Everything My Favorite TV Shows Got Wrong about New York City
New York, New York — the city so nice they named it twice — is a favorite location for television and film and has been since these entertainment mediums were first created. But how accurate are these films and TV shows in how they portray the Big Apple? Now that I’ve spent two full years living in Manhattan as a college student, I decided to debunk all the myths and outline everything my favorite TV shows got wrong about living in New York:
Gossip Girl: Lest Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen have you convinced that New Yorkers all have their own chauffeur, a seemingly bottomless wardrobe, and a perfect command of the French language, that’s not true (maybe on the Upper East Side? I spend most of my time on the Upper West Side, where Barnard is located). Although I’m sure in a fantasy world we’d all spend our days having breakfast on the steps of the Met, attending galas and getting into the kind of trouble that would make Chuck Bass proud (or at the very least, provoke one of his signature smirks), Manhattan life is not quite so exciting and scandalous.
My major grievance about Gossip Girl is the entire premise of the show: an anonymous blogger revealing secrets about Manhattan’s elite. As any New Yorker will tell you, the unspoken motto of the city is “Live and let live.” I like drama as much as the next person, but quite frankly, I live in New York and nothing could surprise me anymore, not even a Georgina Sparks scheme. Another unrealistic thing about Gossip Girl’s New York? Nobody ever takes the subway! Can you even really call yourself a true New Yorker if you haven’t taken the subway?
Friends: Perhaps the 90’s were a different time, but I want to know how it’s even remotely possible that anyone can afford to live in New York City while spending so little time at their actual jobs. Don’t even get me started on how they’re able to afford that giant apartment. And it seems to be one of two places (the other being Central Perk) that anyone ever seems to be. They’re in New York! They have the entire city at their disposal, but they hardly ever seem to use it.
Glee: Let’s make one thing absolutely clear- Rachel and Kurt’s Bushwick apartment is probably the most unrealistic aspect of Glee (second only to the idea that characters just spontaneously burst into song and nobody really seems to care or even notice when it’s narratively convenient). But if I keep talking about unrealistic NYC apartments, this blog post will never end. On a subway-related note, maybe it’s just me wanting to see the best in my fellow New Yorkers, but I firmly believe that someone would have stopped the thief who stole Artie’s backpack on the subway in season five. True New Yorkers do have a reputation for being purposefully aloof, but if you stopped to ask someone for directions, they would pretty readily help you out. I don’t think any New Yorker would willingly turn a blind eye to someone stealing a backpack from another person.
The Nanny: Maybe this one is a little niche, but I’m hoping at least one person reading this post enjoys some 90’s sitcoms. First, if you’ve never watched The Nanny, I highly recommend it. However, I find it unrealistic that Maxwell Sheffield could be living in New York for (presumably) a long time and still not know the Yiddish terminology that has wormed its way into the New York lexicon. If you don’t know the signature New York bagel order--a bagel with lox and a schmear of cream cheese--or know what your friend means when they tell you about a restaurant in Queens that was great but really a schlep, you haven’t lived in New York for very long.
How I Met Your Mother: Aside from the idea that anyone in the world would fall for one of Barney Stinson’s ploys, I’d say that How I Met Your Mother is maybe the most realistic of the shows I’ve critiqued so far when it comes to New York living. It’s physically impossible to get from the Upper West Side to SoHo in fifteen minutes via taxi, but I’ll forgive Robin for saying that because she’s not from New York.
I’d also like to point out that it’s completely unrealistic that Ted Mosby would become an architecture professor at Columbia (the exterior shot of the building where Ted teaches is Earl Hall...which, by the way, is not even a building with classroom spaces). Everyone knows the architecture department is at Barnard!
Gossip Girl, Part Deux: Now let’s talk about Gossip Girl’s relationship with Columbia specifically. I, for one, think it’s entirely unrealistic that any of the characters would’ve been admitted to Columbia given that they never study and hardly attend class. My other major grievance with the whole Columbia arc is the thought of Barnard and Columbia students actually reading Gossip Girl, let alone becoming obsessed with it like Blair’s Columbia minions are in season four. The only shows I can think of Barnard and Columbia students rallying around are The Bachelor and The Great British Baking Show--we don’t have the time for Gossip-Girl level drama here. (Side note: Zuzanna Szadkowski graduated from Barnard in 2001 as a theater major, making Dorota, everyone’s favorite maid in Manhattan, a true Barnard woman.)