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If we lived in TV land ...: There's no place like home when it comes to some of the small screen's idealized towns and cities, but there are some places we wouldn't even want to visit

Sunday, September 19, 1999

By Ron Weiskind, Barbara Vancheri and Rob Owen, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Our 10 top placesto live in TV Land:

1. Mayberry, N.C. -- How could you not love a place where the deputy carries his bullet in his pocket, the town drunk locks himself into his usual jail cell and the sheriff's aunt brings his lunch in a picnic basket? The nontraditional family -- Aunt Bee, Sheriff Andy Taylor and cute little Opie with a thatch of red hair -- was alive and well in rural North Carolina long before the 1990s.

Although we wouldn't want to sample Aunt Bee's putrid pickles (a rare miss for the queen of cozy culinary treats), we love everything about this place. We'd like to spend a lazy afternoon in front of Floyd's barbershop, head down to the fishin' hole and listen as Andy strums a tune on his guitar on the front porch. Sigh. *

2. Cicely, Alaska -- This may well be the coolest, literally and figuratively, place on the planet. It's definitely the only one where a moose ambles by, with nary a notice.

We'd happily place our trust in Dr. Joel Fleischman, tune our radio to disc jockey Chris Stevens, order a beer from Holling Vincoeur and wait for the aurora borealis or springtime ritual in which the men run naked down Main Street. On a slow, frosty night, we'd settle for a game of pool or a gourmet meal with former astronaut Maurice Minnifield.

3. New York City -- Above ground, we'd like to squeeze into a booth at Monk's with Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer -- or wander over to Central Perk, where we could nurse a bowl of coffee, listen to Chandler crack wise and try to tune out Phoebe's rendition of "Smelly Cat." If we want real food, our "Friend" Monica could whip something up in her rent-controlled dream of an apartment. (And we thought "That Girl" had a lot of space.)

But, truth be told, the one truly civilized part of the city is below ground, in the "abandoned" subway tunnels haunted by a Beast who has the soul and seductive voice of a poet and the face, teeth and claws of a jungle cat. He's in love with a Beauty who works as an assistant district attorney, and they exist in a hypnotic netherworld.

4. Boston -- This town's got it all: Have dinner at Melville's but while waiting for your table, stop at the bar downstairs where, amazingly, everybody knows your name. Don't get a snootful, though. You could hurt yourself or maybe even get mugged. But while the stalwart emergency-room doctors of St. Eligius patch you up, talk to that rugged private detective Spenser. He'll track down whoever's responsible for your plight.

If you decide in the end to sue someone, you can hire that mini-skirted toothpick Ally McBeal as your attorney. Just make sure the other guy doesn't have Bobby Donnell's law practice on his side. And who needs Court TV when you can see reports about your case every night on "Goodnight, Beantown"?

5. Los Angeles -- Because it's a state law that even the lawyers look like Harry Hamlin or Susan Dey, we imagine that we'd acquire "Baywatch" bodies with our 90210 ZIP code. The perfect doctor, Marcus Welby, would help us take care of them.

If we ever get in trouble, we know Perry Mason would get us off (unless we really committed the crime -- then we could get Johnnie Cochran). At worst, we'd get a stern lecture from Joe Friday and a write-up in Lou Grant's newspaper. When it's party time, we'll all boogie over to Bel Air and hip-hop with the Fresh Prince -- or watch live car chases on TV with our neighbor who looks just like, you know, Jennifer Grey with a new nose.

6. Chicago -- Ever since Eliot Ness cleaned out all the gangsters, this really could be your kind of town -- especially if you want your daughter or son to marry a nice doctor. Of course, not all the physicians at Chicago Hope Hospital are so nice -- stay away from that crazy Dr. Geiger. And it gets a little hectic in the emergency room at County General, too.

When it all gets to be too much, schedule a visit with psychologist Bob Hartley and be sure to meet his lovely wife, Emily. They live in a terrific apartment in those round twin towers overlooking the river. And, for some reason, every time his nutty neighbor, airline navigator Howard Borden, enters the room and says "Hi, Bob," everyone takes a drink. Hey, it's easier than tailgating.

But speaking of easy, wouldn't you love to know that guy who gets the early edition of the Sun-Times -- as in tomorrow's paper today? A few bucks on the Lotto, a C-note on the 50-1 shot in the sixth race and next thing you know, you're on "Oprah"!

7. Minneapolis -- There's something about Mary ... and Rhoda and Lou and Phyllis and even Ted that makes this irresistible. Even though Mary Richards didn't have a bedroom in her first apartment (it's still our favorite) she had friends, upstairs and downstairs, and an "M" on the wall.

