How important is setting? That seems like a foolish question, since setting is a basic element of storytelling. But I have been thinking about it in the context of how well readers/viewers know the setting in question. Years ago Nora Roberts* set a book in the Little Italy neighborhood of Baltimore. And she got the neighborhood community feel down but the housing market, floor plan of row houses, and sidewalk/parking situation wrong. They sound like little things but were important elements to the story, so being not quite right jarred me right out of the story.
Re-watching the first episode of Queer as Folk (US) this weekend, the theoretical setting was just so obviously NOT where it was filmed that I wondered if Pittsburghers who watched the series were as jarred as I was by the not-quite-right Baltimore in NR’s book. Literally, as one building came into view, I thought to myself, oh, they are in Toronto — it was the Gooderham Building on Front Street. Beyond that, the geography/topography is just not right. Back when I first watched any of QaF, I’d visited PGH briefly once and had never been to Toronto, so I didn’t notice the location. Since then I’ve been to Toronto once for WCoH and to Pittsburgh a number of times, which is what made it painfully apparent that they were not filming in PGH.
Does it matter that much? I don’t know, maybe viewers don’t care, since the economics of film/television production means that things are seldom filmed in the locations they purport to represent in the final product. But I’m interested to see if there is any attempt at more
*It feels like I’ve picked on NR in the last couple of posts, and I don’t mean to. But that book and the housing it described was just NOT accurate. (I wrote an entire post about it at the time, many books ago at this point.