From Friends to I Love Lucy: 25 Iconic TV Shows Set in New York City
New York: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. At least that’s how Frank Sinatra sang it in his “Theme from New York, New York.” Maybe that’s the thinking behind so many of the iconic TV shows that use the ever-changing, ever-growing city as a setting. From gritty cop dramas to ensemble comedies to indie breakouts, we’ve rounded up the top 25 shows whose characters call NYC home.
I Love Lucy
Originally set in an apartment building in New York City, I Love Lucy followed the hijinx of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her singer/bandleader husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz), along with their best friends and landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz. Their Manhattan building had the fictional Upper East Side address: 623 East 68th St. (See interior shots of their apartment here). In real life, the addresses on that street only go up to the 500s before it terminates at the East River, as Gothamist points out.
This sitcom centered on working-class married couple Ralph and Alice Kramden, who lived an apartment on Chauncey Street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Their best friends—and upstairs neighbors—were Ed and Trixie Norton. Interestingly, the series initially referred to their address as 728, but later in the series if was changed to 328, which actually exists in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. RockCellar Magazine has real photos of actual locations referenced on the show here.
The longest-running children's TV series (which has won a record 159 Emmy Awards) is taped in Astoria, Queens and has a set that's got the feel of several neighborhoods in the city. (The Huffington Post offers some suggestions of specific inspirations here.) This season, the show has undergone a "Williamsburg-like" set renovation (according toThe New York Times) — instead of living in a trash can, Oscar the Grouch now resides in a tunnel of connected recycling and compost bins.
The Odd Couple
Feliz Unger (Tony Randall) and Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) have been an opposing duo in the big screen, the small screen, and the stage. The TV adaptation has the characters based in an East side Manhattan apartment—1049 Park Ave. to be exact. We also loved the New York-ness of the opening credits sequence—watch it here.
All in the Family
Normal Lear's classic working-class family sitcom starred Carroll O'Connor as the cranky, bigoted Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton as his dimly sweet wife Edith. The show broke boundaries with episodes tackling racism, sexuality, women's liberation, abortion and breast cancer... all playing out in the Bunker's Astoria, Queens, living room. The official address of their house was credited as 704 Hauser St., though the house shown in the opening credits was actually 89-70 Cooper Ave., according to The New York Times.
This All in the Family spinoff centered on George and Louise Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford), an affluent African-American couple who moved (on up) from Queens to a luxury East-side Manhattan apartment. The memorable opening credits sequence showing the Jefferson's "deluxe apartment in the sky" was of the building located at 185 East 85th St.
Jerry Seinfeld's "show about nothing" used a series of New York locations as settings for it's most memorable scenes—from the exterior of Monk's Coffee Shop (where the gang made their infamous bet) to Jerry's Upper West Side apartment (where we met kooky neighbor Kramer) to Royale Pastry Shop (where Jerry got his black and white cookie). Reportedly, the address that Jerry (the character) used—129 W. 81st St.—was the actual place that Jerry (the real comedian) lived when he was just starting in standup in the city in the early '80s.
Mad About You
Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt starred as newlyweds Paul and Jamie Buchman in this romantic comedy series, set in Greenwich Village, near NYU. The building that the show used for exterior shots is on the corner of 12th St. and 5th Ave. The show captured the modern-day New York couple (he's a documentary filmmaker, she's in public relations) and hit some only-in-New-York plotlines...like when a parade going down your block means you're stuck inside all day.
Who wouldn't want Queen Latifah and Kim Fields as roommates? This single-in-the-city series centered on a trio of single professional women living in a Brooklyn brownstone. (And an odd-couple of male roommates next door and a Kramer-esque friend, Max, who was in the girls' apartment so much she might as well have lived there too.) You know you want to watch the catchy opening credit sequence: here it is.
The '90s clearly were the golden age of the set-in-NYC sitcom. This Fran Drescher classic was a bit of an updated Who's the Boss — Queens native Fran Fine (Drescher) becomes the nanny of three wealthy British children on New York's upper East side (7 East 75th St. was the building used for exteriors), who eventually falls in love with her boss, Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy).
Much like Seinfeld, Friends regularly made its New York City setting part of the plot. From the Central Park-themed coffeehouse that served as the six main characters' regular hangout to the bland brown hallway of the building Rachel and Monica (and Joey and Chandler) live in. About that building: Much has been made about the spaciousness of Monica's fictional apartment, with it's sunken living room, separate dining area, roof deck, and two bedrooms. According to Discover Home Loans, an apartment on the corner of Grove and Bedford, the exterior shot shown throughout the series, would actually cost someone $3.5 million.
Sex and the City
There's a reason that Sex and the City inspired one of the very first 'As Seen on TV' tours in NYC. From Magnolia Cupcakes to Trapeze School New York to Carrie’s apartment (the exterior of which is located at 66 Perry St.), it’s been said that the city itself was the fifth main character of this iconic series. Each character had their own neighborhood and their own vibe: Carrie’s boho village apartment, prim Charlotte’s Park Ave place, party-hopping Samantha in the Meatpacking district and driven Miranda, who moves out to Brooklyn in Season 6.
