From Dillon, Texas, to Stars Hollow, Connecticut — and everywhere in between — Wonderwall.com is taking a look at our favorite TV shows that are set in small towns… starting with this one that's riddled with monsters. "Stranger Things," which is set in the '80s in the quiet Midwestern town of Hawkins, Indiana, follows a group of friends (played by Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin) whose lives are drastically changed after their friend (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously goes missing and they find a psychokinetic girl in the woods (Millie Bobby Brown). What they soon come to realize is that there's an exact replica of their town in an alternate dimension that lies beneath them called the Upside Down, where monsters run wild. As the supernatural events in Hawkins ramp up, the group takes it upon themselves to put an end to it… and in the process, they unearth things they never thought imaginable. All three seasons of "Stranger Things" are available to stream on Netflix. Keep reading for more…
"Friday Night Lights" on Hulu
We don't know what it is, but there's something about a passionate, small football town that always gets us! Set in rural Dillon Texas, "Friday Night Lights" focuses on the lives of the Dillon Panthers high school football players (led by actors Taylor Kitsch and Zach Gilford), their friends (played by Adrianne Palecki, Jesse Plemons, Minka Kelly and more) and their coach (Kyle Chandler) and his family (Connie Britton and Aimee Teegarden). While Dillon itself is fictitious, the character-driven drama has been praised for its accurate portrayal of everyday life in Middle America.
"Veronica Mars" on Hulu
One of the main problems that comes with residing in a small town? Steering clear of people you'd rather not see becomes an especially difficult task. "Veronica Mars" stars Kristen Bell as a former popular girl-turned-social outcast who spends her free time helping dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) run his private investigation company in Neptune, California. We learn early on that this beach town, which is located in fictional Balboa County just north of San Diego, lacks a middle class. Divided into haves and have nots, the rich kids, or "09ers," run the town while the students from families lower on the socioeconomic scale keep to themselves. Truthfully, it's high school at its most polarizing.
"Gilmore Girls" on Netflix
While the banter between mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) was enough to keep viewers coming back week after week, another draw of the show was the wacky small town where all the drama unfolded — Stars Hollow, Connecticut. In the quaint New England spot, where the most fascinating monuments are the town square gazebo and Liberty Bell sign, everyone knows everyone.
"Riverdale" on Netflix
"Riverdale," which stars KJ Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch, follows a group of high school students who band together to solve the mysterious murder of a classmate that rocked their small town. As the series progresses, we dive deeper into the complicated personal lives of Archie and his friends, including their steamy romantic relationships and the tangled web of dark, twisted secrets that plague the town. While fans have long tried to pinpoint where the fictional city of Riverdale can be found on a map, in the series' pilot, it's described as being located in Rockland County, which is in New York State.
"One Tree Hill" on Hulu
Don't get us wrong, the rivalry between estranged half-brothers brothers Lucas and Nathan Scott (Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty) makes for some seriously juicy television, but it's the charm of Tree Hill that makes this show even better. Set in the small port city of Tree Hill, North Carolina, "One Tree Hill" centers on Lucas and Nathan, whose worlds collide after Lucas joins the high school basketball team on which Nathan is the star player. The "One Tree Hill" fandom is a dedicated bunch, so much so that they've even set up an "OTH" location tour for diehard fans who travel to Wilmington, North Carolina, where the series was actually filmed, to take in the sights. Karen's poignant send off to Lucas on season 2 will forever be with us: "There's only one Tree Hill, and it's your home." Sheesh.
"Schitt's Creek" on Netflix
When the formerly affluent Rose family's empire disintegrates after they're swindled by their business manager, they're forced to inhabit the only remaining asset they have left: a small town in Ontario, Canada, named Schitt's Creek, which they purchased years ago as a joke. A quirky riches to rags story, "Schitt's Creek" starring Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, Catherine O'Hara and Annie Murphy follows this once spoiled family as they come to terms with their dingy new home and impoverished way of life.
