Rhode Island in the Limelight: Television

Rhode Island in the Limelight: Television

Which city was described as a pit? Where did Agent Mulder's family spend their summers?

Old television showing static
Image source: radiotvnut/videokarma.org.

Up until the last few years, television has had very little use for Rhode Island. Now, every other show seems to be set in the Ocean State. Is it because of the Providence Renaissance? The natural beauty of our coastline? Our lovable accents? Below we've tried our best to list every television show with a Rhode Island connection, however tenuous. If you know of one we've missed, drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org.

For further information on television production in Rhode Island, see the Rhode Island Film and Television Office website.

Warning: Here there be spoilers!

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A Bear for Punishment

(1951) cartoon

Rhode Island is often the punch line of jokes, perhaps for no better reason than its own improbable existence, as in this Warner Brothers cartoon starring the Three Bears:

Junyer Bear: I will fill your favorite pipe for you, dear old dad, Pa. G-U-N-P-O-W-D-E-R, duh, "tobacco." I am a good speller, I am. C-A-T, "dog." B-A-T, "Rhode Island."

Cartoons in this era were originally produced as short subjects to be viewed at movie theaters, but heck, we grew up with them on television, so we include them here on the television page.

Rhode Island reference at 1:34:

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Adventures of Superman

(1952-'58) adventure series

Contrary to popular belief, the Industrial Trust Tower (1927) in Providence was not the model for the Daily Planet. The newspaper's building exterior in the series is actually Los Angeles City Hall, completed in 1928. Although the structures share a similar style, they were designed by separate teams of architects.

Black and white exterior view of Industrial Trust Building
Providence's Industrial Trust Tower. (Circa 1928 postcard).

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Gilligan's Island

(CBS, 1964-'67) situation comedy

Wikipedia notes that Thurston Howell III is a resident of Newport, or at least implies he spent some of his formative years there. The entry on his wife, Lovey Howell, further allows that the wealthy couple owns residences in every state.

Thurston Howell III and Lovey.
The Howells. (Image from Tumblr).

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The Munsters

(CBS, 1964-'66) situation comedy

Another joke at the expense of Rhode Island (and noted short actor Mickey Rooney) comes from this show's season one, episode three, entitled "Walk on the Mild Side." Grandpa (Al Lewis) shows off his "enlarging machine," invented to make grandson Eddie (Butch Patrick) taller:

Grandpa: Why, with this machine, I could make Rhode Island the size of Texas. We'll make millions, and I'll make them bigger! I could even make the world's biggest Mickey Rooney!

The episode originally aired October 8, 1964.

Grandpa, Eddie, and Marilyn Munster discussing Grandpa's invention
(Image from midnitereviews.com).

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Dark Shadows

(1966-'71) gothic soap opera

Newport's Seaview Terrace (aka the Carey Mansion, aka Burnham-by-the-Sea) provided some of the eerie exterior atmosphere for Collinsport, Maine's, Collinwood Mansion in this cult-classic gothic soap opera. Another Newport location was reportedly the Black Pearl Restaurant on Bannister's Wharf, which in the series was called the Blue Whale.

Screenshot of Dark Shadows opening credit sequence
(Image from Youtube).

The connection between these and other real-life and fictional places was highlighted in a 1999 documentary called Dark Shadows on Location.

Postcard of Burnham-by-the-Sea
This postcard dates from the period of 1950-'68, when the mansion was "Burnham-by-the-Sea, summer vacation school for girls..."

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Super Chicken

(ABC, 1967) cartoon series

George of the Jungle was brought to us by the same twisted minds that created Rocky and Bullwinkle, and like that Cold-War classic, it included segments starring supporting players. One of these was Super Chicken, which chronicled the adventures of the titular character and his sidekick, a lion named Fred. In the second episode, September 16, 1967's "One of Our States is Missing," an evil villain tows Rhode Island out to sea. The episode is riddled with Rhode Island jabs and jibes, beginning with a scene in which an airliner comes in for a landing in Providence:

Pilot: Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts, we are about to land at Providence, Rhode Island.
Co-pilot: Chauncy, are you sure that's Providence?
Pilot: What's it look like?
Co-pilot: Looks to me like there's nothing there.
Pilot: That's Providence all right. Set 'er down, Edgar.

