They call what they do in Hollywood "movie magic" for a reason. It truly is magical to witness how a film or television show's staff are capable of turning a basic Hollywood backlot into a wondrous location. Simple, vacant Hollywood studio stages have been completely transformed to either encapsulate a mystical wonderland of a setting or mimic a historically accurate version of a famous city, state, or location. When done correctly and to perfection, movie magic can truly be a beautiful thing.
Movie magic is often crafted to perfection for the sake of television shows. While it may be hard enough to produce movie magic for a two-hour movie, people who work on tv shows must produce and re-produce that same movie magic every week for 13-22 episodes straight, and then do the same thing next season until the show goes off the air. This can be a daunting task, especially when trying to fake the tv show's location. It's a tough task indeed, but so many tv shows have been able to do just that. For most tv shows, movie magic may mean fabricating its location to look like historic landmarks and famous cities when, really, the show is actually filmed in Los Angeles or some other suburb in the world. Here are some examples.
25 STRANGER THINGS (TAKES PLACE IN INDIANA, FILMED IN GEORGIA)
Stranger Things is arguably the biggest show on television right now. Well, not actual television, but on Netflix, which is more or less the modern equivalent to television these days. As the show is quickly approaching its third season, viewers are expecting to see its characters return to the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
The filming location is just as fictional as the town the show takes residence in. The show is actually filmed in Georgia, not anywhere near Indiana.
24 MAD MEN (TAKES PLACE IN NYC, FILMED IN LA)
Long before Game of Thrones to precedence over the television world, there once was a time when Mad Men was the hottest show on television; racking up Emmys every year with viewership skyrocketing at an all-time high.
The show's period-accurate costumes and lavish background pieces made New York City look like the place to be for many viewers. Which is ironic because the show was not actually filmed in NYC. Well, the pilot episode was, but everything after that was filmed in Los Angeles, California.
23 SHARP OBJECTS (TAKES PLACE IN MISSOURI, FILMED IN LA)
HBO subscribers know that one of the network's best new shows is Sharp Objects. Starring Oscar nominee Amy Adams, the show follows Camille Preaker, an alcoholic reporter who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to investigate the mysterious murder of two young girls.
For those scratching their heads trying to figure out where exactly Wind Gap, Missouri is, don't worry. The town does not exist in real life and the show was not even filmed in Missouri. Instead, it was filmed in Los Angeles.
22 THE OFFICE (TAKES PLACE IN PENNSYLVANIA, FILMED IN CALIFORNIA)
We would be hard-pressed to find someone on this planet who was not a fan of the long-running United States version of The Office. For nine seasons straight, the show was able to capture all of our hearts while sharing some laughs along the way.
The show's mockumentary premise was noteworthy for taking place in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In reality, the show was filmed in Los Angeles, California like many sitcoms. Even though the show - at the time - was unconventional for not being filmed in front of a studio audience with a laugh track.
21 FARGO (FILMED IN CANADA)
As per the title of the show, the small screen remake of The Coen Brothers' Oscar winning black comedy is set in the small town of Fargo, North Dakota. However, the show is not actually filmed in North Dakota. In fact, the show is not even filmed in the United States of America.
Instead, Fargo's first season was filmed in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In fact, all three seasons so far have been filmed in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Even season two, which actually takes place in Minnesota.
20 VIKINGS (SET IN SCANDINAVIA/ENGLAND/FRANCE, FILMED IN IRELAND)
As the first scripted series to ever run on the History Channel, Vikings has served as one of the channel's more popular series on the network. While the show will be ending later this year after six seasons, it remains one of television's most critically acclaimed action dramas.
The show has also been praised for its attempt at historical accuracy, also one thing that is not entirely accurate is the show's filming locations. While the show is filmed in Ireland, the show is set in Scandinavia, England, and France.
19 SCANDAL (TAKES PLACE IN DC, FILMED IN LA)
For seven seasons right up until the series officially wrapped up in 2018, Scandal served as ABC's most compelling drama series. The show starred Kerry Washington while focusing on her character Olivia Pope - head of a crisis management firm - and her affair with the President of the United States of America.
Giving how the show's narrative took us directly inside of the White House, the show took place in Washington, D.C. Of course, the show was never actually filmed in the White House or Washington and instead was filmed in Los Angeles, California.
