Louie (on the phone with his agent): “Why’d you book me in KC? They hate me there.”
Louie’s agent talks him into doing a live phone interview with a Kansas City radio station, which turns out to be one of those inane shock-jock shows with a blathering DJ exchanging indecipherable patter with a braying sidekick. Frustrated with the interview, Louie half jokingly says “Kansas City is the worst town I’ve ever been in…What a dump! It’s the worst city in North America, and that includes Canada and Mexico.”
(Louie hears silence on the other end, then a hasty “thank you” from the DJ, followed by “click.”)
Louie’s Kansas City slam probably stemmed from a real-life bad experience Louis C.K. had headlining at Stanford’s comedy club. He related the incident to Jay Leno last year on The Tonight Show, on which he called KC “a terrible place.”
Kansas City received a less-rancorous but more-mysterious call-out on an episode of The Simpsons last year. In The Book Job, which spoofs the publishing industry and “caper” movies like Ocean’s Eleven, Lisa Simpson is shocked to discover that, in order to ensure profit, book-publishing executives use market research to conceive popular young-adult novels, which are then ghostwritten by otherwise unemployable lit majors.
Throughout the episode, the following exchange of dialog occurs (perhaps as homage to KC’s mafia history, or to mob movies like Casino):
Bart: “This better not turn out like Kansas City.”
Homer: “It won’t be like Kansas City.”
If there’s a point to these two recent random TV references, it’s that Kansas City remains a mystery city to most TV viewers. Nationally, TV audiences know sports teams like the Royals and the Chiefs and the song Kansas City and maybe have vague associations of KC as being a hub for barbecue and jazz.
However, people who haven’t been to KC have no idea what it’s like or looks like. That’s partly because no blockbuster movies or popular, long-running TV shows have been based in Kansas City—as they have in other Midwest cities, such as Cincinnati (WKRP), Minneapolis (Mary Tyler Moore), Chicago (Bob Newhart, ER, Chicago Hope and many others).
However, much like two current shows set somewhere in Indiana (Parks and Recreation and The Middle), many sitcoms have been set in the fictional suburbs of Kansas City and fictional towns in the state of Kansas. In the 1950s, Phil Silver’s Sergeant Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) was originally set in Fort Baxter, a sleepy, unremarkable U.S. Army post in the fictional town of Roseville, Kan. In the 1960s F Troop was set at Fort Courage, Kan.—a fictional United States Army outpost in the Old West—shortly after the American Civil War.
More recently, Married to the Kellys was an American sitcom that aired on ABC from 2003 to 2004 was set in a fictional suburb of Kansas City. The show, originally titled Back to Kansas, followed the adventures of a single-child New Yorker adjusting to life with his wife's large, close-knit suburban family.
Most recently, United States of Tara, an American television comedy-drama created by Diablo Cody, which first aired on Showtime in 2009, followed the life of Tara (Toni Collette), a suburban Kansas City housewife and mother coping with dissociative identity disorder. Principal photography took place in Los Angeles, while the show’s setting is located in Overland Park, Kan.
Finally, sometimes a show’s setting remains purposely vague. Mama’s Family (a 1980s series based on a Carol Burnett Show sketch, starring Vicki Carr) is set in the fictional town of “Raytown,” which was supposedly based on Raytown, Mo., but seems more like small town in the Deep South than a Midwest suburban city.