to get his hometown paper in the show."

I'm going with Schaumburg, on the strength of an old police blotter report detailing a woman stabbing another woman at a Wisteria Lane address there in 1997.

Sounds like something that would happen on the show.

As for me? I like to think 'Desperate Housewives' takes place just around the corner from that classic episode of 'The Twilight Zone', "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street".

As she was growing up, Mrs. Huber definitely would have been defined by the suspicions of those times......


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