18 HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (SET IN PHILLY, FILMED IN LA)
In Scandal's absence, the mystery courtroom show How to Get Away with Murder has taken reign as ABC's most engrossing piece of must-watch television. The show focuses on lawyer Annalise Keating - played by Viola Davis - and her five students as they try to win a different case every episode while also trying to cover up their own shady crimes, which include - you guessed it - murder.
While the show takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it is actually filmed in Los Angeles. Although some pilot scenes were filmed in Philly.
17 SUITS (TAKES PLACE IN NEW YORK, FILMED IN TORONTO)
While this show is most notable for being the first to introduce the world to Meghan Markle, Suits is best acclaimed for providing us with being a captivating legal drama. For eight seasons, Suits took a concept that easily could have strayed into boring territory and instead remains one of television's most addictive courtroom shows.
The show focuses on a law firm in New York City, but the show is actually filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Interestingly enough, the pilot episode was filmed in New York City, but every episode after that has been filmed in Toronto.
16 THE GOOD DOCTOR (SET IN SAN JOSE, FILMED IN VANCOUVER)
The Good Doctor is a relatively new series, but in a brief amount of time on the air, it has become must-see television. Airing on ABC, the show stars Freddie Highmore - still fresh off the heels of his sadistic starring role on Bates Motel - as he plays a well-meaning autistic doctor who struggles to connect with his patients and co-workers.
The show is set in San Jose, California, but is actually filmed in Vancouver, British Colombia, which often serves as a filming location for several movies and tv shows.
15 EMPIRE (SET IN PHILLY/NYC, FILMED IN CHICAGO)
When the show first premiered in 2015, Empire was something of a surprise hit boasting nearly 10 million views in its premiere episode before ending its first season with 17 million viewers for the finale. Now, as the show is halfway into its fifth season, ratings remain at an all-time high for FOX.
Settings for the show often bounce back and forth between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City. In either case, the show has never been filmed in either city and has always been filmed in Chicago, Illinois.
14 WILL AND GRACE (SET IN NYC, FILMED IN LA)
Will and Grace originally premiered in 1999 before ending its run in 2006. During that run, the show was critically acclaimed for providing a mainstream positive portrait of the LGBTQ community at a time when such portrayals came few and far between. The show is looked back at so fondly that it was revived in 2017, continuing to impress critics.
While the show followed a group of friends as they migrated across the New York City area, the show - both during its original run and in its current incarnation - has always been filmed in LA.
13 FULLER HOUSE (SET IN SAN FRANCISCO, FILMED IN LA)
In its heyday, Full House was something of a ratings juggernaut and a beloved sitcom made for the whole family. At a time where reboots and revivals are all the rage in the entertainment world, it was a no-brainer to give the show a sequel/reboot made for Netflix called Fuller House, which brings back the whole original cast; sans The Olsen Twins.
Like the original series, Fuller House takes place in San Francisco, California. Also like the original show, Fuller House is actually filmed in Los Angeles, California.
12 THE GOOD FIGHT (SET IN CHICAGO, FILMED IN NYC)
Until it went off the air in 2016, The Good Wife was a much-acclaimed Emmy winning show on CBS. In its absence, everyone's favorite scene-stealing character Diane Lockhart - played by the ever magnificent Christine Baranski - started to helm her own spin off show just a year later called The Good Fight.
The Good Fight takes place in Chicago, Illinois, but is not actually filmed there. Instead, The Good Fight has always been filmed in New York City.
11 MADAM SECRETARY (SET IN WASHINGTON, FILMED IN NYC)
Another CBS favorite, Madam Secretary follows Tea Leoni as she plays Elizabeth McCord, who is a former CIA analyst and political science professor who winds up becoming the Secretary of States for the United States of America.
Naturally, the politically driven drama takes place in Washington, D.C. Like other shows on this list who claim Washington as its setting, Madam Secretary is not actually filmed there. Instead, Madam Secretary is filmed in New York City.
10 DETROIT 187 (FILMED IN ATLANTA)
Granted, the short lived Detroit based crime drama was filmed in Detroit in later episodes, this was not the case for the pilot episode. The first episode of Detroit 187 was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia.
Even after the fact, not every scene and not every episode was filmed in Detroit. Most scenes were filmed in Michigan, but some of those scenes masquerading as Detroit were actually filmed in neighboring cities like Hamtramck, Michigan.
