The Smithsonian in Television

The Smithsonian often plays a small role on the small screen, and those references are revealing about popular stereotypes of the Smithsonian. For many TV series, the standard destination for something old and dilapidated is, of course, the Smithsonian. In other series, the Institution is where everyone went on 8th grade school trips. The Smithsonian appears regularly in crime and spy series, such as Bones and Get Smart which were set at the National Museum of Natural History.





Connection to the Smithsonian

More information

Get Smart

Season 3

Episode 22, Spy, Spy, Birdie

1968 Agents Maxwell Smart and 99 need to stop a criminal who invents a silent explosive.

1. The Hope Diamond is mentioned in this line:

"Ah yes, the worlds most valuable and deadly diamond."


The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour

Season 1

Episode 16,

The Spirits of '76/The Prophet Profits

1976 Scooby-Doo, Fred, Wilma, Velma and Shaggy head to Washington, DC, to visit the Smithsonian. While there, they soon realize the Smithsonian is haunted by Benedict Arnold, Major André, and William Demont.....Or is it?
1. The gang gets locked up in a Smithsonian museum with the Spirits of '76.
2. They have to solve the mystery, eventually finding a tunnel to the US Mint.
The Golden Girls  1985-1992 Four previously married women live together in Miami, sharing their various experiences and enjoying themselves despite hard times.
1. The Smithsonian is mentioned in this dialogue:
Dorothy: [after being persuaded to go out dancing] "Oh all right I'll come. Ma where are my dancing shoes?"
Sophia: "In the Smithsonian, right next to Fred Astaire's. How the hell should I know?" 
2. The Smithsonian is mentioned in another episode's dialogue:
Blanche: "Dorothy, what do you think I oughta do with my bed?"
Dorothy: "Put it in the Smithsonian, Blanche. It's got more miles on it than theSpirit of St. Louis!"

This is America Charlie Brown

Season 1

Episode 7, The Smithsonian and the Presidency

1989 The Peanuts gang visits the Smithsonian to learn about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The gang visits the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of American History. Originally aired on CBS in 1989 as part of an eight part mini series.
1. The Peanuts gang at Smithsonian museums includes Snoopy with the Red Baron's airplane; a lunar space modulenamed after Charlie Brown and Snoopy; Lucy finds a cartoon of herself pulling that football away from you-know-who and asks, "How did we wind up there?"; and when Linus sees a big mouth, he tells Lucy, "We finally found something with a mouth bigger than yours!"

The Simpsons Season 2

Episode 37, Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

1991 The Simpsons head to Washington, DC, after Lisa wins a spot in the finals for a Reading Digest essay contest. While in DC, the family visits tourist spots, stay at the Watergate, and blow the whistle on a congressman involved in a bribe.
1. The Simpsons family goes on a VIP tour of Washington, DC, which includes a trip to the National Air and Space Museum, where Bart plays around in the Spirit of St. Louis.

The Nanny

Season 3

Episode 3, Dope Diamond  

1995 Nanny Fine begins a fast romance with a doctor. But, when the doctor steals a ring when he and Fran are shopping, she learns that he is not all that he seems to be.
1. The title of the episode is a play on theHope Diamond.

The West Wing

Season 5

Episode 96, Shutdown

2003 When the Speaker of the House holds the budget hostage, President Bartlet allows the government to be shut down.
1. A girl being interviewed on TV about the shutdown explains to the reporter that she and her family were in Washington to see the Constitution and her grandmother.  She states:
"But the Smithsonian's closed. Now we only get to see Grandma."
NOTE: The Constitution is located at the National Archives, not the Smithsonian.
Bones 2005- Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan and Special Agent Seeley Booth, along with their team of specialists, solve mysterious crimes when FBI cases come into their lab at the Jeffersonian.
1. The main forensic lab at the Jeffersonian is based on the Division of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution.
South Park
Season 12
Episode 12,About Last Night...
2008 The people of South Park deal with the results of the 2008 presidential election.
1. As members of the "Presidential Crime Syndicate," President Obama and Senator McCain stage the election as a front for their planned heist of the Hope Diamond, where they hope to use the secret tunnel from the Oval Office to gain access to theNational Museum of Natural History.

Gossip Girl

Season 1

Episode 18, Much 'I Do' About Nothing

2008 In this episode of the series that shows the exploits of New York City's young Upper East Siders, Lily van der Woodsen prepares for her wedding to Bart Bass. Though the ceremony is beautiful the guests continue to plot against one another and try to close down the gossip that threatens to expose secrets. 1. The wedding of Lily van der Woodsen and Bart Bass, two of the parents on the show, was filmed at the Smithsonian'sCooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. IMDB
The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon  2008 A team of Smithsonian researchers are on expedition in the Grand Canyon when they discover an Aztec city. Their discovery is marred by the kidnapping of the expedition's leader and his daughter, and the rest of the team must defeat evil spirits, including the serpent god, to save him.
1. The researchers are described as being Smithsonian scientists. 
Covert Affairs  2010- The adventures of CIA field agent Annie Walker and her work for the Domestic Protection Division.
1. Annie Walker's cover job is that she works in Acquisitions at the Smithsonian Museum.
The Simpsons Season 22, Episode 20, Homer Scissorhands 2011 Homer learns that he is a hairstyling genius, while Lisa becomes suspicious of Millhouse's new girlfriend.
1. The Couch Gag at the beginning of the episode has the couch on display at the Smithsonian Museum.  The Simpsons dress as cat-burglers and attempt to steal back their couch, passing various exhibits along the way.

Parks and Recreation Season 5, Episode 1,

Ms. Knope Goes to Washington

2012 Leslie and Andy leave Pawnee to visit Ben and April in Washington, D.C. While there, they tour the National Mall, pay visits to the Smithsonian, and meet Capitol Hill notables, including Senator John McCain.
1. Leslie and Ben tour the National Museum of American History (NMAH).
2. April and Andy makeout in front the trains in the NMAH's exhibit America on the Move.

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