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TV’s Most Realistic and Ridiculous Representations of New York City

While Hollywood still sits on top of a celluloid empire, TV production is rapidly moving east. New York may not have the temperate filming climate that Los Angeles boasts, but it does offer producers a 30 percent tax credit, instated in 2008, and of course the authentic New York City backdrop against which many shows are set. This season, 23 prime-time series are being filmed in New York, up from a measly nine in 2006.

But flying a film crew out east and renting out a Brooklyn loft doesn’t ensure that a show will get the aura — or the facts — right. New York shows have tried and failed to accurately portray New York City on screen, often apparently because they were too busy collecting a library of picturesque Central Park shots to pick up on the kinds of food New Yorkers eat, how much rent they pay, the way they talk to their neighbors, and the fact that most of us actually don’t spend all that much time in Central Park. We’ve rounded up our favorite Big Apple shows and ranked them from realistic to laughable. Which city show do you think is most representative of the real New York?

30 Rock

Although the show is based on Tina Fey’s experiences working behind the scenes of SNL, it’s hard to imagine that 30 Rock is anything but a highly caricaturized retelling of production studio tales. A class of self-obsessed New Yorkers who think the world revolves around them and couldn’t survive if it didn’t, Liz Lemon’s coworkers are disconnected from the “real” New York. But when they step out of their fortressed lives high up in the GE Building, the city that emerges does seem true to life, and the cast members start to blend in with the eccentric bunch treading the sidewalk.

The show pokes fun at the strange, seemingly random events that constitute the quintessence of New York, and makes clear that the city streets are equalizers that strip us of the status we have in our workplaces and private lives. Even stars and egotistical producers find themselves trapped in helpless situations in the anonymity of New York — like Jack Donaghy’s tragicomic experience asking strangers on the subway for help, beginning, “I’m not a drug addict. I’m an executive with the General Electric corporation,” while he scratches at his bed bug-ridden body and subway riders pretend not to notice him.

Verdict: Definitely Manhattan. 4.5 out of 5.