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Wacky Races

(CBS, 1968-'70) cartoon series

Based on the 1965 film The Great Race, this cartoon series follows eleven sets of odd characters as they vie to win races with their equally bizarre vehicles. The villain of the piece is Dick Dastardly who, along with his sometimes faithful dog Muttley, takes every opportunity to cheat. Many of the episode titles are a play on words of place names, and it was the title "Rhode Island Road Race" (first aired on November 9, 1968), that brought the show to our attention.

The episode itself has dang little to do with Rhode Island (beyond an early reference from the narrator that the racers are on their way to Rocky Road, Rhode Island), and the title was clearly chosen merely in order to use a pair of alliterative homophones. Still, the endlessly repeating background scenery is vaguely reminiscent of New England, with stone walls, split-rail fences, farm houses, fields, steepled churches, and covered bridges rolling by. About half-way through the episode the racers roar into Big Town, population 50,000. There, Dastardly directs one racer into a subway, then detours everyone else onto the girders of a partially built skyscraper.

It's ultimately pointless to try to discuss the correlations between a cartoon and the real world (after all, this is a medium where an anvil dropped on someone's head merely raises a very tall bump), but we can at least agree that the writers of this episode were completely unfamiliar with Little Rhody.

Screenshot of Dick Dastardly in his car
(Image from Dailymotion.com).

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All My Children

(ABC, 1970-2011) soap opera

Rhode Island Monthly dutifully reported in its June 1992 issue that "the characters [of] Dr. Chuck Tyler and his wife, Donna, are leaving the fictional town of Pine Valley for... Rhode Island, where Dr. Tyler is assuming the post of chief of medicine at none other than Rhode Island Hospital." When contacted by the magazine, the actual chief of medicine at the hospital, Dr. Albert Most, seemed to take the news of his replacement in stride. "It might be a job exchange," he mused. "I've always had my eyes on a career in the soaps. The trade might satisfy both of us."

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The Odd Couple

(ABC, 1970-'75) situation comedy

Igor sitting up in his casket
Igor. (horrorhostgraveyard.com).

Site visitor Bob alerted us to the existence of an episode with a Rhode Island reference; eferruci came up with the episode title, "The Odd Candidate" (S5E7, aired October 24, 1974); and Len filled us in on the specifics:

Felix has persuaded Oscar to run for city council and, as part of the campaign, has arranged for Oscar to appear on a Saturday morning TV show on which old horror movies are shown. The host of the show is a Dracula knock-off played by Guy Marks who spends most of his time between commercials in a coffin. After one commercial break during a movie called, "The Monster That Ate Rhode Island," he sits up enthusing about the picture. And then he says, "Didn't you just love the part where he spits out Providence?"

Thanks, guys!

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All in the Family

(CBS, 1971-1979) comedy series

All in the Family cast photo

In an episode from 1976, "The Draft Dodger," Archie asks a friend of Mike and Gloria's where he's from:

Gloria: He's from up north, north of Niagara Falls.
Archie: Oh! Over by Rhode Island way?

A friend of ours who pointed this episode out to us noted, "Very authentic use of Rhode Island in a geography conversation, I thought."

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America: A Personal History of the United States

(BBC and NBC, 1972-1973) documentary series

Here's an odd one—who knew that a documentary series about the history of the United States could survive more than a few episodes on network television? This one apparently did, and even managed a complete run of thirteen episodes, "ending with the social upheavals and counter-culture revolutions of the 1960s and 70s," according to IMDb. Rhode Island made an appearance in one of the episodes—probably episode 9, "Money on the Land," about the rise of wealth in the United States—with scenes shot at Marble House in Newport.

Narrated and co-written by Alistair Cooke, this series still occasionally shows up on PBS.

