Which shows are the most effective at moving viewers from their couches and recliners to the airplanes and trains that bring them to New York City? We’ve set out to rank them, and have assembled the top 10 after days of exhaustive research.
1. Seinfeld (1989–1998)
For fans of: Nihilism, nitpicking, selfishness
New Yorkiest episode: “The Subway” (season 3, episode 13) revolves around the gang’s adventures on the City’s mass transit system. Lines like “we’re stopping for rats” will resonate for regular NYC commuters, but are written so vividly and delivered with such conviction that they also make people laugh who’ve never transferred to the A at Hoyt-Schermerhorn.
Why you’ll pack your bags: Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer have their shortcomings as people, but they were fascinating to watch—and their show (while mostly shot in Los Angeles) captured the character of the City and its fast-paced, anxious day-to-day life: the lines, the awkward, sometimes exciting encounters with strangers and celebrities, and the sense that anything can happen. Executives initially feared it was “too New York,” and, yes, “too Jewish.” Years later, it’s safe to say they made the right choice overcoming that hesitation. We’ve called it the New Yorkiest show before, and we still haven’t changed our minds.
Kenny Kramer’s Reality Tour It’s the real real Peterman.
The Original SoupMan The soup stand that inspired the “Soup Nazi” has gone corporate, but it’s still open.
Tom’s Restaurant It’s the place that provides the famous facade for Monk’s Café. –JZ
2. Girls (2012–2017)
For fans of: Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, and trust-fund bohemia
New Yorkiest quote: In the show’s first season, Hannah and company go to a raging late-night club in Bushwick where all sorts of drama goes down—so much that Marnie declares: “I am never coming back to Bushwick…ever!”
Why you’ll pack your bags: Girls inspired countless 20-somethings with liberal arts degrees to descend upon Greenpoint and start singing in cafés. Want to be a voice of a generation? This is the place to go.
Café Grumpy Where Hannah works for a hot minute in season 1.
An outlaw warehouse party in Bushwick While you still can.
Brooklyn College Stands in as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop while Hannah’s there. —Brian Sloan
3. Sex and the City (1998–2004)
For fans of: The high life, high heels, cosmos
New Yorkiest episode: “Anchors Away” (season 5, episode 1), the first episode shot after 9/11, brought the girls to a crossroads when it comes to relationships. Charlotte contemplates having more than one great love; Miranda accepts her new role as full-time mother who isn’t dating; and Samantha gets revenge on one of the only men she ever loved, Richard. She also utters the unforgettable “dirty martini, dirty bastard” after throwing a drink in his face in public. Fortunately for the ladies, it’s Fleet Week and the City is teeming with eligible military men. This is also the episode where Carrie claims Manhattan as her one true love.
Why you’ll pack your bags: Sex and the City made being a single woman living in New York City seem like fun. The City was a playground where Carrie Bradshaw and her crew—Charlotte York, Samantha Jones and Miranda Hobbes—would run around town and shop for designer shoes, date a parade of men and share their stories over cosmopolitans, a drink made popular by the show. Carrie fever, as Jay Z once referred to it in a song, was at an all-time-high in the early 2000s—and the allure of living like Bradshaw (lots of shoes, no roommates and an Upper East Side apartment with a walk-in-closet) remains to this day.
Carrie’s Apartment,66 Perry Street, Manhattan The “Upper East Side” one-bedroom abode where Carrie pens her newspaper column is actually in the West Village. Be courteous—real people live here.
Central Park Boathouse Where Carrie and Mr. Big meet in the finale of the third season. Carrie tumbles into the pond trying to dodge her ex, having promised Miranda she wouldn’t kiss him.
Eleven Madison Park This Michelin-starred restaurant is where the marriage-phobic Big breaks the news of his engagement to his ex-girlfriend to Carrie. She abruptly ends the lunch by storming out, knocking over a chair and telling Big off. –Christina Parrella
4. Billy on the Street (2011–present)
For fans of: Brashness, obscure pop culture references, celebrity sightings, people-watching, yelling
New Yorkiest episode: In season 4’s “The Julianne Moore Acting Attack!” Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore competes with costumed Times Square characters for tips—performing some of her famous monologues. Perhaps the New Yorkiest part of all is how unimpressed New Yorkers are about meeting Julianne Moore. It’s true: we see famous people all the time. NBD.
Why you’ll pack your bags: Anytime you’re in New York City, there’s the very real possibility that you could meet celebrities (including Billy!) on the street. Just don’t make a thing out of it. If you do run into Billy, you can win $1 playing his highly subjective pop culture “trivia” game, “For a Dollar.” –Alyson Penn
The Flatiron District
Washington Square Park
5. Mad Men (2007–2015)
For fans of: Madison Avenue, old New York, martinis (three of them, at lunch)
New Yorkiest moment: When Peggy looks for an apartment on the Upper East Side in 1968 (in season 6, episode 5), the real estate agent mentions the future Second Avenue subway as a selling point: “Believe me, when they finish the Second Avenue subway, this apartment will quadruple in value.” Almost 50 years later, the oft-delayed line is finally a reality and will open to riders in early 2017.
Why you’ll pack your bags: For a series that took a sober (hey-o!) view of the City’s past, this dark drama has generated plenty of nostalgia for old New York. While some of its locations (like the original Copacabana Club) are lost to history, many are still around and worth checking out for a blast from NYC’s ’60s past.
The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal, for Sterling soups (see season 1, episode 7).
Time & Life building, home to the Sterling Cooper ad agency.
Minetta Tavern, where Peggy and her boyfriend Abe have a fateful dinner. –BS