Created By: MartyD82 on June 13, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 23, 2016

Only School In Town

The tendency for children/teen focused television shows to depict every main character going to the exact same school.

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In most Real Life towns and cities, the child/teen population attends a wide variety of schools. These schools may not even in the town they specifically live in. Not so on television. On many shows, you can expect there to be only one school in the entire town and literally every kid in town to attend it. As a bonus, the school may even have the name of the town in its title.

If another school is mentioned, it will only be when a big sports game is coming up.

Of course, the reason why this trope exists is simple: School is the most logical place to depict children's adventures. And since writers generally can't be bothered with producing more than one school setting (for time and financial reasons), the simplest thing to do is to portray a "universal school" that every kid on the show attends. Kid Coms and Slice of Life cartoon series are especially prone to this trope. Though it also frequently shows up in Teen Dramas.

Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Family Matters. Given that Urkel was infinitely smarter than anybody else at his respective high school and that he was mercilessly teased and bullied there, one must really wonder why he didn't just transfer to another school. Since the show takes place in suburban Chicago, there had to be plenty of other schools he could've attended. Including schools for ridiculously gifted kids like him.
  • Saved by the Bell takes this a step further by theoretically having every single activity and event take place at Bayside.
  • Given its otherwise realistic portrayal of high school, My So-Called Life played this trope surprisingly straight. Just about every high school kid in town attends Liberty High with no acknowledgement of any other high schools in the area.
  • Partially averted on Beverly Hills 90210. The show makes it clear that there are other schools in the area, as transfer students are quite common. Rarely, however, do we actually see these schools on the show.

Newspaper Comics
  • Peanuts. Every kid in both the strip and the cartoon series attends the exact same school and has the exact same classes together.

Western Animation
  • Doug is a particularly egregious example. Literally every elementary-aged kid in Bluffington attends the Bluffington School, even Al and Moo (who, for all intents and purposes, should be attending a private school for gifted children).
  • South Park was almost as egregious as Doug. Given all the other things that town has (a Walmart, a planetarium, etc.), it seems strange that only one elementary school was ever built there. I know it's supposed to be an isolated mountain town but still...

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • June 16, 2013
    randomsurfer
    "ThePeanuts" should be "ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}" which becomes Peanuts.

    For most of The Simpsons history this seemed to be the case with Springfield Elementary, until one episode where Lisa accidentally finds herself at West Springfield Elementary.
  • June 17, 2013
    Arivne
    Added Namespaces and divided examples by media type.

    Anime and Manga
    • Bleach. Karakura Town appears to have just one high school, Karakura High School, the one Ichigo and his friends attend.
  • June 17, 2013
    TheHandle
    Averted in El Goonish Shive; it's a plot point that the kids go to different schools.
  • June 17, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Western Animation

    King of the Hill had Tom Landry Middle School, where all the kids on the show attended and where Peggy Hill substitute taught.
  • June 17, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    For small towns and villages, this is often Truth In Television. Growing up, the village where I spent my childhood had an elementary school that I went to, and when I got out of that, I went to the middle school and high school of the neighboring town. It's when you start moving into the bigger towns and cities that there is more than one school for each particular phase of general education.
  • June 17, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^ True. One thing about King of the Hill though is that while Arlen from its look in the show appears to be a small-to-midsized town (maybe 20,000 or so, probably about the limit for having one middle school), according to The Other Wiki it's supposed to have 145,300 people (per an episode I don't recall seeing) and be modeled on Richardson, TX, a large suburb of Dallas of similar size (which I had heard somewhere before)--and such a city would have a number of middle schools.
  • June 17, 2013
    CaptainPeregrin
    This seems like a universal thing in TV shows, considering that it's just too much work to build sets for another school, have storylines in two different schools, etc. Not to mention that, as Two Gun Angel pointed out, it's actually Truth In Television for smaller cities and towns. And most kids don't have a lot of friends outside of their own schools, anyway. Maybe this could be about shows that have only one school ever mentioned in a city that seems large enough to have several, but otherwise, it's kind of redundant.
  • June 17, 2013
    magnum12
    In Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni there is literately only one school in town.
  • June 17, 2013
    kjnoren
    Agreed that this is hardly a noteworthy trope. If anything it's a specific case that characters in fiction always return to the same place over and over again (sometimes explained in that it's their personal hangout), but it's very much an omnipresent trope.
  • June 17, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Buffy The Vampire Slayer there only seems to be one high school, because when Buffy is expelled she just hangs instead of getting enrolled somewhere else.
  • June 17, 2013
    Lawman592
    The Peanuts example is not entirely correct. Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Franklin all attended a different grade school than Charlie Brown and the rest of the kids.

    Western Animation
    • On The Simpsons, this trope is generally averted because we do see other grade schools in Springfield than the one Bart and Lisa go to.
  • June 17, 2013
    abloke
    I'm not sure about this. I get what it's saying, but, as has been mentioned, this is a reality in smaller towns and villages. It would need some guidelines as to what kind of locations it would include.

    Apart from that, I don't think just not referencing other schools should make something an example. I can't remember routinely talking about other schools with my classmates unless we were, as it says, facing another school in a sporting competition.
  • June 17, 2013
    chicagomel
    averted on The Brady Bunch where other schools were mentioned several times. The high school rivalry thing came up twice and Marcia once complained about her friends going to another high school when she started.
  • June 17, 2013
    McKathlin
    Frequently the reason that only one school is mentioned is because that school is where the kid characters know each other from in the first place. Or they're all similar ages and from the same neighborhood, and hence all in the same school district. I'd say this is not a sufficiently interesting subtrope of the Law Of Conservation Of Detail.
  • April 17, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • Justified in Higurashi When They Cry. Hinamizawa is so small that there is literally only one school. It encompasses all grades from elementary to high school.
  • April 17, 2016
    DAN004
    Meh, another Fridge Logic trope?
  • April 18, 2016
    eroock
    This is the reason why Everyone Went To School Together.
  • April 23, 2016
    Aubren
    Justified in shows that focus on in-school adventures like Hey Arnold! and Western Animation/Recess.

    Truth in Television too, and not just in small towns. Sometimes all your friends really do go to the same school.

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