Pick any Disney ChannelKid Com. Any. The most egregious example is perhaps Wizards of Waverly Place which depicts the eponymous roadway (in real life, a major street) as some sort of weird pedestrian-only walkway with enough sharp turns, pedestrians, stairways and a sufficiently narrow width to make it impossible for a car to navigate.
Even live sporting events aren't immune from Television Geography. In September 2011, ESPN aired what they claimed was a shot of the skyline of Madison, Wisconsin during a football game between the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. However, as CNBC's Darren Rovell noted, it was actually stock footage of the skyline in Minneapolis, Minnesota — 230 miles northwest of Madison.
What made it even funnier is that it wasn't the first time that Minneapolis substituted for Madison — the same mistake was made in 2008 on a website. But not just any website... a website run by the state of Wisconsin.
The substitution of Vancouver for an unnamed city in the US Northwest (presumably Seattle) is so common that the term "Seacouver" is the setting's unofficial name. The Sentinel and Highlander: The Series are examples.
In the case of The Movie upon which Highlander: The Series was based, London doubled for New York.
Prior to the late 1960s, when TV companies found they were more able to pay for actual on-location episodes, many sitcoms and dramatic series where individual episodes were said to take place in such exotic locations as Hawaii, Mexico, Japan, China, London, Paris, Rome and so forth … were actually filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood. The set would simply be dressed up (often stereotypically, especially on sitcoms) to resemble the desired location; stock footage of the actual location would establish the scene. While this worked on episodes where only a small part actually took place in the distant location, and it would not be financially prudent to pay to send an entire crew to shoot what would amount to a 30-second clip establishing – for instance, a main character retrieving a briefcase in a distant city (with a certain landmark in the background) – for two- and three-part shows set in a distant city (say, London) being shot on a Hollywood sound stage would be rather insulting.
24: Occurs to excess, often as a consequence of the show's real-time format. In one particularly jarring example, Jack Bauer infiltrates a warehouse in North Hollywood and, upon climbing to the roof, is in downtown LA (with Union Station clearly visible nearby).
The most blatant moment came in Season 4, where the Terrorminions hijack a nuclear missile transport and manage to lose the satellite tracking in the mountains... of IOWA.
Not quite so They Just Didn't Care. While the northeast corner of Iowa is not exactly "mountainous", it's not normally what you'd think when you think of Iowa. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftless_Area. Ironically, this same geological area extends partly into Illinois.
In the first episode of Season 2, President Palmer and his son are shown fishing in a large, empty lake in the middle of a pristine tranquil meadow at the foot of a snowcapped mountain. A subtitle reveals that they are in 'Lake Oswego, Oregon'. Lake Oswego is an affluent suburb just outside of Portland, the lake itself is surrounded by dozens of multi-million dollar houses, and there isn't a snowcapped mountain for a good 85 miles.
Another jarring one, from Season 3, has Jack travelling c. 70 miles in about 15 minutes. In a helicopter, which isn't capable of that speed.
How about when the terrorists ship their bio-weapon into the (non-existent) large scale cargo port at Alexandria, VA? Or when the frogmen gain access to The White House via the Potomac River?
The frogmen thing sorta makes some sense depending on how the sewers work out. There's a creek in DC called Tiber Creek that was canalized and then enclosed during the 19th century(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiber_Creek), which ran about where Constitution Avenue is today. So if it's still possible to get into the tunnel from the Potomac you could handwave a connection into existence.
Almost all travel times by car in all seasons are laughably short to anyone who's lived in Southern California, particularly during daytime. This is probably to avoid major characters spending entire episodes driving.
30 Rock: One episode had Jack and Liz travel to Stone Mountain, Georgia (Kenneth's home town) to scout out salt-of-the-earth 'Real American' talent. The real Stone Mountain is firmly within the orbit of metropolitan Atlanta and has a population that's mainly African-American, but the show depicts it as part of Hee Haw Land. Former 30 Rock writer and Stone Mountain native Donald Glover points this out on the DVD commentary.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: When Coulson's team travels to Cleveland, the city features wide streets and sprawling low-level buildings that don't remotely look like a Midwestern city in real life (the streets tend to be narrower and the buildings more vertical compared to southern California). It becomes vaguely amusing when you consider that several Marvel movies have actually filmed in Cleveland.
Angel: In the episode where Angel and the gang visit Lorne in Las Vegas, several of the characters step out of the Tropicana casino (on the south side of the Las Vegas Strip)...and wind up on Fremont Street (with its distinctive lighted canopy) several miles to the northeast.
Angels in America: Joe's mother is standing outside a subway entrance with a sign identifying it as the Clark Street Station. There is a Clark Street Station, and the correct lines were shown ... but the real station has no entrances on the sidewalk. More blatantly, the dialogue suggested she was somewhere other than downtown Brooklyn, where Clark Street is.
Atomic Train: In NBC's made for TV movie, we see several shots of what is supposedly the Denver skyline, populated by such logos as, Canada Trust or the Bank of Nova Scotia.
Additionally, the main plot of the movie is that a train is running away on a 300 mile downhill grade into Denver. In reality, the first roughly 250 miles of the track into Denver runs mostly uphill.
