When I realised that a lot of my all-time favourite shows are set in New York, I thought it would be fun to discuss my top five. There are so many brilliant and different series set across the city that I’m sure there’s something for everyone. Many of these shows offer some kind of insight in to life in (arguably) the world’s greatest city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has even praised these shows for contributing towards the city’s appeal to tourists. He’s quoted as saying “In fact, the economic impact of…television shows and films that are made in New York really can be felt directly in all five boroughs”.
Even if they’re completely different from mine, I’d still love to know: what are your favourite New York based shows? Also, before anyone says it, I’m very aware that I have extremely girly taste in television!
New York is unquestionably a major part of Gossip Girl. Blair, Serena, Nate and Chuck are all from wealthy families and have grown up in lavish homes on the Upper East Side. They live in a surreal but privileged world where they have extravagant parties, hired help and very expensive taste. As teenagers, they attend the most prestigious private school and are only ever seen at the most upscale of venues. Blair is particularly fond of her home ground and sees the Upper East Side and – Manhattan in general – as a sophisticated and exclusive space for her to rule over.
Dan Humphrey and his sister Jenny, on the other hand, are from Brooklyn and they’re regularly snubbed and taunted because of that. They’re introduced to the Upper East Side when they’re sent to school there and they struggle to fit in. While Jenny is enthralled by the glamour of it all, Dan dislikes its superficiality and pretentiousness. He slowly learns to adapt to it and – largely because of the Humphreys – we eventually also get to see Brooklyn depicted as a place filled with culture, high morals and good coffee.
Rachel: Brooklyn…that’s the place across the bridge, right?
Betty Suarez is an ambitious, hard-working but slightly naive young woman from Queens. Her life changes completely when she unexpectedly lands a job as an assistant to the new Editor-in-Chief of Mode, a hugely popular fashion magazine. The state-of-the-art offices are located in Manhattan and the bustling city is a totally different place to the familiar neighbourhood that she grew up in.
At the start of the series, Betty is still living with her father, sister and nephew in their modest family home in Jackson Heights, Queens. In the third season, she does relocate to the city but soon feels obligated to return home when her father falls ill. Although Betty is sometimes mocked for where she comes from, it’s clear that she does find comfort and joy in Queens. In one episode, it’s Betty’s roots in the borough that persuades top photographer Vincent Bianchi to work with Mode. When he learns that she grew up four blocks from him, went to the same high school and shares his love for a local deli, he instantly warms to her and agrees to be involved with the magazine that he previously had no interest in.
Amanda: Who cares about carbs when you’re from Queens, right…?
In my mind, this isn’t just one of the best shows from New York – or even from America – this is one of the best shows ever. Most of us are (probably too) familiar with the lives of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, Phoebe and Chandler. The six characters are from different parts of New York but mostly live in Greenwich Village for the entire series. Their favourite hangout is the fictional local coffeehouse Central Perk but they’re no strangers to iconic New York haunts such as Central Park and Bloomingdales.
In one episode, Monica and Chandler have offered to take newcomer Erica to visit all the famous sights in the city. She says she wants to see “everything! Times Square, Coney Island, Rockefeller Centre”. Joey even helpfully suggests that they walk “all the way to the top of the Statue of Liberty”. Chandler is unenthusiastic about their plans at first but by the end of the day, he’s fallen in love with the city. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to find out the series was actually mostly filmed in Los Angeles but nevertheless, it’s still largely associated with New York. In fact, the last episode of the series was considered such a big deal that it was shown on a big screen in Times Square – how amazing is that?!
Chandler: (wearing an “I love New York” t-shirt and Statue of Liberty hat) New York is awesome!
2 Broke Girls
Max and Caroline are young, beautiful…and totally broke. They dream of opening their own cupcake business but in the meantime, they have to work as waitresses in a diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Max has been poor and trying to make ends meet all her life which has made her tough, streetwise and unassuming. Caroline, on the other hand, is a former high society girl who lost all her money when her father was sent to prison for fraud. She struggles as she adjusts to living in a neighbourhood that’s not as well-off as the one she was raised in.
Although she despises the hipsters that frequent the area, Max seems to enjoy life in Williamsburg. She fully embraces all the charms and quirks of her surroundings and teaches Caroline how to survive in the area. The girls soon realise that they will most likely have to start their business in their own area and so Caroline becomes particularly determined for people to think of Brooklyn as the new Manhattan.
Max: So how’d you end up in Brooklyn?
Caroline: I…typed in ‘places where nobody on the Upper East Side would ever go ever’ and this diner came up.
Sex and the City
New York is very much a part of the Sex and the City series. Throughout the six seasons, the leading ladies are constantly checking out the hottest new bars, clubs and restaurants. For the most part, they all live, work and play in the city. From start to finish, Carrie resides in a studio apartment on the Upper East Side while Charlotte is on Park Avenue. Samantha leaves the Upper East Side for the Meatpacking District and at the end of the series; Miranda makes the biggest move, swapping her Manhattan apartment for a Brooklyn townhouse.
All the glamour, excitement and chaos of New York City is well portrayed in this show. There’s the incredible fashion, regular celebrity sightings and exclusive events. On the other hand, however, we’re also made aware of the noise, bad attitudes and crime (how could we ever forget Carrie’s mugger taking her Manolo Blahniks?!). Whatever happened though, the fabulous four were always ultimately happy and proud to call themselves New Yorkers. In one episode, Carrie even expressed her belief that the city might just be her one great love…
Carrie: You’re never alone in New York…the city is your date.
Miranda: You’re dating the city?
Carrie: For about eighteen years. It’s getting serious. I think I’m in love!