Will & Grace
This Must See TV classic about lawyer Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and his roommate and best friend, interior designer Grace Adler (Debra Messing) featured several famous NYC buildings. The friends lived at 155 Riverside Drive and Grace’s design studio was located in the Puck Building. Creator Max Mutchnick donated the set of Will’s apartment to his alma mater, Emerson College, which now displays it at the school’s Los Angeles outpost.
New York is the setting of many classic cop shows. It was hard to narrow down, but Steven Bochco and David Milch’s NYPD Blue, which centered on the fictional 15th precinct in Manhattan, is our pick for its role in launching the careers of David Caruso and Dennis Franz—and by bringing in Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroder and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in later seasons.
Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens
(1996-2005) and (1998-2007)
Raymond and Debra Barone of Long Island and Doug and Carrie Heffernan of Rego Park, Queens were a callback to the family-focused, outer-borough sitcoms of the 70s. (See All in the Family, The Honeymooners.) Like All in the Family and The Jeffersons, the two series were linked. Ray (Ray Romano) appeared as a friend of Doug (Kevin James) in the latter’s series in 1999.
How I Met Your Mother
Channeling the vibe of Friends, HIMYM took a look at a group of male and female friends in their 20s. Lily, Marshall, Barney, Robin, and Ted dated, broke up, got married, and had kids within the framework of the show, which flashed forward to the future at the start of most episodes, with “future Ted” telling his kids stories of, well…see the series title. Ted and Marshall’s apartment was located on the Upper West Side and the gang’s local bar, MacLarens, was reportedly inspired by midtown pub, McGee’s, located on West 55th St.
Though The Girlie Show, the variety series that the character Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) wrote for wasn’t real, the series’ title location is very real. 30 Rockefeller Plaza is the home of NBC Studios where shows like SNL and The Tonight Show still tape. Fey’s experience on SNL provided the inspiration for this absurd sitcom, which was nominated for 103 Emmys over the course of its run. Though the show mostly taped at Silvercup Studios in Queens, 30 Rock featured many outdoor shots that were filmed at the real 30 Rock.
Another workplace comedy, Ugly Betty was set at the fictional Mode magazine, based in Manhattan. Twenty-two-year old Betty Suarez scores a job as the assistant to the newly-named Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius). Betty’s family home is located in Jackson Heights, Queens, and Mode magazine is headquartered in the MetLife building in midtown.
(2007 - 2012)
In its six seasons, Gossip Girl’s plot twists and turns took the cast of young up-and-coming actors (Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Chase Crawford, Penn Badly and Ed Westwick) uptown, downtown to Brooklyn, out to the Hamptons and back. Named the “Most Restauranty Show Since Sex and the City” by New York magazine, the series filmed in hundreds of real NYC locations throughout the series run. Here’s Extra’s list of their 10 favorites and, if you want more than 10 with specific episode annotations, check out this impressively-created fan GoogleMap.
Matthew Weiner’s look at the advertising world of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, Mad Men offered a stylized glimpse at a golden age of New York City, from The Pierre Hotel to The Grand Central Oyster Bar to Sardis. Though many of the locations depicted in the show have since closed, some remain open for business today. Check out this list of the show’s most memorable locations and their addresses.
Eight years after Sex and the City ended its run, Lena Dunham’s headline-grabbing HBO series debuted, introducing the world to a modern group of 20-something friends trying to figure out love, sex, friendship, and their careers. Instead of anchoring the series in Manhattan, Dunham’s main character Hannah Horvath lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If you’re looking for a Girls-inspired day in the city, the Huffington Post put together the perfect itinerary for you here. And here’s another impressive GoogleMap of the show’s filming locations.
(2014 - current)
The latest odd couple to take over TV is Abbi (Abbi Jacobsen) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer). The BFFs live in separate apartments in Brooklyn—and, like Girls, most of the show takes place in Brooklyn or downtown New York. If you aren’t from New York City and wondered “how real is that episode that took place along New York’s St. Marks place?”, the answer is VERY real. Check out a list of locations the duo filmed at for Season 2 here and for locations throughout all three seasons here.
Master of None
(2015 - current)
Aziz Ansari’s debut Netflix series has only been with us for a short 10 episodes, but we’re so excited for what will hopefully be a multi-season run. Ansari loves food. (Really. Not just a little, a lot.) And so the show has his main character, actor Dev Shah, visit some of the best restaurants in NYC right now. Seriously, let his show be your food guide the next time you’re making a dinner reservation. Check out a list of some of the top spots he featured in this New York Times piece or this comprehensive Thrillist list.
One of the TV breakouts of last summer, Mr. Robot uses gritty Chinatown exteriors (where main character Elliot Alderson lives), quiet, abandoned Coney Island arcades (the headquarters of the mysterious anarchist hackers) and Times Square — the juxtaposition of which only enhances the stylized show’s intriguing plotlines. Check out ten of the show’s NYC locations here.