Friday, June 13, 2008

Setting Maps

Further along into the book with the Scene Map that I blogged about the other day, was a Setting Map -- an overhead, blueprint-style rendering of the TV town of Mayberry, North Carolina, laid out by postal worker/artist Mark Bennett.

Interesting! So I googled Bennett and discovered he’s released a whole book of similar maps: TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes. I’ve mapped floorplans myself -- childhood classrooms, my house, a neighbor’s house, the house on my first favorite TV show (Bewitched). I borrowed Bennett's book from the library and am making my way through it as a series of puzzles about TV shows from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s: I cover Bennett’s map with a sheet of paper while I re-assemble my own mental image, then slide the paper away little by little to reveal his map and see how closely we match. The process feels like a really slow computer trying to load a screen image.

Next to Bennett’s book on the library shelf was Diana Friedman’s Sitcom Style: Inside America's Favorite TV Homes, loaded with both wide-angle and close-up photographs of familiar rooms from 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s series. I leafed through her book from back to front (to avoid chapter-heading spoilers) and instantly recognized almost every set. Then I read the accompanying design notes to learn how the furnishings and decor were selected to develop story, characterization, and theme.

While looking through both books, it seemed that my mind had organized and remembered the layouts and details of rooms more along the style of Bennett’s overhead blueprints, but that I now recognized them faster via Friedman’s front-facing photographs. Either way, I’m encouraged that, decades later, the TV fictions are so memorable … kudos to the storytellers who developed them so fittingly.

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