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Saturday Night Live

(NBC, 1975-present) live variety show

This long-running late-night live sketch comedy institution has taken a number of jabs at the Ocean State over the years.

From the March 22, 1997 show:

Linda Richman (Mike Meyers): Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Rhode Island, neither a road nor an Island. Discuss.

From the November 13, 2010 show:

Seth Meyers: Voters in Rhode Island rejected a proposition last week to change the state's official name from The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to just Rhode Island, but I think people are just going to keep calling it "Connecticut's foreskin."

From the January 17, 2015 show:

Colin Jost: A new survey shows that the state with the most marijuana use is Rhode Island. Which explains Rhode Island's official state motto, "But if it's an island, where does the road go?"

From the April 14, 2018 show:

The establishing shot for the "drag brunch" segment, featuring host John Mulaney, is of Newport's Brick Alley Pub.

From the November 6, 2021 show:

A segment titled "Wake Up Rhode Island" features a meteoroloist who spent so much time preparing a silly, Thanksgiving Day-themed rap that he failed to predict a deadly nor-easter.

Additionally, it should be noted that the 1980-'81 cast included Charles Rocket, a RISD alumnus who was a leading light in the early-1970s Providence arts and performance scene. He worked as a news reporter at WPRI Channel 12 for a time before joining SNL. He performed a number of impressions and characters on SNL, and hosted a recurring filmed segment called "The Rocket Report," but he is perhaps best remembered for dropping the F-bomb at the end of the February 21, 1981 show, for which he was dismissed.

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The Adams Chronicles

(PBS, 1976) miniseries

A large part of the complicated logistics involved in shooting this thirteen-part series included taping in various locations around Rhode Island. Newport's Marble House stood in for the court of Louis XVI at Versailles, for instance, and other Newport mansions were used for scenes that took place in England, France, Holland, and Saint Petersburg. Providence streets passed for Boston streets, and a farmhouse on Jencks Road in Foster represented one in Braintree, Massachusetts. Providence's John Brown House also got some screen time, and according to Kim Klyberg (whose father, Al, was director of the Rhode Island Historical Society at the time), "My Dad... was a nervous wreck that some hot light would come crashing down and torch the place!"

Screenshot of Dorrance House, Foster.
The Captain George Dorrance House (c1720 and c1750) at 257 Jencks Road in Foster served as John Adams' Braintree farmhouse. (E1, "John Adams, Lawyer").

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America's Most Wanted

(Fox, 1988-2011; Lifetime, 2011-'12; Fox, 2021-present)

This venerable cops 'n' robbers show focused on Rhode Island a number of times. The first that we're aware of was a 1997 show on the apprehension of alleged killer Anthony Fitzroy Patterson. Patterson was mistakenly identified by a Most Wanted viewer as another alleged murderer, Dudley Forbes. When police attempted to question him, he fled in a car, injuring twelve people in a frantic ride through downtown Providence. AMW film crews recreated the chase on location a short time later, for an episode that aired on November 22, 1997. As the Providence Phoenix's Philippe and Jorge noted, "...some might find it odd that, after scaring hordes of downtown regulars out of their gourds, the whole fiasco was recreated again for television. But hey, if we want to be in the big leagues, this is the kind of stuff we gotta do."

The next intersection of the worlds of AMW and Rhode Island was when two fugitives, Tracey Lee Poirier and Pamela Kay Trimble, were arrested in Cranston and Providence on September 28, 1998. Convicted murderer Poirier had escaped from the Oregon Women's Correctional Center in Salem, Oregon, with the assistance of Trimble, a former guard at that facility. After the August 28, 1998, escape was featured on AMW, a tip led the FBI to Rhode Island. Poirer was apprehended by Providence detectives at Crugnale Bakery and Pizza in Cranston, where she had been hired (through an employment agency) as a temporary employee, and Trimble was picked up at a sausage shop called Baun Sou Nam, located on Sutton Street in Providence. A followup story on the capture was told on the October 10, 1998, show.