Not to mention the plan to evacuate Denver by taking a tunnel 'straight through the mountain to I70' in order to 'meet up at the refugee camp ... right on the Kansas border.' Kansas is to the east of Denver, the mountains are west(as is the site of the nuclear explosion). Presumably traveling across flat farmland wouldn't have been as dramatic.
The Big Bang Theory: The guys' apartment is supposed to be in the South Lake apartments, where you can see a pristine view of the Downtown Pasadena skyline. Though the angle is correct, that view would be blocked out by much taller office buildings.
Making matters worse, their address was stated in one episode as "2300 North Los Robles". Los Robles Avenue doesn't go that far north, and if it did, the apartment would actually be in neighboring Altadena.
And then in another episode, Leonard lies to Sheldon about using the bathroom at the gas station across the street in order to avoid explaining an after-hours booty call from Penny. Sheldon identifies said gas station as "The Colorado Boulevard Chevron". Colorado Boulevard divides north from south in Pasadena, so 2300 North could not possibly exist within walking distance of Colorado. This may be an intentional case of Where the Hell Is Springfield?.
There's also a fantasy sequence in which Sheldon imagines himself as the Flash, running all the way to the Grand Canyon from his apartment to scream in frustration. When leaving Pasadena, he runs across the Colorado Street Bridge, which is on the western edge of town. The Grand Canyon is in Arizona, east of California. (To be fair, the Flash doesn't necessarily need to take the most direct route, and there aren't really any identifiable landmarks on Pasadena's eastern boundary.)
The Bill: This show is set in East London (albeit a fictional part of it), but filmed in South London, with the frequent result that you see the trains of certain train companies go past that have no business being anywhere near East London (plus the fact that most National Rail lines in East London operate on overhead wires, not third rail). In "Killer on the Run", a character boards a north-bound Northern Line train at Charing Cross, gets off at the next stop and arrives in a mainline rail terminus. You'd have to go a few stops further along to reach one (Euston).
The show has frequent cases when it is clear that the characters are on the wrong side of the Thames.
Bionic Woman: One episode of the new show has a meeting arranged to take place at a sulphur plant on the waterfront... which would be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever been in downtown Vancouver and looked across the harbour at North Vancouver.
Bones: Happens occasionally on this show, which is set in DC but filmed in California. This leads to such geographical wackiness as the team visiting a racetrack in the middle of what appears to be a desert...in Virginia.
The pilot episode of Bones - the very first establishing shot, in fact - shows an airplane coming down in Dulles Airport. The caption tells you that this is "Dulles International Airport, Washington, DC," and it shows a domed building (possibly the Jefferson Memorial, but it didn't look quite right) in the background, along with other clear signs of a large city. First of all, Dulles is not even in DC; it's in, well, Dulles, VA, which is almost on the edge of the DC area. It's not a particularly metropolitan area either, with plenty of open space around. Also, being near the edge of the DC area, there is no way you could see the Jefferson Memorial (or any other major DC landmark) from the airport. No, try driving another hour or so from there, depending on traffic of course. Now, the airport actually just outside DC would be Reagan National, but even from there, the most you could see is the top of the Washington Monument.
One episode set on Assateague, a barrier island, showed large hills in the background. Barrier islands are made of accumulated sand. The largest relief would be ocean-front sand dunes.
Cold Case: Episodes of the later seasons showed instances of this as they gradually moved more of the production from Philadelphia to L.A. A particularly infamous example is the finale of the Season 4 episode, "Offender", which takes place on the rooftop of the Rosslyn Hotel, a noted L.A. landmark, with the Philly skyline edited into the background.
Continuum: A rare aversion since the setting of the show is present-day (and future) Vancouver and its environs, which is where the show was actually filmed. However, the geography within Vancouver itself is not always accurate.
Criminal Minds: The episode "Exit Wounds" supposedly takes place in Franklin, Alaska. The fishing ships in the opening would imply that Franklin is on the ocean. However, Franklin is on a creek, hundreds of miles away from the ocean, and more importantly, is uninhabited. The closest town, Chicken, had a grand total population of 17 in the year 2000. They also mention a Lake Lafayette, and in a state with over three million lakes, there are none named Lafayette. Most TV shows and movies do not to do research when it comes to Alaska, much less do they ever film there.
Taking place all over the US but being filmed in LA gives Criminal Minds this problem quite often. In Roadkill they even invented a whole highway.
CSI: The frequent presence of lush greenery and vegetation, and moderately frequent rain, in desert Las Vegas (filming in LA, also a desert but heavily watered) is often a source of amused derision by show fans. Also, Geoff Duncan has written two articles on the geographical inaccuracy of two outside jobs, one in "Jackpot" and another in the 2004 season premiere.
Actually, most of Los Angeles has Cool-summer Mediterranean climate, with some parts of the county (Pasadena, etc) getting well over 20 inches of rain per year due to the rain shadow.
There's a third unlikely/impossible "outside job" where the team travel to the Nevada town of Sparks (which is, in reality, adjacent to Reno, not Las Vegas). Not only is it in a different county and therefore outside of their jurisdiction... it's also eight hours away.
