In the first episode of “Godless,” Netflix’s gritty new Western, Michelle Dockery’s rifle-toting frontierswoman discovers an envelope with a strangely familiar return address: Atascadero, California.
That’s not the only time the Central Coast city is mentioned during the seven-part series, which premiered Nov. 22.
Atascadero represents a promised land of sorts for outlaw Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), who holes up at a ranch on the outskirts of a New Mexico mining town after parting ways with Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his vicious gang. It’s the place that Jim Goode describes in a letter to his kid brother.
“I’m asking you to come now to the Atascadero territory in California and live with me and my wife,” Alice (Dockery) reads aloud from the letter in the show’s sixth episode, “Dear Roy.” “This place has changed me and I do believe it will change you too.”
There’s only one wrinkle.
Publisher E.G. Lewis didn’t establish the Colony of Atascadero until 1913, roughly 30 years after the events of “Godless” take place. Lewis purchased the property from the Murphy family, who bought the Mexican land grant known as Rancho Atascadero in 1864.
Here are some memorable times San Luis Obispo County has been mentioned on screen.
‘Ali Baba Bunny’ (1957)
In this classic cartoon, Bugs Buggy and Daffy Duck set out for Pismo Beach in search of “all the clams you can eat,” but mistakenly wind up in the Middle East instead. Oops!
A 1982 compilation of “Looney Tunes” cartoons includes an episode in which Bugs once again tries to tunnel to the Central Coast, only to find himself in a jungle. “Hey,” he remarks, “this don’t look like Pismo Beach to Me.”
Beverly Hills shopaholic Cher (Alicia Silverstone) decides to “makeover my soul” by leading her school’s Pismo Beach disaster relief efforts. Although we see Cher gathering clothes from her closet and food from her pantry, it’s never exactly clear what happened to the hapless beach town.
‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998)
When sweet, dim-witted Donny (Steve Buscemi) dies in this cult comedy, Walter (John Goodman) offers a heartfelt eulogy for his friend on a windswept cliff.
“He was a man who loved the outdoors — and bowling,” muses Walter, clutching the coffee can holding Donny’s ashes. “And as a surfer he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and up to Pismo.”
This wine-country buddy comedy may focus on northern Santa Barbara County, but San Luis Obispo County pops up often in the plot.
In one scene, waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen) mentions taking horticulture classes up north. “I commute to San Luis Obispo twice a week,” she says.
In another, wine pourer Stephanie (Sandra Oh) tells Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his friend Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) about an award-winning wine from Paso Robles.
‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
Josh Brolin, who grew up in the Templeton area and still calls in home, pleaded with filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen to let him wear a Templeton High School letterman jacket in this dark drama about a hunter who’s being pursued by a merciless hitman.
Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) buys the jacket from a teenager as he crosses a bridge into Mexico. As the bloody and battered Llewelyn passes a border guard, the Templeton Eagles mascot and logo can clearly be seen.
‘There Will Be Blood’ (2008)
When prospector Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) heads to California in the hopes of striking it rich in the oilfields, he naturally sets his sights on San Luis Obispo County. The community fits perfectly into his plans to construct a pipeline to the California coast and drain the region’s resources like, well, a milkshake.
‘Big Little Lies’ (2017)
Set in Monterey, HBO’s soapy drama is all about secrets.
In one episode, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) tracks the man she suspects of sexually assaulting single mom Jane (Shailene Woodley) to a interior design office in San Luis Obispo. (It’s really a fitness studio in Pasadena.) Later, Jane travels to San Luis Obispo to confront her supposed rapist.
Former Tribune writer Patrick S. Pemberton contributed to this story.