50 best television shows set across the United States

25 of 52

Mississippi: In The Heat Of The Night

The premise: A Philadelphia cop comes back to his hometown for his mother’s funeral, and gets offered the job of chief of detectives. Tibbs, an African-American man, has a history with the white chief of police, Gillespie, and their history together make for a great crime-solving team.

Tibbs eventually goes to law school and returns back to his town to work as an attorney, after retiring from Gillespie’s police force. Gillespie loses favor with the town and gets fired as police chief, but then regains an equally powerful position as county sheriff.

The setting: The show is set in Sparta, Mississippi, and the setting is critical as it takes on issues of race and identity. Mississippi is a place fraught with antiquated ideas about race and gender, and this show used existing attitudes to create tension. It was groundbreaking and progressive and is an extremely important contribution to the canon of TV set in the South.

The most Mississippi thing about it: Although the show started out as a “crime of the week” type of show, it later evolved to focus more on the New South-era characters. The characters, and their stories, were interesting and rich, much like the real-life residents of the state today.