Did You Know These TV Series Were Set in Kentucky?
Come to Kentucky, filmmakers, and see all the picturesque locales you can use for you next project. It was once my rallying cry to the Hollywood crowd, but now I don't utter that cry as much; Tinseltown heard the call and its representatives have been arriving in droves the last couple of years. (Obviously, they "heard" nothing; that wonderful tax incentive for the film industry was the clarion call that got 'em here.)
Yes, it is a wonderful boon to the Kentucky economy when producers and directors shoot their films here. But if they can't, I'm fine with something, at least, being SET in the Commonwealth. I just hope it looks realistic. When NYPD Blue was airing simultaneously with Law & Order, there was a glaring difference. The former was filmed in Los Angeles with New York sets and they just didn't look convincing at all. Meanwhile. L&O was was SET in the Big Apple and filming right down their on the streets. That atmosphere was a big reason the show is one of my all-time favorites.
TV Series Set in Kentucky
This brings me to the FX crime drama Justified.
The thing is, Justified was never FILMED in the "deep, dark hills of eastern Kentucky" or in any Kentucky location for that matter. Despite the series' first fun revolving around a U.S. marshal stationed in Lexington, the closest crews ever got to the Bluegrass State was Pennsylvania for the series premiere. The other 38 episodes filmed in California. Just so you'll know, eastern Kentucky mountains and California mountains bare little resemblance. It's also a lot less green out west.
Regardless, it WAS set in Kentucky, and filmmakers made sure to include nice touches like having extras wear UK gear in crowd scenes.
But what about OTHER series that have been set here in the Commonwealth? Let's take a look:
Call Me Kat
Set in Louisville, Call Me Kat starred Mayim Bialik as a U of L professor who quits her job to open a cat café--kind of like this one in downtown Evansville IN. The series ran for three seasons and aired its final episode in May of 2023.
The Queen's Gambit
The critically-acclaimed miniseries was adapted from a 1983 novel by late author Walter Tevis, a native Californian who moved to Kentucky when he was 10. The series, about chess prodigy and then champion Beth Harmon, won 11 Emmy Awards, including one for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series. The Queen's Gambit premiered on Netflix in 2020 and was partially set in Lexington in the 1950s and 1960s. However, there was no filming in Kentucky. Believe it or not, most of the critically-acclaimed series was shot in Berlin. Yeah, the one in Germany.
Hatfields & McCoys
This one HAD to be set in Kentucky because, along with West Virginia, that's where the families involved in the legendary feud lived. But despite all that, Hatfields & McCoys was shot primarily in Romania. (Suddenly, eastern Europe doubles for Kentucky?) Anyway, the series won five Emmys, including one each for stars Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger.
Based on the Stephen King bestseller, this 2016 Hulu miniseries follows Jake Epping, played by James Franco, has he goes back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. When he arrives in 1960, he's in the fictional Kentucky town of Holden. And when he does, viewers are shown a map that FEATURES Holden. As it turns out, it's only a few miles south of Owensboro, so naturally we took the short drive to find out what's ACTUALLY there. Long story short...nothing.
Like Hatfields & McCoys above, this series HAD to be set in Kentucky because it's based in American history. And Daniel Boone is right up there with Abraham Lincoln in the category of "most famous people in history who where Kentuckians." I remember seeing this in syndication when I was a kid. And then we all wanted coonskin caps like Daniel Boone had. Fess Parker played Boone but he never had to set foot in Kentucky to do it. Daniel Boone ran from 1964 to 1970 and was filmed in California and Utah--two states that look nothing like Kentucky.
Before I wrap this up, the mid-80s anthology series was listed among shows that were set in Kentucky, but through a number of searches--some very creative, I might add--I can't find out which episode.
Oh well, I'm sure I'll live. Plus, the ones represented here are terrific examples, in my opinion.