Well, here I sit watching another episode of “Saving Grace.” Pretty bad night of TV for me to be watching this. It’s supposed to be set in Oklahoma City, and that really makes me wince. I have visions of people all over the country watching it and thinking, “So that’s what Oklahoma City is like.”
The only reason I watch the show is to see how they depict OKC, where I lived most of my life. For starters, it was filmed in Canada, so don’t think you’re looking at OKC if you watch.
I don’t know for sure how fiction writers set their scenes, but I have some suggestions. First, don’t go overboard on stereotypical characters. Just because your setting is Oklahoma doesn’t mean you should fill the local police precinct with cowboys and Indians. They aren’t that conspicuous in Oklahoma City these days, and of those that are there, not all wear cowboy boots and hats. Or braids.
When you name all those colorful “locals,” try being more original than picking their surnames off a state map: (H)Anadarko, Ada, Dewey, and Stillwater are towns in Oklahoma. And if you must use maps, use them to ensure those intersections you mention really are intersecting, not parallel, streets. Also be aware that maps do not label exclusive neighborhoods as such. Don’t give your fictional car wash an address that puts it right in the middle of the city’s most exclusive residential neighborhood. Research, people, research.
Practice your understanding of geography and distance. If a city is over 600 square miles in area, and the police headquarters is smack in the middle in downtown, your characters are not going to get from there to the middle of a cattle pasture in ten minutes. Not without their sirens, anyway.
A few appropriate props can be useful to set a scene, but don’t fill an entire precinct station with University of Oklahoma memorabilia. Yes, OU football is very big in the state and that stuff is recognized across the country, but chances are very good that the station also houses a variety of other fans, just as rabid, who wouldn’t stand for an exclusively OU decor. Fortunately, this season it looks like they’ve dumped the OU stuff. Just an American flag on the wall. Surprise! One police station looks pretty much like another after all.
There have been a few references to local landmarks — the Paseo District, Bricktown, Frontier City, Quail Springs Mall — and to other cities across the state. All correct and in context this year, thank goodness. Also a few references to the bombing and the Murrah Building, and an actual shot of the memorial that stands there now. Local footage. Hurray!
Holly Hunter still plays her character, Grace Hanadarko, waaay over the top. Or maybe it’s written that way. Either way, I don’t particularly like Grace. Cursing, boozing, smoking, sleeping around. I guess that’s the point. Make her a real sinner so she needs to be saved by the angel, Earl. Earl!! The writers just had to name him Earl? And by the way, could somebody please feed Ms. Hunter? She’s creepy skinny.
Anyway, the point is, I can’t possibly be objective about this show because I know too much about where it supposedly takes place. Makes me wonder how New Yorkers or Los Angelinos or Miamians can watch all those shows set in their cities. Hearing familiar names and locations mentioned is very distracting, especially when they’re wrong. Or maybe I’m just too critical because the whole show irritates me. Maybe it’s just the editor in me wanting to find fault in someone else’s work. Force of habit and all that. Believe me, it’s a curse.
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