50 best television shows set across the United States

38 of 52

Oregon: The Bates Motel

The premise: Inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho, The Bates Motel tells the story of Norman Bates as a young man, and his life with his mother, Norma. Norma, after a series of toxic and abusive relationships, moves her and her high-school-aged son to a small town in Oregon. Norman has an unsettlingly close relationship with his mother, and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s not a normal teenage boy.

The setting: Even as the series is set as an unorthodox prequel to the 1960 film, it takes place in a totally different town, the fictional White Pine Bay. The town doesn’t have much glossy charm as some of the other small towns on this list. In fact, it has a real gloomy vibe that hints at bad things that exist just below the surface. The town’s politicians and law enforcement officers are all in on the open secret of the crimes happening, and Norma and Norman are taken by surprise by how much bad stuff goes down in this town.

The most Oregon thing about it: There’s a lot of really shady stuff that goes on, but the show tries to sell us a marijuana crime ring as the main problem in season 1. The characters involved were drawn far too sinisterly for them to just be peddling weed, but Bates made them seem like the kind of big bad we should all be afraid of.