In early May 2005 AMW spent three days in Newport collecting footage for a segment on convicted rapist and fugitive Ronald Fischer. A Newport Superior Court jury convicted Fischer, a former East Greenwich anesthesiologist, in absentia on April 28, 2005, on two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of second-degree sexual assault, for the rape of a Westerly woman aboard his yacht, The Lion King, at Portsmouth's Hinckley Marina in April 2003. Possibly sensing which way his trial was heading, Fischer fled Rhode Island just days prior to the verdict. The segment aired on May 14, 2005, but despite an estimated audience of ten million viewers, there have been few leads, and Fischer is still at large as of July 2021.

A brief segment aired on August 6, 2006, trolling for information on the whereabouts of two men wanted for the murder of 24-year-old Pawtucket resident, Jessica C. Imran, and attempted murder of her friend, 28-year-old Julie Lange, in Imran's Lawn Avenue apartment July 27th. Suspects Barry Offley, 19, of Woonsocket, and Alonzo P. Shelton, 28, of Central Falls, were subsequently captured in a housing project in Ocala, Florida, September 7, 2006.

The August 26, 2006, show profiled alleged child-molester James W. Bell. He's accused of inappropriate actions with three girls, aged nine to thirteen, while employed at the Newport County YMCA in Middletown between 2000 and 2003. He was arrested in Washington state in August 2003, brought back to Rhode Island, and then released on bail in October. A new order for his arrest was issued when he failed to appear at a pretrial conference in Newport Superior Court on July 15, 2004. In April 2015 he was captured again in Washington, where he was held pending extradition back to Little Rhody.

Jonathan Quaweay's alleged crimes were profiled on the June 13, 2009, broadcast. Quaweay disappeared after allegedly shooting three people at the Sportsman's Inn and Gentleman's Club in Providence on March 24. After the story aired a viewer tip led U.S. Marshals to the Atlanta, Georgia, apartment where Quaweay was hiding out. Arrested, he was taken to the Fulton County Jail to await extradition back to Rhode Island.

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Antiques Roadshow

(WGBH, 1997—) antiques appraisal show

Antiques Roadshow logo.
(WGBH Boston).

On August 21, 1999, WGBH's beloved Antiques Roadshow chose the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence as a stop on its nationwide tour. The two one-hour shows that resulted premiered on February 21 and 28, 2000, and featured visits to the Nightingale-Brown House on College Hill and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, respectively. The biggest find of the day turned out to belong to a woman from Chepachet, whose jeweled jade-and-gold box, made at the Edward Farmer Studio in New York, was valued at $80,000 to $120,000.

AR returned to the Rhode Island Convention Center on June 18, 2005. Rhode Island was chosen as one of only five stops for AR's tenth season, and the only stop in the Northeast. Local profiles featured Rose Island Lighthouse, the Culinary Archives and Museum, and the Providence Jewelry Museum. The collected footage aired in three parts on Boston's Channel 2 on May 8, 15, and 22, 2006.

A September 19, 2017 visit to the grounds of Newport's Rosecliff mansion was set to be the show's first all-outdoor shoot, but passing remnants of Hurricane Jose forced a change to an outdoor/indoor event. Aired over three episodes (S22E17, 18, and 19) on May 14, 21, and 28, 2018, the shows featured "segments narrated off-camera by Mark Wahlberg about [Rosecliff's] construction, history, and features, as well as those of neighboring mansions." The coolest appraised item in our opinion was the wooden paroramic viewer box, containing two thirty-foot rolls illustrated with "Excursion Views of Narragansett Bay and Block Island," circa 1878. The appraiser valued the object at $6,000-$8,000.

Example of a panorama viewer box.
An example of an "Excursion Views of Narragansett Bay and Block Island" panorama viewer box. (Bonhams auction house).

Digitized copies of similar rolls, courtesy of Paolo and Larry DePetrillo, can be found here (East Bay) and here (West Bay).

