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TV shows to binge watch that take place in NYC
Just like Liz Lemon once said, New York is the "concrete bunghole where dreams are made up." So why would you go out when you can just watch New York on your TV screen instead?
If you want the real NYC experience straight from your couch, spend it with some of these shows, from the recently departed "How I Met Your Mother" to "Seinfeld." Just remember to resurface in time for work on Monday.
There's no rage like the rage every New Yorker feels when he or she sees the view from Don Draper's apartment. Or when Peggy cries about how much she hates her Upper West Side townhouse. Peggy, stick it out! That place is going to worth a fortune someday, even if you did shiv your boyfriend there once. "Mad Men," of course, takes place in 1960s New York, when the city was very different. (Although a real estate agent told Peggy in season six that a $28,000 apartment--sob-- will "quadruple in value" when Second Avenue Subway is completed. Ha ha, it's funny because it's never going to happen.)
"Mad Men" features some of New York's most iconic locations, including the Time Life Building (headquarters of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, or now Sterling Cooper and Partners), Grand Central Oyster Bar (if their martinis can cause Roger Sterling to throw up on someone's shoes, they must be pretty strong), or even old New York staple P.J. Clarke's (where Peggy celebrated her first copywriting job). "We do a ton of research," writer and consulting producer Lisa Albert told the Daily News.
"Mad Men" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and on DVD.(Credit: AMC )
How I Met Your Mother
When "How I Met Your Mother" ended in March, it also ended the era of multi-camera sitcoms about young people in New York. Show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thompson loosely based the show off their days as writers for "The Late Show with David Letterman" and how they met their own spouses (although they said in a Reddit AMA before the finale that things had definitely taken a turn at some point -- big surprise), as well as the "stupid" stuff they used to do in their younger days in New York.
The show frequently used New York as a plot point, including the Empire State building to frame the gang's first sexual experiences and the gang's quest to find the fastest travel route in the city. In the last season, the gang flirted with the idea of leaving New York, only to be living there again in 2030, when Ted's narration wraps up.
"How I Met Your Mother" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and on DVD.(Credit: FOX Television / Robert Voets)
Hello, Upper East Siders, are you ready for this one? If you watched "Gossip Girl," you know what this means. Premiering in 2007, the show chronicled the lives of rich Upper East Side teenagers (and one "middle-class" family that lived in a fabulous loft in DUMBO). What made the show fun for many New Yorkers, though, was that it filmed in New York--and used the city as a frequent backdrop, as "Sex and the City" did.
The kids ate at real restaurants, went to real clubs (including a "red snapper" at the real-life King Cole Bar at the St. Regis), had adventures in Central Park, went to Columbia and NYU, Blair never did get around to getting her driver's license, and the girls ate lunch on the steps of the Met (although it was a little far from their school at "720 East 82nd St.," which does not exist). New York celebrities guest starred, including Charles Isherwood, Wallace Shawn, Tinsley Mortimer, Jay McInerney, and eventually, an appearance by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Gossip Girl" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant, and on DVD.(Credit: The CW / Andrew Eccles )
Sex and the City
"If Louis was right and we only get one great love, then New York might just be mine. And I can't have nobody talking [expletive] about my boyfriend." Carrie Bradshaw said these immortal words at the first episode of season five, and she might as well have been describing the whole series. "Sex and the City" premiered in 1998, and instead of being just about four women who lived in New York, it actually filmed in the city.
The show not only captured real-life locations (and there's a "Sex and the City" tour of New York you can take if you are curious), it also captured a certain way of life for New Yorkers that no show had before. Think about it: the larger-than-life Mr. Big worked in finance (and is rumored to be based on real-life advertising salesman Ron Galotti), Samantha the PR agent with all the connections, the come-and-go fads that everyone seemed to be talking about, a onetime boyfriend of Charlotte's who couldn't take the size of her Park Avenue apartment, the ex-druggy club girl who becomes washed up at 40, and of course, Carrie Bradshaw herself, a certain type of woman that is only possible in New York. Did anyone think Carrie would ever really decamp to Paris?
You can watch "Sex and the City" on HBO Go, and of course, reruns are on E! and the Esquire network (yes, for real).(Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / Warner Bros. Pictures)
Fourteen years after "Sex and the City," we have "Girls," HBO and Lena Dunham's look into a group of young women in their 20s who live in Brooklyn. The much-discussed show (seriously, don't google "Girls" unless you want to go down a rabbit hole of thinkpieces) not only describes a certain type of young woman in New York, it is also filmed here in the city. In fact, New York City's tourism website even features a "Girls" map of the city (which even features the High Line, the scene of Marnie and Booth Jonathan's tryst). As Hannah Hovarth once summed up for us: "You are from New York, therefore you are naturally interesting."
