Tallahassee: The Enigma of TV

I have noticed a strange overuse of the city of Tallahassee in TV shows over the past several years. It began with Lost, then The Office, now Once Upon a Time…and I have also heard references of Tallahassee being used in other TV Shows as well. As a former resident of Tallahassee, I can say that it is a little weird. Once is a funny coincidence. Twice is getting bizarre. Three times is just downright crazy.
Lost: The Man from Tallahassee (2007)
If anyone has seen any episodes of Lost, they know that each episode has the progression of those stranded on the Island but also time spent explaining the back story of a specific character. This episode’s character of choice was none other than John Locke: knife-wielding former wheel-chair riding badass hunter.
The Man from Tallahassee was initially used as a mysterious omen warning of the possible horrors yet to come. Unfortunately, I felt the exact opposite. As someone from Tallahassee, the only thing mysterious is how the traffic always backs up on Tennessee Street between Orange and Mahan. The only horror is that the only place to play miniature golf is at a screaming child-infested place called Fun Station. The only omen received while living in Tallahassee was that after 300 job applications I was not going to find a decent job. While “The Man from Tallahassee” did turn into a bad omen for John Locke, the use of Tallahassee was simply a device. Tallahassee has no particular connections to mysterious violence, con-men, or the Dharma Initiative.
The Office: The Manager and the Salesman (2010)
We first hear of Tallahassee in the seventh season of The Office with the introduction of Sabre and the new CEO Jo Bennett. With their headquarters in Tallahassee, Jo Bennett visits Scranton to help with Dunder Mifflin’s transition. With a sweet Southern droll and two large dogs, she plows her way into The Office.
I lived in Tallahassee for ten years and during that time, I can’t recall anyone who spoke with a thick Southern accent like Jo. Ever. If South Florida is a permanent vacation home for retired New Jerseyans and New Yorkers, then North Florida is just this weird neutral zone between South Georgia and the invading Northerners – leaving a bizarrely neutral accented zone.
“You don’t get to be the most powerful woman in Tallahassee by slacking off,” said Jo Bennett. Honestly, with Tallahassee being the state capital, I’m pretty sure there are female members of the House and Senate who would disagree with her claim. Besides the fact that I don’t believe Tallahassee to be the headquarters of any successful company.
Once Upon a Time: Tallahassee (2012)
In one of the most recent episodes of Once Upon a Time, character development of Emma, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming as well as savior of all things fairytale, reveals that she spent 2 years in Tallahassee – the longest period of time she spent anywhere. With the entire episode named Tallahassee, you would think that there would be something significant about the city mentioned in the episode. For an episode that hinted at discussing the significance of the time spent in Tallahassee, they sure spent a whole lot of time talking about the time before she went to Tallahassee. In fact, they never even said why she moved there or why she stayed for so long. I can tell you for a fact that there are no jobs in Tallahassee unless you are a lawyer, a politician, or you want to work at a college. And even the politicians only stay for a few months…and then go back home.

Honestly, I think it’s just weird that so many writers are simply using the city of Tallahassee as a device to progress the plot or character development of their shows. It’s an effective device because most everyone will know that Tallahassee is the state capitol of Florida – and that’s it. They will know nothing else. So, unless you have lived in Tallahassee, no one will be able to contradict anything they say about people from Tallahassee.
There is also no well-known stereotype that classifies Tallahassee into a specific category. People say Georgia and they think Atlanta or Savannah. People say South Florida and they think of Miami, Disney, and beaches. People say Tallahassee and they think nothing. Nothing at all.
Southern accent? Sure! Florida is in the South. Richest person in the city? Why not? Mysterious and cool? We’ve never been there so yes! By the beach? Of course it is – it’s Florida! (Fact: There is a difference between the closest beach and a good beach. The good beaches are 3-5 hours away).
Lastly, Tallahassee is never shown in any television show. Ever. While it is continually used as a device in every show mentioned above, the city itself is never pictured. They talk about the city but never go there. And if they do happen to do there (as they did with one episode of The Office), they film everything inside of a generic building with the shades down.
While I understand the need for this kind of mysterious anonymity from a recognizable but unknown location, Tallahassee is not mysterious – especially not in a cool “James Bond” kind of way. The only good bowling alley is across from a Women’s Correctional Facility. for goodness sakes.

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