A true New Yorker appreciates when a television show gets the city well. Not all TV shows set in New York City are filmed there, but it is clear that the creators and writers are true New Yorkers. The best shows set in New York actually seem to create the city as a character.
Here are 20 TV shows that understand New York City extremely well.
The 1990’s sitcom “Seinfeld” is all about New York City. Creator Larry David wrote the show based partly on his life as a young writer living on the upper west side of New York City. Collaborating with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David shows us a quirky side of the city that never sleeps. Several episodes of the classic sitcom include real New York City spots and real-life characters like the “soup Nazi”, Monk’s diner, and Yankee Stadium. There is even a bus tour that explores “Seinfeld” venues. The characters are also based on real-life New Yorkers, including Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Cosmo Kramer was based on a real-life eccentric neighbor of Larry David’s, Kenny Kramer. Elaine Benes was based on a combination of friends of Jerry, including Carol Leifer. Even Newman was based on Larry David’s real-life apartment maintenance man. “Seinfeld” is all about real-life New York City.
The sitcom “Friends” is one of the most heartwarming sitcoms that has ever existed. The show aired from 1994 through 2004 and is all about New York City. We watch six young friends as they go through the typical angst of being in their 20s while living in the hectic New York City. It’s safe to say that living on your own, navigating love and career, and hanging out with friends can be exhilarating and frightening in a big city. From the coffee house where they gather “Central Perk” to Monica and Rachel’s rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village to the studios of “Days of Our Lives” to the offices at Bloomingdales, “Friends” gives us an inside look at the lives of New York City young adults.
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
When Kimmy Schmidt of the Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is released from captivity underground in rural Indiana, she arrives in New York City to appear on the “Today” show and falls in love with the city. Her initial reaction to Broadway and Times Square is awe-inspiring and gives her hope and a fresh start when she doesn’t want anyone to know about her past as a “mole woman”. Of course, she encounters darker sides of being alone in the big city, like unemployment and homelessness, but Kimmy Schmidt perseveres and makes friends with a menagerie of New Yorkers, including her eccentric landlord, trophy wife employer, and aspiring star Titus. For Kimmy, New York City is about hope and opportunity, and the show portrays that in every crazy scene.
4. 30 Rock
Tina Fey’s NBC comedy “30 Rock” from the 2000s is a satire on “Saturday Night Live” that makes you feel like the viewer is actually a part of the gritty late-night reality sketch show. Tina Fey as Liz Lemon not only portrays a writer on the show but also a single woman living in a big city. As “Saturday Night Live” demonstrates the real New York, “30 Rock” took us behind the scenes.
5. Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw was a witty and aspiring writer living in the Big Apple in HBO’s “Sex and the City”. During the show’s long run, Carrie lives and breathes her love affair with New York, and her attachment is heartwarming. As Carrie and her three friends navigate careers and love lives as single women in New York, we see the importance of Manhattan in their journeys. Whether dining at the newest restaurants, clubbing at the hottest clubs or shopping at the best brand-name stores, “Sex and the City” makes us fall in love with New York every time we watch it.
6. Barney Miller
During the 1970s “Barney Miller” followed the cops working at a precinct in Greenwich Village before Greenwich Village was home to the characters of “Friends”. Most of the action takes place within the precinct office as the characters of the NBC sitcom bring in hapless criminals for investigations and banter among themselves. The classic comedy showed the grittiness of New York City and gave heart to the men who protect us.
7. Law and Order
The police and legal drama franchise “Law and Order” has aired on NBC for two decades. Although there have been many police and legal dramas set in New York City, “Law and Order” shows us a complete look at the city. The first half of each show is the investigation of a crime in the city, while the second half of the show shows us the legal side of the cases. “Law and Order” detectives certainly have a real relationship with the city, and that is demonstrated in every episode.
The late 1970’ssitcom “Taxi” took us into the world of New York taxi drivers. Much of the action took place within the Manhattan fleet garage of the fictional Sunshine Cab Company. Gritty dispatcher Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito) sends his crew out on calls. The crew consists of Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch), Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner), Tony Banta (Tony Danza), Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conway), Iggy (Christopher Lloyd), and Latka (Andy Kauffman), among others, as the ensemble brought us comedy and heart each week. With “Taxi,” we got to know a different side of New York City.
9. Mad Men
AMC’s “Mad Men” took us back in time to New York City in the 1960s. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is a major part of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, and Price, a Madison Avenue advertising firm. With its characters’ work and home lives, we feel like we are living in 1960s New York. With “Mad Men,” we got to see not only the inner workings and creativity of advertising in the 1960s but real-life events like the Civil Rights movement and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the effects on the characters of the show. “Mad Men” brought us into the real world of 1960s Manhattan and its suburbs.