Dallas: This Iconic soap opera has an absolutely ludicrous commute from South Fork Ranch (3700 Hogge Road, Parker TX 75002) to downtown Dallas. They go down US-75, past the two gold buildings (never adding the brown-brick hotel that was built in between), and somehow enter downtown by going east on the I-30 Causeway. A two-hour commute each way. Always inspires laughs from Texans.
Dead Like Me: This show is nominally set in Seattle, but they never made any effort to disguise the fact that it was actually Vancouver. They often would do beautiful pans across the city and its landmarks.
Dog the Bounty Hunter: This show seems to have suffered as of late this trope. For example, during Baby Lyssa's arrest episode, it appears that Leland and Beth are going in opposite directions from where they're intending to go on the H-1 Freeway via the dialogue. And when they went to Maui to apprehend a fugitive, they seem to be on streets that are blocks away from their intended locations.
Due South: Lampshaded, which is set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto. When they did an episode set in Toronto... they filmed it in Chicago. That's fair, isn't it?
Everybody Loves Raymond: Set in Lynbrook, NY has an episode where Deborah wants to sell Girl Scout cookies in front of the busiest place in Lynbrook, a pizzeria, but is banned from doing so. However, the closest Pizzeria to Fowler Ave (which looks nothing like its TV counterpart) has a Coldstone and a movie theater within 500 feet of it, both of which are far busier than the pizzeria.
The Facts of Life: In one episode, set in Peekskill, New York, Mrs. Garrett brings in the newspaper — the Los Angeles Times, which is not usually found on the porch in New York.
Frasier: No building in Seattle has the view seen from Frasier's window. The shot was taken from the top of a cliff and was chosen so the Space Needle could be prominently seen from the window. Bizarrely, his bedroom window has an entirely different view of the Space Needle. The only filming done in Seattle was for the 100th episode special.
Fringe: In the pre-air pilot, two characters visit a sprawling, isolated storage facility in "Back Bay, Massachusetts." Back Bay is actually a high-end neighborhood in Boston, mainly full of rich people and expensive shops, with a significant lack of storage facilities of any kind. The version of the pilot that eventually aired changed the title card to Chelsea, which is more believable, but the previous scene still has a character claiming that the "Back Bay police" reported suspicious activity in the area.
Also, the show frequently uses title cards that claim shots are taking place at Harvard University. In fact, the show has moved production so many time that perhaps as many as five other universities have doubled for Harvard: none of these buildings resemble anything like the architecture found anywhere on Harvard's campus. During the majority of the first season, when the series was filmed in New York, Yale doubled for Harvard! This also explains why the appearance of the outside of the building where the lab is located has changed over time.
In one episode of the second season, Olivia and Peter go to visit a woman at her house in "Beacon Hill, Massachusetts". In a mistake much like the Back Bay one above, we are shown an evergreen-filled suburban neighborhood of well-detached houses. In reality, Beacon Hill is another high-end Boston neighborhood that is made up entirely of old brick townhouses on narrow, hilly cobblestone streets.
And in Season 1 episode 5, "Power Hungry", supposedly takes place entirely in the medium-sized city of Worcester, Massachusetts. The establishing aerial shots are actually Hartford, Connecticut, as Worcester lacks a picturesque skyline..
An early episode also has a prospective Pattern event ostensibly happen in South Station, but is filmed in a claustrophobic building that doesn't remotely resemble the high-vaulted and open South Station. On top of that "The Box" has a scene take place in Kent Street Station, underground. Except Kent Street is on the C line, above ground, and isn't a station so much as, well, a stop.
Glee: One could sit here all day listing everything the show gets wrong about Ohio. Even if we limit the discussion to geography alone, the state must be significantly smaller in tv-land. Characters leisurely drive to cities that are nowhere near Lima, which is in Northwest Ohio near the Indiana border to the east of Fort Wayne. Westerville—the home of Dalton Academy—is a suburb of Columbus, and Akron—home of Vocal Adrenaline—is near Cleveland. Both would be a two-hour drive barring traffic, bad weather, or construction (this being Ohio, you're bound to hit at least one on a good day), and not even mentioning besides Dayton or Toledo, Lima doesn't have directly connecting interstate highways eastward outside of the slower U.S. Highway 30. Of course, the 'bad side' of Lima, known in the show as Lima Heights Adjacent, doesn't exist, as Lima really doesn't have any heights unless you look up from the east side's rock quarries, and outside of a couple townships, no other towns are adjacent to Lima.
Grey's Anatomy: The hospital can't seem to decide if it's near Downtown Seattle or not. The hospital's landing pad scenes are filmed at Fisher Plaza north of downtown (named for the former owners of the Seattle ABC affiliate which have their studios there), yet in season 7 Dr. Yang asks for directions to the Space Needle (it's across the street from where you've worked for years...). Most windows in soundstage sets show urban views yet the main entrance window shows what is clearly the vast suburbia of the San Fernando Valley. To their credit, they seem to have made a better effort than other Seattle-based entries on this list.