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House Hunters

(HGTV, 1999-present) real estate series

If watching other people shop for real estate is on your top ten list of life's pleasures, this show is for you. And if, additionally, you're a real Rhode Island-o-phile like us, there are six episode you won't want to miss:

S19E13, "Planting Rhode Island Roots," aired March 18, 2007. Recent college grad Stacy Kish is so done with her cramped little apartment near the airport, and can't wait to begin paying the mortgage on her own little slice of heaven. She enlists the help of realtor Alayna Berek who guides Stacy through three Warwick properties: a single-level condo, a semi-detached townhouse, and a regular townhouse. After much agonizing, Stacy chooses the semi-detached and, presumably, lives happily ever after. The episode includes a montage of Warwick scenes, and a scene with Stacy and some of her friends hanging out at an empty Grille on Main in East Greenwich.

S25E8, "Renting in Rhode Island," aired May 18, 2008. Lisa Davis and her kids, Rachel and Ryan, tired of the rental rat race, tour three Cranston properties—all of which have pink bathrooms. One of the properties, according to a Quahog reader who was surprised to see a familiar house in the episode, is located on the corner of Rangely Road and Crestwood Court. "I recognized our neighbors' house directly across on Rangely and then the exterior of the house next door, the featured home," she told us. "I also remember all three of the prospects in this episode having pink bathrooms and the buyer... asking if all the bathrooms in Cranston were pink. We laughed as our home had a pink and black bath, which we renovated to black and white! Anyway, we knew that the featured house contained a lower-level in-law suite (because we had met the couple who lived in that apartment). Oddly, the in-law suite was neither shown nor mentioned. As the camera panned the outside area, we saw a portion of our roof. The buyer did not choose our neighbors' house. What is really strange about this is neither we or any neighbors noticed a film crew around the neighborhood."

S68E5, "Swim Instructor Wants Home Near Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island," aired September 28, 2012. HGTV episode description: "Swim instructor, Jaimie, is ready to move out of her sister's place and into a home of her own. She wants a three-bedroom home with a large yard for her dogs. Since she enjoys open-ocean swimming, Jaimie wants her home as close to the beach as possible. But with just $250,000 to spend in one of New England's most sought-after coastal enclaves, she's in for a wake-up call."

S98E5, "Young Providence Buyers Battle Over Loft vs. Single Family Home," aired March 4, 2015: HGTV episode description: "Dylan and Jenica are looking for their first home in Providence, Rhode Island. He's set on a loft, or an income property, in the heart of downtown. She has her eyes on a single family colonial in the suburbs, with a formal dining room and good space for her to give voice lessons."

S156E1, "Situated in Scituate," aired December 12, 2018: HGTV episode description: "Two buyers searching outside of Providence are like oil and water. From the need for a pool to picking a design style, their wish lists just don't mix. But with four kids and a limited budget, they'll have a lot of compromising to do." Verde Vineyards in the adjacent town of Johnston is a featured location.

S156E12, "Picky in Providence," aired January 29, 2019: HGTV episode description: "A Providence, Rhode Island, couple wants to buy a vintage home. But while he appreciates the ornateness of a Victorian, she finds them creepy and would prefer the simplicity of a Craftsman."

Believe it or not, there's more of this incredible edge-of-your-seat drama just waiting to be seen. With several seasons being chucked in the can each year, there are (as of April 2021) 199 seasons of House Hunters to look at.

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The Amazing Race

(CBS, 2001-present) travel competition series

Season 10 (September 17 to December 10, 2006), included father-daughter team Duke (of Narragansett) and Lauren Marcoccio (of Warwick). They were eliminated at the end of the third leg of the race. Duke is the owner and operator of My Little Town, purveyer of nostalgic ornaments and keepsakes.

Jordan and Daniel Pious, of Barrington.
Jordan and Daniel Pious, of Barrington. (cbs.com).

Season 16 (February 14 to May 9, 2010), was won by brothers Jordan and Daniel Pious, of Barrington. Michael Naylor, of Warwick, and Louis Stravato, of Bristol, were eliminated in the eleventh leg. Naylor and Stravato are Newport and Providence police detectives, respectively.

