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Little Town Blues, 02.18.02 ...

Tired of that long commute, worried about property values, or just sick of neighbors who aren't sufficiently quirky and entertaining? Maybe it's time to leave that merciless big city or faceless suburb behind, and head to small-town America -- or more precisely, the endearing version of it you're seeing on TV this season. To come up with's first annual most livable small towns ranking, we talked to numerous mayors, business leaders, and local residents (oh, wait, we're not Money magazine -- so we watched some TV instead). Here's our countdown, from worst to best.

5.) SUNNYDALE, CALIF. (''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'') Why You'd Want to Live There For those with, um, gothic tastes, small-town life doesn't get any better than Sunnydale. A local club, Willy's Place, always has some rockin' tunes playing -- just watch out for some of the rougher clientele. And there's been great news lately -- all those rumors about a high mortality rate at the local high school are moot now that it's burned to the ground. Plus, there are no fewer than 12 cemeteries in town, so you won't have to leave -- ever. Drawback Residents mumble something about a ''Hellmouth.''

4.) SPRINGFIELD, U.S.A. (''The Simpsons'') Why You'd Want to Live There What other small town in America has boasted a monorail, a casino, and a courthouse briefly renamed ''Municipal Fortress of Vengeance''? Springfield also offers a variety of child-care facilities, including the Ayn Rand School for Tots and Saint Sebastian's School for Wicked Girls. Local hotspots include a joint named Moe's Tavern, where the half-dozen regulars will be glad for any new drinking buddies. Drawbacks Mayor is corrupt. Local fish have three eyes. Some employees at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant are said to be incompetent.

3.) SMALLVILLE, KANSAS (''Smallville'') Why You'd Want to Live There This is Middle America at its finest: vast cornfields, solid family values, and, rumor has it, a good-hearted local teenager who's faster than a speeding bullet and ready to save you from danger. It's a close-knit community, too: Everyone from teenagers to their parents seems to hang out together -- constantly -- at the town's one coffeehouse. Drawbacks Ever since that meteor shower a few years back, residents claim there've been some strange events in Smallville. And local businessman Lex Luthor may not have the town's best interests at heart. Hazing rituals at the local high school include stringing up students in the cornfields.

2.) STAR'S HOLLOW, CONN. (''Gilmore Girls'') Why You'd Want to Live There With an apparent population of, like, 50 people, everyone in this little burg seems to know each other. Charming rituals include an annual snowman contest and a picnic-basket auction that doubles as a dating game (but watch out for Lorelai Gilmore, the resident who graced her basket with a Slim Jim and a Pop Tart). Also, a local wandering troubadour who looks and sounds just like singer/songwriter Grant Lee Phillips provides free entertainment. Drawbacks The owner of the town diner can be surly. Public schools are apparently inferior to a nearby private academy. Teens may worry when they realize that none of their peers are even close to being sexually active.

1.) STUCKEYVILLE, OHIO (''Ed'') Why You'd Want to Live There Forget civic strife: This is a town so tranquil that its mayor spends his office hours painting nudes (from live models). And if, as one sociologist suggested, the decline in group bowling is a metaphor for the collapse of American communities, Stuckeyville is a long way from falling apart: Many townsfolk seem to spend more time in a local attraction known as Stuckeybowl than in their own homes. Plus, if you're a single woman looking for handsome young doctors and lawyers, there's at least one of each in town. Drawbacks Residents are alarmingly litigious -- one attorney handles a bizarre new lawsuit just about every week. Local penchant for $10 bets can become expensive.
Credit: EW Online

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