Happy Days: Frequently displayed palm trees in what was supposed to be Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I think you're thinking of Laverne & Shirley, which moved to California in its later seasons. And of course the iconic episode where Fonzie did something that changed everything. (He did end up moving to a "singles community" in the final episode with a vaguely Polynesian theme and fake palm trees— a sad end for what was once the coolest man in America.)
The episode "Voodoo Doll" is just painful. Despite having a stock footage opening shot of the real Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras...the Hollywood backlot not only didn't bother to make buildings that looked like New Orleans, but the ep also refers to addresses that don't exist and has the Hardys wandering through a wide, spacious, bury-them-below-ground cemetery...never mind that cemeteries in NOLA in the Quarter are all bury-them-above-ground due to the high water table and jammed-packed.
"Creatures Who Came On Sunday" has the Hardys driving from Massachusetts to New Mexico, just to help a friend, while supposedly en route to Las Vegas; that's at least a 5 day road trip. But then they start talking as if Las Vegas is just a short distance away...when it's easily a 10 hour drive. And we won't mention that Frank's using a map of Montana to get through New Mexico...
The Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew Meet Dracula shows the correct stock footage shots of Dracula's Castle (there's actually several, but they use Poenari Castle in Romania)...but then show people driving cars right up to the castle entrance for a major rock festival. In reality, the castle is only accessible by climbing a long, narrow, zig-zaggy staircase up the wooded mountain.
Mystery of the African Safari has Kenya, Africa looking amazingly like the San Diego Zoo; the episode was shot in the zoo, uses the zoo's boat ride, and even uses stock footage of the monkey exhibit as "wild monkeys".
Speaking of Africa, "Mystery of King Tut's Tomb" states that the Hardy Boys are driving down to meet their father in Kenya, as if it's just a short jaunt — from Cairo, in Egypt. That's a trip of over two thousand miles, at least an 8-day road trip, in a little beat-up VW microbus, through rather inhospitable terrain, little to no tourist facilities, and through countries that — at the time — were hostile towards the US.
Haven: In one season 1 episode, there is a wide panning shot of Haven Harbor in Maine. A big ol' Canadian flag can be seen flapping in the breeze (since it's really Nova Scotia).
It is possible to see Canadian flags flying in Maine, especially as you get closer to Canada.
Hawaii Five-O: The original show averts this (somewhat) by being mostly filmed in Hawaii. (Exception: "The Singapore File," where Hawaii played Singapore - although the two-part "Once Upon A Time" and the two-hour episodes "Nine Dragons" and "The Year Of The Horse," respectively set mainly in California, Hong Kong and Singapore, averted this trope.) The reboot not so much, despite also being filmed in Hawaii.
Like rushing on to Ford Island to get to a ship docked in Honolulu Harbor.
Someone in a SUV gets attacked near Hilton Hawaiian Village after passing Aloha Tower on the way to Hickam AFB.
A chase sequence featuring an escaped convict shows him driving towards the airport, taking the airport exit off H-1 (which would put him about 2 minutes away from the check-in lobby, not including time to park the car), then turning around at a roadblock on a four-lane road that clearly isn't anywhere near the airport (probably in Leeward Oahu, along Kualakai Parkway), followed by him traveling along the H-3 freeway. The convict then somehow manages to exit the freeway in the middle of Halawa Valley (something impossible to do between Halawa Interchange and the Harano tunnels, short of pulling to the side of the road and jumping off the viaduct), and hijacks a Makani Kai tour helicopter even though said company is located near the airport itself and there aren't any heliports in Halawa Valley. The rest of the episode was reasonably good about avoiding this trope, which only makes it worse.
Two words: Waikiki Bay.
Lex Brodie appears to have relocated their Honolulu store from Queen St. to Ala Wai Blvd.
The McGarrett house is in the middle of Ala Moana Beach Park.
North Korea looks awfully jungle-y for a place with long, cold winters.
"A ia la aku" begins with an Establishing Shot of the Central skyline in downtown Hong Kong. The very next shot has a graphic saying "Kowloon, Hong Kong", which would be where that view would be taken from, as we see skyscrapers passing above in what is supposed to be a shot from a moving vehicle. However, one of them is the Bank of China Tower, indicating quite clearly that Adam and Kono (who we see next getting out of a car in an alley that's clearly the art director's impression of Hong Kong) are in Central themselves, across Victoria Harbour from Kowloon.
Heroes: Pretty much everything is filmed in or near Los Angeles, including the fictional town of Costa Verde.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The exterior of Paddy's is often shown briefly from an angle where you can see a street sign in the background that looks just like one from Philly. Look closer. The sign says "Second." Numbered streets in Philly go "2nd," "3rd" and so on; the word is not written out. (The exterior was shot in LA).
In one episode, Harm's partner is kidnapped by a gang in South Central Los Angeles. They tell Harm to drive back to Camp Pendleton, grab one of their members who has joined the Marines, and bring him back in one hour. Camp Pendleton is 90 miles from Los Angeles - even with no traffic it would be extremely difficult to make the drive down there in one hour, let alone back.
In several episodes they also drive awfully fast, judging by the titled Zulu times, from Washington, D.C. to both Norfolk and Blacksburg in Virginia.