Season 23 (September 29 to December 8, 2013), was won by Jason Case, of Attleboro, Massachusetts, and Amy Diaz, of Providence.

Olivia "Olive" Beauregard of Providence made it to ninth place in Season 29 (March 30, 2017 June 1, 2017).

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America's Walking

(PBS, 2002-2003) health and fitness series

Episode 111, "Trails to Fitness," was shot in Cranston and Providence.

From the episode description on pbs.org:

Trail Steward Linda Heroux of Cranston, Rhode Island was 60 lbs. overweight and began walking at a trail across town. After getting tired of driving to the trail everyday, she decided to maintain a trail of her own near her house.

The Providence-based East Coast Greenway Association is a system of trails and greenways maintained all along the East Coast; ECGA representative David Dionne discusses their work and how long-distance trails are sure to be the recreation of the future.

A visit to Providence, Rhode Island which has made a remarkable comeback in recent years. Its revitalized waterfront is a lovely place to walk.

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American Idol

(Fox, 2002—) talent search series

American Idol logo.
(wikimedia commons).

Season eleven included South Kingstown singer Erika Van Pelt, who made it to tenth place before being eliminated on March 22, 2012. Her first appearance was in the second episode during auditions in Pittsburgh, which aired July 15, 2011. The episode prior to her elimination included a profile of Erika that showed her home in the Green Hill neighborhood of South Kingstown and a shot of Wakefield's Main Street.

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The Bachelor

(ABC, 2002—) reality series

The Bachelor logo.

Warwick resident Krisily Kennedy (Miss Rhode Island USA 2003) graced the Spring 2005 (S7) season of the show, making it all the way to the final two before being rejected, in the May 16 finale, in favor of a nurse from Texas.

In one episode, cameras followed the twenty-five-year-old Kennedy back to Warwick for a visit with her family. Her grandmother, Kathy Kennedy, danced a bump and grind with Krisily, then advised her grandaughter that sleeping with the Bachelor (Charlie O'Connell) would give her an edge over other contestants. All right, grandma!

Here's how other Rhode Island contestants have fared:

  • S5, Karen Lindsay, a former Miss Rhode Island (1999). Eliminated in week four (5th place).
  • S15, Jackie Gordon from Newport. Eliminated in week six (7th place).
  • S17, Lauren Marchetti from Cranston. One of seven eliminated in the week one rose ceremony.
  • S26, Jill Chin from Scituate. One of three eliminated in the week five rose ceremony.

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All-American Festivals

(Food Network, 2003-2007) food series

S5E4, "Chowder Festival," finds us in Newport, where perpetual eleven-year-old Jim O'Connor hosts a look at the 2004 Newport Chowder Cook-Off. Greg Davenport of Davenport's Bar and Grill, East Providence, talks about his lobster, shrimp, fish, clam, and scallop chowder. Bill Sousa of The Mooring Restaurant, Newport, shows off his scallop chowder. We see some second unit shots along the Newport waterfront and around the harbor, then we join Bill Silks and Todd Carreira as they harvest oysters. Bill Squid demonstrates quahogging. Then back to the festival, where Jim "helps" judge clam cakes.

The results: Chelo's clam cakes are the number one choice for the third year in a row. The Mooring takes second place in the Creative Chowder category, edged out from first by San Francisco's Blue Mermaid Chowder House. Davenport's secures first place for their Seafood Chowder, and in the Clam Chowder category it's Captain Parker's Pub from West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

The episode aired on January 4, 2006.

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The Bachelorette

(ABC, 2003-2005, 2008—) reality series

The Bachelorette logo.

In S15E4, host Chris Harrison announces the location of the next group date: "It might be the smallest state in the union, but it's where the rich and powerful play. Okay, you guys are heading to Newport, Rhode Island!" The guys stay at Gurney's Newport Resort and Marina, and play a rugby game at Fort Adams with the Newport Rugby Club. Bachelorette Hannah Brown has evening conversations with the dude-bros at Linden Place in Bristol. The next day includes a lobster fishing date near Sakonnet Light, dinner at the White Horse Tavern, a concert at the Jane Pickens Theatre, and a cocktail party at Belcourt of Newport. The episode began filming in Newport on March 21, 2019, and aired June 3. Aardvark Antiques provided props for the show, including a pair of monumental lions.