"Girls" is available to watch on HBO Go.(Credit: HBO / Mark Seliger)
Tina Fey's "30 Rock" was named after NBC's location at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the show sometimes filmed (and where the fictional "TGS" and real-life "Saturday Night Live" film). The show starred New York celebrities like Fey and Alec Baldwin, and having a writing crew of New Yorkers also helped make the city another star. For example, Liz Lemon's ex-boyfriend Dennis is hailed as the "subway hero" after saving a man from falling on the tracks. In another episode, Liz travels with a "hippie to a second location," aka with her onetime inspiration to her apartment in "Little Chechnya." As Liz Lemon tells Jack Donaghy "New York is a selfish, filth monster and it eventually gets all of us!"
"30 Rock" is available to stream on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and reruns are on Fox and WPIX.(Credit: NBC / Art Streiber)
Oh, "Seinfeld." Has there ever been a show to capture New York better? Although they filmed in Los Angeles (for shame!), Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's show had plenty of situations familiar to any New Yorker. In one of the most famous examples, Kramer entered a "long-distance relationship" with a woman who lived on the Lower East Side (he and Jerry lived on the Upper West Side). When he tells her they will break up if she doesn't move, she chooses to break up--and he calls a despondent Jerry from a pay phone (remember those?), but he can't seem think of any landmarks other than Ray's Pizza or what street is on and the closest cross streets he can remember are "1st and 1st--but how is that possible?" The gang also hung out at their real-life Monk's Restaurant, and the so-called "Soup Nazi" has since opened up his own soup store. For other locations, there's always a "Seinfeld" tour of New York available, including one by the real-life Kramer.
"Seinfeld" isn't available on Netflix or Amazon Instant, but all the seasons are available on DVD for the diehard fans.(Credit: NBC / George Lange)
In the show that inspired a whole generation of NYU wannabes, Felicity Porter changed her mind at the last minute and decided to go to the fictional University of New York to follow the boy of her dreams. She landed at the school, and over the few years, she lived out her life in the Village, including a job at Dean & DeLuca. The show filmed in New York, and its most iconic moment--Felicity cutting off her hair--took place at the real-life Astor Place Hairstylists. Of course, they all seemed to live in amazing apartments (except for one disastrous trip to Brooklyn), despite being "poor" students in New York.
In some sort of cruel joke to millennials, "Felicity" is not available on Netflix, but is available on DVD.(Credit: The WB / Andrew Eccles)
Mary Richards' upstairs neighbor in Minneapolis was a Jewish New Yorker named Rhoda Morgenstern, played by Valerie Harper. Harper's Rhoda left the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the fourth season after Rhoda left for New York, and thus the spin-off "Rhoda" began. Although Rhoda had initially been conceived as the hard edge to Moore's sunny Mary, her show shot to the Nielsen Top 10 immediately. In the series' first episode, Rhoda met a divorcé named Joe while on vacation in New York, and she decides to move in to the city to explore the relationship. The two were married by episode eight, in an episode called "Rhoda's Wedding," which to this day is still one of the most-watched television shows ever. Joe and Rhoda later split up, and the show ended up being one of the first to chronicle a single woman in New York. The show earns bonus realism points for Carlton the drunk doorman, who was heard but never seen.
"Rhoda" is available on DVD, although not streaming.(Credit: Handout)
Oh Central Perk. If only a coffee shop that six marginally employed 20s something could afford to hang out in all day long existed in the West Village. Long before "How I Met Your Mother," "Friends" sought to capture the time period in your 20s when you live in the city, and your friends are your family. Although the show never used the city as a backdrop as much as "How I Met Your Mother," the gang undeniably loved the city they lived in. Of course, it was always a bit unrealistic when it came to real estate: Monica and Rachel's insanely fantastic apartment was later explained as only being affordable because of rent control, (or something, who knows, but then again, doesn't everyone know someone who has a great apartment with a somewhat nonsensical shady story about he or she ended up there?) and it was always unclear how many bedrooms Ross' apartment had (how could he just move Rachel in there? Didn't he already have a son? Did that apartment really have three bedrooms?), or how Joey and Chandler kept that chick and that duck in the apartment for so many years.
"Friends" is available on DVD, or reruns are still on Nick at Nite, TBS, and WPIX.(Credit: NBC)
Will & Grace
Airing in the same era as "Friends," "Will & Grace" also captured that same New York as a cool and totally affordable place to live vibe. While Will, a successful lawyer, probably could have afforded an apartment on the Upper West Side, Jack and Grace's financial situation was always a little murkier. But beyond real estate, "Will & Grace" was actually a fairly groundbreaking show: Premiering in 1998, it was one of the first primetime comedies to feature so many gay characters--and their lives and loves the same as the straight characters. Although some of the jokes are kind of cringeworthy now, it's easy to forget how much of gamechanger it was now--especially when Vice President Joe Biden gave a shoutout to the show when he backed gay marriage.