While working briefly as a cropduster, Harm commuted daily from Washington to Blacksburg! That's 269 miles each way, according to Google Maps.
Justified: Main character Raylan Givens is a US Marshal working out of Lexington, KY. However much of his time is spent investigating people in Harlan county, which he is constantly driving to and from there. In reality, it's about a three hour drive each way under the best of conditions.
The League: The only thing that's actually filmed in Chicago is the B-roll footage. One scene from Season 3 appears to have been shot in the same alley used for the location of Paddy's Pub from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Leverage: In the Season 1 episode "The Stork Job", the team take a job in Belgrade, Serbia. However, the city in the establishing shot is Budapest, Hungary, with the Liberty Statue, Buda Castle, and Chain Bridge clearly visible.
Buda Castle appears again in Season 2, "The Zanzibar Marketplace Job", as the "Museum of Art, Kiev".
Life Unexpected: Good news: The producers got pretty much every detail about Portland (the show's setting) correct. Bad news: That's pretty much where all the effort went.
Little House on the Prairie: Note the title, taken directly from the series of autobiographical children's novels, with its reference to the lush, rolling grasslands characteristic of much of central North America. The TV series is specifically set about midway through the trek, in Minnesota. Anybody surprised that the onscreen scenery routinely featured Southern California-style mountains, trees, scrub-brush, chaparral, etc? Didn't think so.
Lost: Naturally enough, uses Honolulu as a stand-in for such diverse cities as Seoul and LA and Sydney and Edinburgh. One scene with Jin and Sun set in Korea takes place along the distinctive (and famously dirty) Ala Wai Canal. In another scene with Kate set somewhere in the southern US, palm trees are visible (which might be plausible for Florida, granted) and several buses drive by with the distinctive livery of Honolulu's transit service.
Series/M*A*S*H: While the 4077th MASH is supposed to be stationed in and around Uijeongbu, South Korea, the hillsides and plains look very suspiciously like the terrain of Southern California. Also, the regular sub-arctic temperatures depicted in multiple episodes such as "Baby It's Cold Outside" simply do not occur to the magnitude depicted on the show.
Mantracker: The episode "Jim and Nichola" is filmed in Carcross, Yukon, Canada; but while the highly detailed zero-in GPS map is clean and linear, the actual scenery and locale are decidedly not so. The episode jumps back and forth between Montana Mountain and the south-east side of Carcross, to the dunes and desert and beach on the other side with absolutely no linear travel whatsoever, and there is no sign of the town itself, though they would've been absolutely forced to cross one of the bridges there or likely drown in the powerful currents of either Windy Arm or Bennett Lake. Additionally, the GPS map itself is nearly 100% inaccurate, and none of the focus spots matches any of the locations actually filmed.
McCloud: The episode "Night of the Shark" was set (and filmed) in Sydney, Australia (unlike the later "London Bridges," which despite involving London wasn't shot there). One scene shows McCloud dashing across the Sydney Harbour Bridge into the city centre. Except that he is going across the bridge in the wrong direction and would actually be heading away from the city.
Midnight Man: Not only is Westminster tube station not served by the Northern line, the Jubilee line platforms there have glass barriers for safety. It's clearly the closed Charing Cross Jubilee platforms being used.
Though set in San Francisco, this show is mostly filmed in Los Angeles. This was painfully evident in "Mr. Monk Is Up All Night" when Monk goes to a train station and both the external and internal shots clearly identify it as Union Station in Downtown LA. So one wonders just how far he wandered off into the night.
"Mr. Monk and the Other Detective" referenced the San Bruno train station, which on screen was next to a hilly wooded area where they found a body. You couldn't possibly really hide a body near the real San Bruno train station, since there's a densely built neighborhood about 50 feet away from the tracks... on flat ground... with no palm trees.
In "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing," a house catches fire and a young woman is killed. Stottlemeyer says in the alleyway scene that the house is in the same area of the city as the alley dumpster where the fireman's coat and hat were found, which is said to be the Tenderloin. Except the house shown is clearly in a suburban residential neighborhood. The Tenderloin is a rough neighborhood of downtown San Francisco where there are single row occupancy units, not nice homes.
Furthermore, the firehouse where Monk is blinded is said to be five blocks from the scene of the fire, but the buildings around the garage in the establishing shot clearly do not look anything like the Tenderloin region, which is also very hilly. In fact, based on the appearance of the surrounding area, it would be more realistic if the firehouse was in the Sunset District of San Francisco.
"Mr. Monk is On The Run" Part Two depicts Riverton, California as a small town. It's actually just an unincorporated community on US Highway 50.
In that same episode, you see Stottlemeyer receive a postcard from Monk, in hiding. The address shown on the card is for the city of San Francisco with the zipcode 90019. That's actually the zipcode for Los Angeles. The actual zip code for the address shown, after checking with the U.S. Postal Service website, is 94105.
Likewise, in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert," though there is no valley close to San Francisco inside the SFPD jurisdiction that would match the description of the valley where the concert grounds are, a nice aversion comes if you notice that there is a postcard in Greg Murray's trailer addressed to a postal box with an actual San Francisco zipcode (94188).
