The Best T.V. Portrayals of New York

So many shows, everything from sitcoms to true crime, take place in this one city and yet it never looks quite the same. Every show has its own New York that they light, fill, and interact with differently. Here’s just a few of our favorites in no particular order!

For a suspenseful and accurately pretentious New York literary scene – You

There’s this one funny moment in I think the first episode where they show a subway station that doesn’t actually exist. Beck and Joe apparently live in some alternate reality where there’s a 6 train stop called York Avenue on the East Side - for non-New Yorkers, York Avenue is a residential, extremely wealthy avenue all the way past 1st Avenue on the Upper East Side, the ritziest part of Manhattan that only has two train lines in it and the neighborhood had a ton of objections to adding one on 2nd Avenue - York is about the farthest east and the wealthiest you can go and it’s a funny idea to imagine an already existing subway moving there. In general, I feel like the portrayal of people who live in New York is really accurate because I definitely know people like Joe and Beck. There’s some really sharp satire especially of New York college MFA culture and the pseudo-intellectualism of New York colleges.

Favorite part: “Jersey, right?”


For a funny, random, and aggressive New York – Billy on the Street

There are lots of iconic game shows or shows that rely on a studio audience filmed here in New York, but Billy on the Street stands out in how interactive and random it can be. It’s technically a pop-culture game show, but it’s really just twenty-five beautiful minutes of Billy Eichner aggressively getting to know people, sometimes with the help of celebrity guests like Tiffany Haddish, John Oliver, and even Michelle Obama. The best companion to Billy’s humor though is standout series regular Elena, who’s always loyal and effortlessly funny. Each episode catches a range of New Yorkers and their reactions that Billy Eichner brilliantly plays off of. Eichner commits hard on the show, keeps things going, and spins something funny out of even the most awkward of interactions. You get everything with Billy on the Street – yelling people, confused people, scared people, pissed off people, and it’s all hilarious!

Favorite part: WHY? BECAUSE!


For a heartwarming, hilarious, and surreally accurate New York – Broad City

Despite being a show with a New York that goes to surreal places, Broad City captures a lot of the everyday fun and horrors of the city. Everything from awful subway rides to getting locked out of their place, and trying to sell their stuff at Beacon’s Closet, Abbi and Ilana have done it all. Most of the shows on this list are actually filmed here in New York, but Broad City really makes great use of its local settings, somehow highlighting their mundane fun with the show’s absurdity. There’s that old saying about New York being a character itself and that feels especially true for Broad City. The city feels like an active supporting player in Abbi and Ilana’s friendship. Of course, there are many, many shows about friendships between young women trying to make it in New York, but Broad City takes the cake for all the depth and exploration given to Abbi and Ilana’s intense bond.

Favorite part: Hard to choose, but Garol always gets me


For every kind of New Yorker under the sun united under the universal truth of recreational drug use - High Maintenance

High Maintenance follows a marijuana dealer known only as “The Guy” delivering throughout Brooklyn, and if any TV program showcases just how many kinds of people New York has, it’s High Maintenance. The Guy delivers to a shroom-dealing Australian living in the newly gentrified Bushwick, meets an asexual magician, oversteps into a family’s Seder dinner, and bikes all the way out the nearly suburban Brooklyn neighborhood of Ditmas Park. What High Maintenance does best is portray the hub of millennial culture that Brooklyn has turned into, but recognize that the mish-mash of people living in Brooklyn is made up of broke students and longtime New Yorkers all the same. The satire is biting; the show’s character listen to NPR podcasts while donning Warby Parker glasses. New York is known for being liberal around marijuana usage, but there is something tone-deaf about how casual a lot of young, white, middle class New Yorkers are about an illegal substance they will never have to go down for, and High Maintenance celebrates the absurdity of that culture while recognizing that the show owes its existence to it all the same.

Best scene: “Reality bubbles”


For a gritty superhero take on New York’s crime and politics – Luke Cage

I feel weird saying a superhero show feels grounded, but the New York of Luke Cage is really what grounds all the superhero action and villainy. More than just backdrop, you get the sense that Luke Cage could only happen here in New York, the show’s storylines feel like they were made for the city, specifically Cage’s home of Harlem. A lot of Marvel’s universe (both the large cinematic one and the connecting T.V. shows) take place in New York. Just within Luke Cage’s home on Netflix, there was three other shows also creating their own gritty takes on a New York with superheroes. But Luke Cage (both the show as a whole and the hero at the centre of it) feel the most invested in the city and its people. It’s a unique more intimate view of Marvel’s New York, where the stakes are high not from some kind of large intergalactic threat, but because of all the local people you meet and care for along the way.

Favorite part: Hard to say, but just one of the great displays of Luke Cage’s power, the fight in the Chinese restaurant in the show’s pilot episode