In a way, the show captured a very typical New York way of life not depicted on screen yet: Gay men and women who live in the city. As for being realistic, Grace eventually got married and moved to Brooklyn (as people do), and Will got married to a cop (played by real-life New Yorker Bobby Cannavale) and they raised their son on the Upper West Side. The only way it could have ended more realistically would be if they had been squabbling over private-school slots for their kids.
"Will & Grace" is available on DVD and reruns on Lifetime and WE.(Credit: Warner Bros. / Danny Feld )
Mad About You
Another one of the 1990s-era NBC comedies set in New York, "Mad About You" told the story of a newlywed married couple living in New York. In some ways, they lived the New York fantasy life: Paul, an NYU graduate, was a documentary filmmaker and Jamie worked in public relations. Of course, their real estate told a real New York fairytale--they lived in a high-rise in on 12th St. in the Village, which they eventually bought the apartment (and then in the finale, the apartment next door years later), so the Buchmans are now probably millionaires. Happy ending all around?
"Mad About You" is available on DVD.(Credit: Columbia TriStar / Byron J. Cohen)
The Cosby Show
The Huxtable family lived in Brooklyn Heights at the fictional 10 Stigwood Avenue, although the exterior of their brownstone has since been found to be in Greenwich Village. It must have been helpful in later seasons when Theo went to NYU. In real life, the show filmed at NBC's Studio One Facility in Brooklyn and later Kaufman Astoria Studios (hence all the visits from the Muppets, which also filmed there). The show often made mention of real-life New York City events, although the strict Huxtable parents probably prevented their kids from ever ending up like the "Gossip Girl" crew.
"The Cosby Show" is available on DVD.(Credit: NBC)
The ABC dramedy based on the ultra-successful televnovela told the story of a regular girl from Queens (Betty) who entered the high-wire world of New York fashion. The not-so-ugly Betty, who lived in Jackson Heights with her father, sister, and nephew, often clashed culturally with the upper-class world of fashion, sometimes realistically, sometimes not so much. The show initially filmed in Los Angeles, but production moved to New York in the third season, and Betty, appropriately moving to Manhattan to celebrate (although she later had to move back home). The show had plenty of real New York locations even before the production change: the MetLife building housed the fictional Mode magazine, the Woolworth building housed a graphic design firm in the early seasons, and plenty of places in Queens--and the cast even held a block party in Jackson Heights to celebrate its new location.
"Ugly Betty" is available on Netflix and on DVD.(Credit: ABC / Richard Cartwright )
Law & Order
Is there any better way to hear from out-of-town relatives that they now know where your neighborhood is, since the latest murder happened on it on "Law & Order"? Premiering in 1990, "Law & Order" not only took place in New York and filmed in New York--it was New York. The flagship gritty crime procedural lasted 20 seasons for a reason, that is. Real New Yorkers such as Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Donna Hanover, and Jose Serrano all have guest starred, and "Sex and the City's" Mr. Big (Chris Noth) played Det. Mike Logan from 1990-95. In perhaps the most realistic turn, Logan's last episode had him sent to work on Staten Island--and he never returns. Sorry, Staten Island. The courthouse featured in the opening credits is the real Manhattan criminal court downtown, and the show frequently filmed at Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers (hey, they have to film those bodies washing up somewhere), which has since been renamed "Law & Order Way." The spinoffs "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (which Noth has returned to) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" also are filmed in New York.
The flagship "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" are all available on Netflix, as well as Amazon Instant Viewing for purchase and DVD.(Credit: NBC / Jessica Burstein)
BONUS! The Good Wife
Okay, "The Good Wife" takes place in Chicago, not New York. But hear us out: The show films in locations around New York that are often so obviously New York that it's a little awkward that they are trying to pretend it's Chicago. Alicia Florrick's apartment, pictured, is just the start. Some other examples: The Cook County courthouse, which is very obviously in Queens (hi Citibank building!), the "El" that is really the New York subway, and a confrontation on Park Avenue in Midtown. New York actors Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Chris Noth, and Anika Noni Rose are all stars. In some ways, it's more New York than the shows that film in Los Angeles and pretend to be in New York. If you don't listen to the dialogue when the talk about the "Loop," whatever that is.
"The Good Wife" is available on DVD.(Credit: CBS / Jeffrey Neira)