Monk's apartment in the novels is said to be on Pine Street a few blocks west of Van Ness Boulevard. However, establishing shots show the apartment as being on the southeast corner of a street with the east-west street immediately descending a steep hill. That's because the actual apartment used is not on Pine Street at all, but is actually at the southeast corner of Taylor Street and Broadway.
Murder, She Wrote: In one episode, a character is referred to as coming from a small town 20 miles east of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Twenty miles east of Sheboygan would put you deep in the heart of Lake Michigan (west would put you in the village of Glenbeulah, which might be what the writers were going for). And no, there isn't even an inhabited island in the vicinity.
NCIS: One episode had them going to a trailer storage area across from the Walmart in Lynchburg, Virginia. There is one Walmart in Lynchburg and no room across the street from it for about anything because of a railroad track.
Newhart: The opening is not filmed in Vermont, but near Squam Lake, New Hampshire.
Except for the exterior of the inn, which is actually in E. Middlebury, Vt, on the other side of the state from N.H.
Another episode of the show had the cast go on a party boat ride on Lake Wallenpaupack. This took place during the winter, a time of year when in real life no boats are permitted on the lake. It's also not really deep enough for a boat as big as the one shown in the episode. Again, all because it was actually Long Beach Harbor.
In another episode Michael and Dwight are shown taking the train to Philadelphia. Despite efforts to re-establish it via Amtrak, no intercity passenger rail has served Scranton since the 1960s.
Every so often, when the characters go driving through Pennsylvania, you can spot palm trees outside the window.
Police, Camera, Action!: This show made this mistake twice. First of all, they mentioned "Lancashire Police" in an episode where a sign saying "Sale, Cheadle A6144" was mentioned, and that's in Greater Manchester. Then they mentioned "the M25 in London", except the footage showed Sevenoaks...which is in Kent.
Police Squad!: Spoofed, where the Roman Colosseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa are back-projected during a trip to "Little Italy."
Power Rangers: Has been filmed for the last several years in New Zealand, with geography that is obviously not North American. And the seasons reversed. Some Lampshade Hanging has been employed with minor characters being "sent to New Zealand" to get rid of them. Of course, through the show's entire history, Stock Footage obviously shot in Japan has been commonplace, leading to the overwhelming prevalence of Japanese cars (not Everybody Owns a Ford in this universe), Japanese signage, a usually large number of HOV and bicycle lanes, and extras who spontaneously become Asian.
The 15th season went even further in their mistakes as the Rangers were constantly visiting other countries in their quest. They visit the Florida Everglades which, unlike the real place, has a very noticeable mountain range in the background.
On another occasion they visit Stonehenge in Britain. The field in which it's set is supposed to be flat, with a fence surrounding the structure itself and two roads very close by. Neither the roads nor the fence can be seen in the episode and the field is fairly hilly.
When launching one particular jet zord from their base in California, Mt. Fuji can be seen in the background.
In a possibly karmic turnabout the ending to Juken Sentai Gekiranger was also filmed (at least in part) in New Zealand. With a Bank New Zealand logo clearly visible on one storefront.
Magiranger's opening credits were also filmed in New Zealand.
Primeval: Everything happens in or around London, according to their website. Including Episode One, which was set and filmed in the Forest of Dean (in Gloucestershire!).
They're not even trying in season 4, where Matt's flat has a view of Dublin's Smithfield, including the very distinctive streetlights, Jameson's distillery chimney and LUAS stop.
Psych: One episode opens with Shawn telling Chief Vick that's he's going skiing, and she asks where he'd ski in the middle of summer; cut to Whistler, just over a hundred kilometers from Vancouver, with typical summer lows around seven degrees (the resort is used for bikes in the summer). Most of the action takes place in the even warmer seaside Vancouver, because Shawn and Gus went there (again, roughly a hundred kilometers away) upon seeing a criminal instead of going to the Whistler police, for no obvious reason. Even so, everyone acts like it's below freezing for the entire episode, even during the day, when it would likely be around twenty.
Maybe they didn't realize that those temperatures were in Celsius? Maybe they just looked up the weather there and thought it was in Fahrenheit? 'Cause they acted like it was around 20 F.
Psych is filmed in Vancouver. So someone should have worked it out.
The Season 8 opener ("Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster's Goblet of Fire") is set in London. It is obviously filmed on soundstages and on location in and around Vancouver, like the rest of the series. This trope is heavily lampshaded in the closing scene.
Queer As Folk US: The US version was set in Pittsburgh, complete with a Gayborhood centered around Liberty Avenue. There is in fact a Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, but it is an average downtown street and not the gay village (that would be Shadyside, and Liberty does not go through it), nor does it look even remotely as it is depicted in the show. The series was filmed in Toronto. Lampshaded in the episode where some of the main cast actually travel to Toronto and walk along Church Street remarking how similar it looks to Liberty Avenue, even pointing out that there is a bar called Woody's, just like the (fictional) one in Pittsburgh (Woody's is a real bar in Toronto.) Also in the same episode: All Canadians Are Polite, shown when two big Leather Men bump into Debbie on the street and then apologize profusely.