9 CHEERS (TAKES PLACE IN BOSTON, FILMED IN LA)
One of the longest-running and much-beloved sitcoms in comedy television history is Cheers, which for 11 seasons followed Sam Malone, a bartender in Boston, Massachusetts who pursued on-again-off-again relationships with Diane Chambers and then Rebecca Howe.
While many exterior shots were filmed at historic Boston area landmarks, interiors for the show as a whole - for the most part - were filmed in front of a live studio audience in Los Angeles, California.
8 FRASIER (TAKES PLACE IN SEATTLE, FILMED IN LA)
When Cheers went off the air, the show's resident cast mainstay Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammar) moved back to his home city of Seattle, Washington for his own long-running Emmy winning classic. This time around, the show focused on the psychiatrist as he tried to run his own radio advice show whilst trying to reconnect with his long-estranged brother and father.
Much like its predecessor that Frasier was spun off from, this show's setting did not match its filming location. It was filmed in a Los Angeles studio.
7 FREAKS AND GEEKS (SET IN DETROIT, FILMED IN LA)
While this show lasted less than a full season before being canceled, Freaks and Geeks is best remembered for receiving an avid cult following as well as birthing some of Hollywood's biggest actors. The Judd Apatow series introduced us to future stars like James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips, Jason Segel, Ben Foster, Linda Cardellini, and John Francis Daly.
The show took place in Detroit, Michigan, but all exterior and interior shots were filmed in Los Angeles, California.
6 THE WEST WING (SET IN WASHINGTON, FILMED IN CALIFORNIA AND CANADA)
For seven seasons in between 1999 and 2006, The West Wing gave us viewers an Emmy winning peak inside of the White House from the fictionalized script writings of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
As masterful as this White House drama was, it - of course - was never actually filmed in the White House. In fact, the show was never even filmed in Washington, D.C.. The show was actually filmed inside of a Los Angeles, California studio with other scenes filmed in Canada.
5 THE GOLDEN GIRLS (SET IN MIAMI, FILMED IN LA)
America's original beloved girl group on television could be seen every week on Golden Girls, which aired for seven seasons. Everyone's favorite group of old ladies took residence in a Miami, Florida home.
Well, to be more honest, they took residence in front of a live studio audience inside of a Los Angeles film studio. Even exterior shots of their supposed Miami home were part of the backstage studio tour ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
4 HAPPY DAYS (SET IN WISCONSIN, FILMED IN LA)
It is hard to find a more classic sitcom out there in comedy television history than Happy Days. The series boasted one of the most impressive ensemble casts in tv history, especially considering how it introduced us to huge stars like Ron Howard and Henry Winkler.
Happy Days took place in Wisconsin, but of course, it was actually filmed in Los Angeles. It was easy for Happy Days to pull off a Wisconsin vibe. Most scenes were filmed in interiors so the filmmakers never had to turn an LA area into a Wisconsin landmark.
3 ROSEANNE (SET IN ILLINOIS, FILMED IN LA)
Long before a reboot came to fruition that would eventually be canceled in light of the lead star's controversy, Roseanne spanned for 9 seasons starting from 1988 all the way until 1997. Roseanne was noteworthy for taking place in the small town of Lanford, Illinois.
In reality, not only was the show - neither during the original run or during the show's 2018 revival - never actually filmed in Illinois, but Lanford is a fictional town. Roseanne followed the route of the typical sitcom by filming in LA in front of a live studio audience.
2 THAT 70s SHOW (SET IN WISCONSIN, FILMED IN LA)
That 70's Show was notorious for taking place in the state of Wisconsin. Mostly because the show itself would mention its state of residence every episode at the end of its theme music, which was always followed by the ominous echo, "Hello Wisconsin!"
Funny thing about that is that That 70's Show was never actually filmed in Wisconsin. And the show's city of residence - Point Place, Wisconsin - does not actually exist. Like any other sitcom from back in the day, this show was filmed in front of a live LA studio audience.
1 ROOTS (SET IN WEST AFRICA, FILMED IN GEORGIA AND CALIFORNIA)
When the History Channel decided to remake the classic 1977 mini-series in 2016, the network decided to film this new version of Roots in Louisiana. While some viewers wished that the production was taken to West Africa to film on location, but what few people realize is that the original production was also not in West Africa.
While the set design did look phenomenally realistic enough to pass for Africa, the original Roots was actually filmed on the Warner Bros. Burbank Studios lot in California. Some scenes were also filmed in Georgia.
References: Wikipedia, IMDB