Only a handful of Rhode Island contestants have taken part in the series:

  • S6, Jay Resmini from Barrington. One of eight eliminated in the week one rose ceremony. Prior to elimination he was featured in a brief profile in which he visited his parents' home in Barrington, Barrington town hall, and the inside of a Providence courthouse. Resmini is a lawyer with his father's firm, Resmini Law Associates.
  • S7, Michael Burns from Providence. One of seven eliminated in the week one rose ceremony.
  • S11, Jared Haibon from Warwick. Eliminated in week seven (4th place).

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Amazing Vacation Homes

(Travel Channel, 2004-2006) lifestyle series

One episode (S1E1, "Beach Homes," aired September 6, 2004) of this Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous knockoff, features one of Block Island's nouveau mansions, dubbed the Boat House by its owners, David Peters and Pam Hamilton. (It's referred to as "The Ark" on the show). David and Pam say they vacation on Block Island year 'round. While we don't doubt that they visit once in a while, the house, which was inspired by cruise ship design, is so spotless and empty it's obvious no-one really lives there. The segment includes footage of North Light, the Harborside Inn, Crescent Beach, Mohegan Bluffs, Old and New Harbor, Clay Head, and the Block Island Ferry, at least some of which is stock footage supplied by the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. The views of the island from the upper floors of the three-story Boat House are truly breathtaking. It's a shame we can't all afford to own such a home.

The Boat House, Block Island.
The Boat House, Block Island. (Ballard Hall Real Estate).

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Al Roker's Diner Destinations

(Food Network, 2005) travelogue

Using Providence's Johnson & Wales University Culinary Museum and Archives as a base, Al visits a number of diners around the country in this Food Network special (episode ARSP16). One of the featured diners is Pawtucket's Modern Diner, owned by 1977 Johnson & Wales graduate Nick Demou.

As of August 2005 the museum was showing the episode on a continuous loop as part of their Diners: Still Cookin' in the 21st Century exhibit. (The Museum closed permanently on February 27, 2017).

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Action Blast! aka MonkeyBar TV

(G4, 2006) animation series

This was a one-hour animation block bracketed by live action spots, and apparently (according to IMDB), some of those live action spots were shot at Club Ultra, 172 Pine Street, Providence, and the Providence Public Library. The show was produced by Pawtucket-based Hasbro, and was essentially a one-hour commercial for their Transformers and G.I. Joe properties.

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The American Future: A History

(BBC2, 2008) documentary mini-series

This four-part BBC miniseries explores American history in the context of the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Part three, "American Fervour," delves into how "faith has shaped American political life." One of the filming locations is Touro Synagogue in Newport, the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in the United States. The four episodes ran on October 10, 17, 24, and 31, 2008 in the U.K., and combined into two parts on BBC America on January 19 and 20, 2009, in the U.S..

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Accidental Fortune

(TLC, 2009-2010) true story series

Best we can tell, this series tanked after three episodes. The premise was simple: tell the stories of ordinary folks who stumbled across valuable objects. The Rhode Island connection concerns Michael Westman, who, with friend Alan Golash, purchased a pearl brooch from a Newport antiques store for $14. One of the two purple pearls turned out to be one of the largest quahog pearls known, possibly worth as much as a million dollars.

A quick half-hour taping with Westman took place at Consignments Ltd, 597 Kingstown Road, Wakefield, on January 29, 2010, the original store having since gone out of business. The episode aired April 18, 2010.

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Aerial America

(Smithsonian Channel, 2010-2019) documentary series

This beautifully shot series includes an episode for each state, and additional episodes focus on American regions and cities. Rhode Island's episode, E8, is forty-seven minutes of the Ocean State from the air, with a healthy dose of local history on the voice-over. As you might expect, the emphasis is on Newport and Providence, but there's a whole segment highlighting our many lighthouses, as well. The episode aired August 28, 2010.