The Real World: Early in the San Francisco season, when the housemates are preparing to assemble, two of them are shown flying into Nashville to pick up Jon in Owensboro, Kentucky. The following road shot depicts a sign on Interstate 24 in Kentucky—which is nowhere near the actual route one would take from Nashville to Owensboro.
Rebus: In one episode of the series, John Rebus's car stalls out and starts smoking on a hill overlooking central Edinburgh. One cut later, and he deposits it somewhere west of Forth Bridge, roughly in the area of East Shore Wood, having apparently limped bloody miles in a smoking car. If the shot hadn't blatantly included the Forth Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge (the position of the former beyond the latter makes his location very clear) then the scene wouldn't be so ridiculous in hindsight.
Revolution: The depiction of Chicago is... questionable at best, such as the shot of the skyline going dark that appears to be viewed from a significant rise; the flooding to the marquee of the Chicago Theater (IE, some 40 feet above the level of the nearby river); and the completely imaginary neighborhood crowding against the base of the John Hancock building.
Ripping Yarns: In Whinfrey's Last Case, Whinfrey arrives at the remote Cornish railway station of Saltash, and a short taxi trip takes him to his even more remote holiday cottage. In reality, Saltash is on the Cornish border, within sight of the city of Plymouth (on the south coast), with the station being approached over one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's most famous bridges (absent from the episode), while the cottage and its environs appear appear to be on the distant north Cornish coast. Excusable as it is comedy.
Rubicon: Note to the makers: The Acela train from New York to Washington, D.C. leaves from Penn Station, not Grand Central.
7Days: One old episode had Parker chasing the Villain of the Week through Washington, DC. Specifically, from the White House (across the street from the Capitol!), past the Washington Monument, down the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, and back to the White House, where he collapses out of breath. You would be, too, if you'd just run 5 miles in 12 seconds.
Shoebox Zoo: In the first episode of this little-known BBC kids' programme, the protagonist and her father leave a small independent cinema (The Dominion, a real cinema in Edinburgh, Scotland) and in the very next shot are walking down Cockburn Street two and a half miles away.
Simon & Simon: Set in San Diego, but mostly filmed in Los Angeles, aside from a few inserts here and there. And they did things like taking Balboa Avenue (which does exist in S.D.) to reach Balboa Park (which also exists, but Balboa Avenue does not go to it, or past it, or anywhere near it). Oops.
Nominally set in San Francisco, yet clearly actually filmed in Vancouver — is notorious for this. One memorable example features the nonexistent Van Ness "BART" station.
In the premiere, Quinn leaves his Midwestern-looking neighborhood (you don't see many brick houses in California, for a reason) and jogs across Golden Gate Park to the Berkeley campus. Meanwhile Rembrandt, needing to get to Candlestick Park — which is due south of his home on Telegraph Hill — in a hurry, proceeds due west on Lombard Street.
In fairness to the show, however, production was shifted to Hollywood from season three onwards. Cue California Doubling (though most of the show still had them basically in California).
Smallville: Metropolis, which is supposed to be near Smallville, Kansas in this setting, has a dock.
The Sopranos: This show is actually quite good about their locations, as any Joisey troper can tell you. They do tend to play fast and loose with driving times, though.
Spenser: Boston-area residents were amused when car chases frequently took a corner at high speed and suddenly found themselves on a street on the other side of the city. Averted in certain episodes, when locations were correctly identified as used as most locals would. One example would be what was supposed to be a romantic picnic near an old stone grist mill while staying at a nearby hotel; the mill is in Sudbury and is attached to the Wayside Inn - a popular spot for weddings and other romantic getaways.
Spooks Code 9: This show was filmed in Yorkshire, so when they needed a flashback scene for someone driving from London, they just used a nearby motorway junction. The direction of the shot implies it was the series' actual location was bombed.
Stargate SG-1: (filmed in Vancouver) In the episode "Memento Mori", Cameron Mitchell is on a highway presumably in Colorado (as that's where Cheyenne Mountain is). The roadsign says "Surrey", and there's no Surrey in Colorado.
In fact, every time SG-1 does scenes outside the base and not in generic wilderness invokes this trope. To a Colorado Springs (the city at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain) native, the gas station shots from season 6 episode "Sight Unseen," and to a lesser extent, the whole of season 8 episode "Affinity," shatter the suspension of disbelief. The shots of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex entrance, however, are spot on (being actual footage of the location).
The problem with their use of actual footage is that the same truck seems to enter the complex every day for ten years.
Lampshaded repeatedly both on SG-1 and Atlantis when characters will point out that all of the planets they visit seem to look an awful lot like Canada. Both shows were filmed in and around Vancouver.
Word of God is that they tried to put a Canadian reference into each episode, because all of it was filmed in Canada.
Supernatural: Often has the brothers Winchester driving from place to place in a ridiculously short space of time - including, in one episode, Dean getting from Kansas to Colorado and back in a couple of hours.
Well, the two states do border each other, so it's more a question of where in Colorado and Kansas they're traveling between.
There was a great one in Season Five where the boys manage to go from Elk Creek, Nebraska to Alliance, Nebraska and back in the space of an afternoon. It's about an eight-hour drive one-way (six if you're heavy on the gas and light on the rest-stops.)