The snow could look charming through Mary's expansive windows, and the city just seemed to be teeming with dates for single women. WJM-TV languished in the ratings much of the time, but Lou Grant, Murray Slaughter, Ted Baxter, Sue Ann Nivens, Gordy Howard and (may he rest in peace) Chuckles the Clown made it memorable.

8. Seattle/Twin Peaks -- The theme song for "Here Come the Brides" boasted, "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle," but everyone in the Pacific Northwest seems to greet the gray skies with joe. A lotta joe. Drs. Frasier and Niles Crane fancy highfalutin drinks at Café Nervosa, while FBI agent Dale Cooper likes his coffee with a side of cherry pie at the Double R Diner.

Maybe if Laura Palmer's dad had just placed a long-distance call to Dr. Crane's radio show, he wouldn't have wigged out and succumbed to evil spirit Bob. Maybe he just needed a cute little dog like Eddie. Or maybe Laura's murder should have been assigned to police officer Marty Crane, before the injury that ended his career but won him a roommate.

9. Springfield -- Two fantasylands for the price of one. Wise father Jim Anderson counsels Betty, Bud and Kitten and comes home every night to wife Margaret's sympathetic ear and home cooking.

If that's too retro for you, there's always the Springfield of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson, where the nuclear power plant could go at any minute and so could Krusty the Clown. And isn't it cool how so many people sound like Stephen Hawking, Dan Marino or Mel Gibson?

10. Glenoak -- Let's have an "Amen" for the sermons of Rev. Eric Camden, the wholesomeness of his children (Matt, Mary, Lucy, Simon, Ruthie and the twins) and the understanding nature of his wife, Annie.

Every conceivable social ill is solved in about 46 minutes and peace and harmony reign supreme. You'll be in seventh heaven.

* Shows described in Top 10:

1. "The Andy Griffith Show"; 2. "Northern Exposure"; 3. "Seinfeld," "Friends," "Beauty and the Beast"; 4. "Cheers," "St. Elsewhere," "Spenser for Hire," "Ally McBeal," "The Practice," 5. "L.A. Law," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "Dragnet," "Lou Grant," "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "It's Like, You Know" 6. "ER," "Chicago Hope," "Newhart," "Early Edition"; 7. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; 8. "Frasier," "Twin Peaks" 9. "Father Knows Best," "The Simpsons" 10. "7th Heaven"

Our second 10:

1. Sesame Street/Mister Rogers' neighborhood -- He likes us just the way we are, and you'd be surprised what you could learn from a Big Bird.

2. Honolulu, Hawaii -- Can we live in Robin Masters' house while Magnum is out chasing bad guys? And then, we can book 'em, Danno.

3. New Orleans -- The ambiance at Frank's Place is as delicious as the food.

4. Dawson's Creek -- The cutest, most articulate high school kids live in a town with the fewest New England accents per capita in Massachusetts.

5. USS Enterprise (Picard's, of course) -- Explore the final frontier on the ultimate high-tech toy.

6. Rome, Wis. -- A few criminals run loose (beware of the frog man and a serial mercy-killing nun), but you can count on the sheriff to lock up the bad guys. Medical care is top notch and everyone knows their neighbors: the judges, lawyers, clergy and politicians who live on the other side of your home's picket fences.

7. Metropolis USA -- Pretty fly for a white guy.

8. Rockfish, Va. -- Visit "Walton's Mountain" for the best in family values, and see the Baldwin sisters for a jug of "the formula."

9. Bedrock -- Flintstones, meet the Flintstones, they're the modern Stone Age family.

10. River Run, Ohio -- World War II is over, swing dancing is hot and radio station WREQ ("Voice of greater River Run!") is on the air. Hey sailor, the cutest tomato in town was just named the Lemo Tomato Juice Girl. You're pretty lucky to be living on the "Homefront."

The 10 places in TV land where we'd least like to live:

1. Oz -- This prison is nothing like the one on "Hogan's Heroes."

2. Gilligan's Island -- We wanted a three-hour tour, not a three-year bivouac.

3. Cabot Cove, Maine -- Jessica Fletcher will find your killer (by 8:50 p.m.), but the murder rates are off the chart in this pretty seaside town.

4. The Twilight Zone -- Never boring, but that's the problem.

5. Fantasy Island -- A very stressful place to learn your lessons.

6. Melrose Place -- Sure, there's a lot of sex, but is it worth all the scheming, two-timing, back stabbing and crazy people trying to blow up your building?

7. Hazzard County -- Daisy Duke was its only asset, unless you like NASCAR races being run through your back yard.

8. Dodge City, Kan. -- We've got enough real gunsmoke to last a lifetime.

9. Fernwood, Ohio -- You think the folks on "Soap" were weird? Then you never met Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

10. Lanford, Ill. -- Would you want to be Roseanne's neighbor?

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