"Twin Peaks" on Hulu
"Twin Peaks," which premiered in 1990 and ran for just one season, was ahead of its time. The series follows FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), who goes to the quiet logging town of Twin Peaks, Washington, to solve the murder of high school student Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). The series, complete with an eerie "Welcome to Twin Peaks" sign situated along an ominous, winding road, gave fans an unsettling look into the lives of the small lumber town's residents and their secrets.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Hulu
In an effort to give themselves a fresh start, high school student Buffy and her mom relocate to the seemingly safe town of Sunnydale, California. Of course, as we find out in the pilot, "safe" isn't the word to describe Sunnydale, as it sits directly on top of the Hellmouth, a dimension filled with monsters, demons and just about every terrifying supernatural entity you could think of. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" charts Buffy Summers' life as a teenager who's forced to protect the world from the forces of evil, all while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life. While Sunnydale might seem like a scenic, serene California town, that couldn't be further from the truth.
"Pretty Little Liars" on HBO Max
Got a secret — can you keep it? While Rosewood, Pennsylvania, might seem like your typical, quaint and quiet town, there's way more going on there than meets the eye. Starring Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, Shay Mitchell and Troian Bellisario, "Pretty Little Liars" focuses on an estranged group of friends who band together after they receive threatening text messages from an anonymous source revealing secrets they shared only with their late friend and queen bee of the group, Alison DiLaurentis (played by Sasha Pieterse). As the girls begin to unearth details of Alison's life before her death, they soon realize the town's residents aren't as innocent as they appear to be.
"The Baby-Sitters Club" on Netflix
"The Baby-Sitters Club" follows a group of middle school girls — Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace), Claudia Kishi (Momona Tamada), Stacey McGill (Shay Rudolph) and Mary Anne Spier (Malia Baker) — who come together to create and run a babysitting business in the suburban small town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Netflix debuted the rebooted show, which is based on a popular book series, in July 2020 to rave reviews.
"The Vampire Diaries" on Netflix
"The Vampire Diaries" follows the life of Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev), a teenager who tries to piece her life back together after her parents tragically died in a car crash. However, after meeting Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder), a pair of ominous, feuding vampire brothers, Elena begins to learn of her town's rich history with supernatural entities. The series takes place in the picturesque town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, where vampires, witches and demons have long been lurking.
"Dawson's Creek" on Hulu
While "Dawson's Creek" might sound like a city itself, the show actually takes place in Capeside, a fictional coastal town on Massachusetts' Cape Cod. The series, which debuted in 1998, follows the all-too-dramatic lives of Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), longtime bestie Joey (Katie Holmes), good friend Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and the new girl in town, Jen (Michelle Williams). Like "One Tree Hill," "Dawson's Creek" was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, despite being set in New England.
"Smallville" on Hulu
"Smallville," which got its name from its setting — Smallville, Kansas — centers on the life of Clark Kent (played by Tom Welling) before he becomes Superman. Earlier seasons focused on Clark's life as a teenager who struggles to come to terms with his superhuman abilities, while later seasons saw Clark as a reporter working at the Daily Planet, where he meets Lois Lane (Erica Durance). Kristin Kreuk starred as Clark's longtime love interest, Lana Lang, and Michael Rosenbaum memorably played Clark's best friend-turned-enemy, Lex Luthor, on the hit WB series.
"Once Upon A Time" on Netflix
Set in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, "Once Upon a Time" chronicles the lives of its residents who happen to be fairy tale characters brought to the real world and forced to relinquish their memories by the Evil Queen/Regina (played by Lana Parrilla). While the seventh and final season takes place in a Seattle, Washington, the majority of the series — which starred Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas and Jared S. Gilmore — was set in the small, portside village of Storybrooke.
"Fargo" on Hulu
The Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning anthology series "Fargo" chronicles deception, mystery and murder within small towns in Minnesota and North and South Dakota. With a star-studded cast — over four seasons, it's starred everyone from Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks and Ted Danson to Ewan McGregor, Kirsten Dunst and Chris Rock — the acclaimed FX dark comedy is another television show that makes a strong case for why a small town can be such a compelling place to explore stories.
"Hart of Dixie" on Netflix
"Hart of Dixie" follows the life of Zoe Hart (played by Rachel Bilson), a New York City doctor who agrees to run a practice in a suburban Southern town. While she's initially put off by the small city of Bluebell, Alabama, and its withdrawn residents, she eventually grows to embrace its charming way of life.