Also spoofed in one episode where the brothers Winchester visit a Hollywood studio and Sam comments that the place looks like Canada. Supernatural is, of course, filmed in Vancouver.
Actually averted in one episode. They arrive in Portland, OR, and are eating donuts out of a distinctive pink box, the trademark of a locally famous company. (Then played straight when they have to hunt through the sewers for something that would normally hide in tunnels, despite Portland having large and distinctive tunnels underneath most of the city.)
Sam also once managed to get to Indiana from California in the span of a few hours... which would have taken at least thirty-five, give or take.
To give benefit of the doubt, if this was the "Scarecrow" episode, Sam got stuck in a bus station somewhere, waiting for the bus to L.A., and we were never told where that bus station was. He might never have actually made it out of the state of Indiana in the first place or perhaps only made it to neighboring Illinois before stealing the car to get back to Dean.
Third Watch: This show is an interesting case. It is set and filmed in New York, but the 55th Precinct seems to cover the whole city. (Filming took place across all 5 boroughs.)
The street containing the police station and firehouse is in Long Island City, Queens.
The "5x" Precincts are usually found in The Bronx.
Trial and Retribution: One episode of this UK crime drama features a character landing at London City Airport. However, the place has grass - the real London City is in the middle of East London and pretty near the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.
Especially egregious because the main reason anyone flies to London City rather than Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted is because it's handy for the business district.
The Unit: One episode set in London has three errors - using an establishing shot of the MI6 HQ and stating it is that of MI5, having St. Stephen's Tower (aka Big Ben) visible at ground level in the City of London and the wrong licence plate format for the UK.
The format changed from A123XYZ (or ABC123Z if really old) to AB51XYZ in 2001, and there are still loads of cars with the old registration plate format. Or maybe it was a foreign car, they're not unknown in London?
Warehouse 13: One Season 1 episode had Peter and Myke travel to Chicago to investigate a series of unusual bank robberies. One outdoor scene showed streetcar tracks and a blue streetsign for York Av., Chicago, like most US cities, abandoned streetcars many years ago, and the streetsigns there are green, not blue. The shot is a dead giveaway for Toronto, where the series is filmed.
Several Season 2 establishing shots for Secret Service Headquarters are actually of the Colorado Supreme Court building in Denver, Colorado.
Will & Grace: Set in New York, Will's policeman boyfriend Vince receives a page to participate in a "187" investigation. He is pleased to be called in to investigate a murder. But 187 is the California police code for murder.
Wonderfalls: This short-lived TV show was set in Niagara Falls, New York. Every shot of the waterfall depicted in the show, and the American-side gift shop where the main character works, is from the Ontario side. Additionally, in one episode, they are shown traveling to Canada through a border crossing surrounded by land on all sides, which implies that they drove a few hundred miles northeast or southwest to avoid using any of the Buffalo-Niagara area crossings, all of which involve bridges over the Niagara River.
The DVD commentary points out a scene between Jaye and her sister: an in-person (not phone) conversation where, because of location issues, Jaye's part was filmed in the US and her sister is standing in what is recognizably the Canadian side. Maybe they just have excellent hearing?
In the pilot, Mandy drives all around the National Mall, in which time she drives past places that are way too far apart, manages to avoid any traffic or the many, many pedestrians that usually are swarming around the Mall.
The X-Files: The first 5 seasons were filmed in Vancouver. On David Duchovny's insistence, they relocated to Los Angeles. At least a few fans complained that the new, sunny location didn't have the same gloomy atmosphere as its more northern predecessor.
One episode of The X-Files features a train rolling through an area of jagged hills, scrub brush, and very little green vegetation of any sort. In Iowa, of all places, where basically the entire state is green because if there's available land, somebody's planted corn or soybeans on top of it.
The episode "Chimera" is set in Vermont in early April. The establishing shot opens onto an Easter picnic. The grass is a vivid bright green, and the children are running around in short-sleeved shirts and jeans or shorts, as are their parents. This is hilarious for any Vermont native (any New England native) because the temperature in Vermont in early April hovers in the mid-30's and there is usually still a good amount of snow on the ground. And even if there isn't snow, the grass is certainly not green. It's called "mud season" for a reason. This seems so ironic, too, for the episode, since other details—like area code and zip code (the fictional town Bethany is given real town Bethel's zip code) were correct. And of course, the vegetation is all off for Vermont, the result of filming in California.
The season 2 episode "Die Hand Die Verletzt" is set in New Hampshire, with many shots filmed in the woods. There is only one problem. Seasons 1-5 were filmed in Vancouver, which has a temperate rainforest feel, while New England has a temperate broadleaf/mixed forest. In other words, those who live in New England can easily spot that most of the trees and ferns simply do not grow in New Hampshire.
An episode set in the Buffalo area suggests that it's possible to take a commuter train to West Seneca, a suburb south of the city. Buffalo has no commuter rail service.
In another episode in the Cleveland area, two characters are seen parked where they view Cleveland's skyline across the water, as if they were on an island or peninsula in Lake Erie. There aren't any.