Location, Location, Location

I wrote a substantial amount in response to lins’s post “Unexplored Cities,” and so I decided to recast my comment as a post: Different series incorporate setting into story to different degrees. As such, only sometimes does environment prove an essential element in a series’ narrative. In response to lins’s post, burritoluca cites a few excellent examples of series in which aspects of locale are constantly interwoven into the unfolding of plot. Of course, sometimes these details are irrelevant to storylines and instead merely serve as sidenotes. Like in Californication, features of a series’ milieu ground viewers in place and time, allow us to view characters within a distinct context, and deliver commentary on a particular culture. Other models of the significance of setting in a series are Entourage and Gossip Girl. In the two series, Hollywood and Manhattan serve as more than backdrops; they function as a vehicles for narrative and character development. After all, in Entourage, it’s the very arrival of Vince and his bright-eyed comrades in Los Angeles that acts as a catalyst for the overarching story to unfold, spinning a web of interweaving conflicts. Furthermore, consider the urgency of Gossip Girl’s writers’ desire to keep the cast within the boundaries of New York City. (About half of the principle characters conveniently matriculated to NYU.) Entourage and Gossip Girl assume similar approaches to depicting their stories’ respective venues, primarily glamorizing their settings in a vein similar to Sex and the City’s representation of NYC. Their characters reside in ultra-wealthy neighborhoods, and they promise to display the trendiest hot spots by dint of on-location filming. A key question that naturally arises when taking in an episode of a series like Entourage or Gossip Girl is how realistic the series’ depiction of its setting is. While Gossip Girl debunks the glittery mystery of the world of elite Manhattan prep schools in an overly stylized manner, at once critiquing and celebrating adolescent atrocities, Entourage strives to unveil the amusing, unsettling happenings of the bizarre world of Hollywood from a slanted point of view. It doesn’t deny the corruption or trials and tribulations—the sordid affairs and acts of desperation—that set the entertainment industry into motion, but it doesn’t hone in on these unappealing aspects either. (Let’s face it: for every Vincent Chase, there are a thousand starving artists scrounging for tips while waiting tables just to get by.) Just how real are the “realities” that these series present?

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