TV and New York CityPosted: 4 October 2012
After a shift in my living and working situation, I’ve moved to Brooklyn, NY. In the past few weeks, I have been packing, networking, finding housing, buying airline tickets and saying goodbye to North Carolina. That leaves precious little time for blogging, Jonathan Foster.***
Now that I’m here, I’ve been catching up on the new TV I’ve missed, taking in the neighborhood and sights, and settling into the groove of city living. (I’ve also been asked for directions, which I take as a sign that I’m blending in quite nicely.) In my TV time, I’ve realized just how many current TV shows are set in New York City: Girls, Two Broke Girls, Gossip Girl, The Mindy Project, Louie, How I Met Your Mother, Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23, 666 Park Avenue, Animal Practice, Guys with Kids, 30 Rock, Elementary, Person of Interest, half of Glee, CSI: NY, Law and Order: SVU, Made in Jersey, Whitney…the list goes on. And, if they aren’t on this list, chances are, they’re set in the other big cities where all stories worth telling happen: Chicago or Los Angeles. (Because it’s not like there are 296 million people outside those cities with interesting lives … well, outside of Pawnee, Indiana; Lima, Ohio; and Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
What’s more interesting than how many shows are set in New York is how few of them are actually produced here. Because of this, we end up having a weird disconnect between what New York actually looks like, and what TV makes us think it looks like … depending on the shows you pursue. For instance, let’s have a little girl talk. If you’re watching Girls (produced in NYC), life is hipsters, small apartments and crack spirit guides. If you’re watching Two Broke Girls (produced in LA), life is making fun of hipsters, an apartment you could keep a HORSE in and racial stereotypes.
On HIMYM, you see the same five blocks over, and over, and over again. Granted, the brownstones can start to look similar after a while, but that’s a little ridiculous. On The Mindy Project, the subway cars they ride in haven’t been running since Mindy Kaling left New York to work on The Office … and I think that may be part of the problem: the New York in the LA-based shows could be stuck in a rose-colored time warp of how the creators remember it when they lived here. Show runners like Louie CK and Lena Dunham are closer to the action, and have created more representative, if skewed, versions of New York. However, with all that said, maybe the escapist in most TV viewers enjoys seeing versions of major American cities that don’t actually exist, and don’t mind when they visit the city that it’s not exactly what TV made it out to be.
I would have never given this any thought if I hadn’t moved to New York. After all, who thinks about stuff like that when you live in North Carolina – a state that has been used to represent New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., The Hunger Games‘ Capitol and District 12, Medieval England, Mississippi, and literally Anywhere, U.S.A. I don’t think North Carolina has been host to a film set in Cockfosters, but there’s a first time for everything … and for posting this picture.