The full episode is available for viewing on YouTube.

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American Pickers

(History Channel, 2010—) reality series

American Pickers logo.

The town of Johnston doesn't find itself in the spotlight very often, but at least one Johnston business was illuminated in December 2010. Several businesses, actually—auction barn, carnival, auto repair shop, and frozen lemonade truck—all owned by Paul Ruotolo of Simmonsville Avenue. The show was the History Channel's American Pickers, and the draw was several buildings full of antiques, treasures, and junk collected by Paul's late father, Thomas "Okee" Ruotolo.

Hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz spent Monday, July 19, 2010, climbing and digging through barns and outbuildings on the Ruotolo property, eventually emerging with a 1967 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, a classic Evel Knievel pinball machine, and an antique wooden horse racing game. Not everything they bought was shown in the episode. "They bought a lot of stuff," Ruotolo told the Johnston Sun Rise. "They filled up a U-Haul." Also not seen on the show: when production stopped for lunch everyone chowed down on locally sourced Italian grinders. Mike and Frank had hoped to attend that night's auction, but they ran out of time.

If you're searching for the episode it's called "What's in the Box?," from S3E3, and it aired December 20, 2010.

Wolfe and Fritz returned to the Ocean State in late 2013 or early 2014, having been invited to pick the cast-offs from the renovation of Belcourt of Newport. S11E7, "Frank's Holy Grail," aired April 9, 2014.

S14E18, "Frank's Birthday," found the boys picking a former Indian Motorcycle shop at 75 Benefit Street in Pawtucket. There they found memorabillia related to a local motorcycle club, Jesse's Roamers, dating back to the 1930s, and they brokered a sale of motorcycles and memorabillia to the National Motorcycle Museum in Iowa. The episode aired February 24, 2016.

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Restaurant: Impossible

(Food Network, 2011-present) dining/renovation series

S1E2: Chef Robert Irvine helps owner Jerry Porcaro bring Mount Pleasant institution Mainelli's (1366 Chalkstone Avenue, Providence) back from a living death. Providence Journal food critic Gail Ciampa had a part in the show and she confirmed in a column that appeared in advance of the January 26, 2011, airing that much of the episode, despite its veneer of "reality," was heavily scripted. For instance, many problems that had already been solved by Pocaro were trotted back out to increase the before and after differences; a scene in the ProJo offices with Ciampa was staged for effect; and menu prices were set by producers at about double what Mainelli's usually charges. Filming took place in August 2010.

Despite renovations and a revamped menu, Mainelli's closed for good in early 2012. An incident on March 5, 2011, in which a car crashed through the side of the restaurant and into one of the remodeled dining rooms probably didn't help.

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Cheap Eats

(Cooking Channel, 2016-present) food tourism series

"...host Ali Khan... has just 12 hours to find the best deals for breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner—on a budget of only $35." Here's what he found in S3E11, "Providence Eats," (aired September 20, 2017):

  • Duck and Bunny, 312 Wickenden Street; Portuguese sweet bread French toast with maple berry compote. ($9)
  • The Sandwich Hut, 1253 North Main Street; meatball grinder. ($7.95)
  • G Pub, 61 Orange Street; stuffie ($4).
  • Ogie's Trailer Park, 1155 Westminster Street; Everything But the Kitchen Sink Tater Tots ($12).

Total: $32.95.

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Long Lost Family

(The Learning Channel, 2016-'18)

This series reunites family members who, through various unfortunate circumstances, have been separated for decades. S1E7, "Everything Your Parents Told You Was a Lie," features Benjamin from Providence, who's looking for his birth mother. Recognizable locations include the Rhode Island State House, Roger Williams National Memorial, the old State House, a view looking east on Route 195 (including the India Point pedestrian bridge), Prospect Terrace, State Street, a view of Providence at the head of the Providence River from Point Street Bridge, and Waterplace Park. The episode was filmed in autumn of 2015, and aired April 17, 2016.

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