Fox’s “Empire” premiered in 2015 and shows us a unique side of New York City. The show follows a fictional hip-hop music and entertainment company. We see the drama that unfolds as the founder’s family tries to retain hold of “Empire Entertainment”. Hip Hop mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) struggles to maintain his empire for his family amid disease, murder, and imprisonment. Although filmed in Chicago, “Empire” is a true New York City drama that takes us into a world we may not have known before.
The show Girls debuted on HBO in 2012 and is produced by Judd Apatow. New York City is where many young adult television shows take place, and “Girls” is no exception. It’s a comedy-drama following four young adult girls living in the “big apple”. Lena Dunham draws much of the story’s plot from her own life experiences. Just like her character, she was also cut off financially by her parents when she decided to become a writer and made some unfortunate decisions along the way. The show takes a good look at the lives, decisions, and interactions of the four young women as they struggle to achieve their dreams while navigating New York City and their close friendships.
12. Ugly Betty
Ugly Betty is an American adaptation of the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea. The American show follows a charismatic and intelligent young woman Betty as she tries to climb the career ladder in a trendy magazine. Despite her awful fashion sense, Betty manages to win over almost everyone’s hearts. She’s a Mexican American woman from Queens, New York, and this show depicts this type of lifestyle very well. Ugly Betty shows us the professional world in New York. But not only that, it’s a perfect depiction of the rocky journey of Latin people in New York.
13. How I Met Your Mother
“How I Met Your Mother” is another young adult living in New York City sitcom which aired on CBS from 2005 to 2014. What stands out in “How I Met Your Mother” is the plot. Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) narrates the story to his children about how he met their mother. We don’t know who the mother is until the end of the show’s run. While narrating his past, Ted and his friends explore careers, love, and interaction while living in Manhattan during as 20 somethings. The characters are endearing and, at times, quirky but always loyal to each other as friends. “How I Met Your Mother” takes us into the world of young adults living in New York City.
14. Gossip Girl
“Gossip Girl” aired on the CW network from 2007 to 2012. Unlike the typical comedy or dramas set in New York City about growing up, “Gossip Girl” followed the lives and interactions of upper-class adolescents living in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. While the drama follows those kids’ lives, it also features New York City prominently. Filmed in the city, we get to see several New York City landmarks, including the New York Palace Hotel, the Campbell Apartments, the Museum of the City of New York, Columbia University, the Russian Tea Room, and much more.
15. Broad City
New York City is the main character in the comedy series “Broad City”. Developed from a web series by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the hysterical TV show is loosely based on friends’ lives living in New York City. The show is both funny and odd. We get to see these two young ladies creating scenes on the streets of New York City.
16. Will and Grace
Will and Grace is one of the most iconic sitcoms ever. It follows Will and Grace, who are roommates and best friends. What makes this show funny is that Grace was always attracted to Will, even though she knew he was homosexual. However, the two maintain their friendship over decades and show us what friendship is all about. The TV comedy would not be complete without Grace’s assistant, Karen, and Will’s friend Jack. The ensemble cast is outstanding, and their lives show a great understanding of New York City.
“Daredevil” is the Marvel Comics television adaptation of the blind lawyer by day and crime fighter by night. The Netflix TV show shows the superhero fighting crime on the streets of New York City’s “Hell’s Kitchen”. The shooting of the show takes place on the streets of Brooklyn and is made to bring back the era of the beautiful yet gritty “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood of the 1970s. The show’s creators take special care to bring that era of New York City to life.
The ABC TV series “Castle” aired on ABC from 2009 to 2016. The New York City set series is a comedy and crime drama. The show follows best-selling mystery novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) as they solve crimes in New York City while reluctant to work together. As with other crime dramas set in Manhattan, the city plays a big role in this series.
The 1980s TV series “Fame” was based on a movie of the same name. The show demonstrates an important side of New York City, the side where young talented kids follow their dreams of becoming famous. The fictional New York City High School for Performing Arts is a place similar to where many actual stars honed their performing talents. The show and film were critically acclaimed and brought us into the lives of characters who embodied the idealism of rising to stardom in the great city of New York.
20. The Bold Type
The Bold Type is one of those shows that give you a close look into the lives of women working for a women’s magazine. And to make it more interesting, they are based in New York. The show’s based on the life of former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine Joanna Coles, who is also the executive producer of the show. The best thing about this show is that you get to watch three women as they navigate their professional careers and romantic lives in a big city. It’s funny, warm, and dramatic; what more could you want from a show in New York City?
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