ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: New York state of mind
Few cities can claim as many starring roles in TV and cinema as New York. Indeed, any list would be as long as the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, NYC & Company has come up with its own short list of TV shows and films that showcase the Big Apple, or simply have the city in their DNA.
Moreover, the official destination marketing organization for New York hopes that frustrated travellers who can’t get to the city during the pandemic will tune in to help keep their desire to visit alive, and to remind that, once there, On Location Tours can whisk visitors off to see sights immortalized in their favourite shows, such as the famous Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld.
“As people all over the world stay home and stay safe, they can still engage with the City through this powerful medium and be thoroughly entertained until it’s time to visit again,” says NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon, who cites countless stories in which the City has served as a backdrop, from an unplanned holiday trip (Home Alone 2) to drama at an iconic museum (Night at the Museum) and a heroic battle in the shadow of NYC landmarks (The Avengers), or simply friends experiencing daily life throughout the five boroughs (Friends).
Fans of any genre can get lost in a story set in the City while practicing social distancing, says Dixon.
Here’s a shortlist:
Friends: While Friends was primarily filmed in a studio, the West Village apartment where Rachel, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Ross, and Chandler live and hang out is a real building on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets. Today at street level is The Little Owl, a Mediterranean restaurant in the same space as the Central Perk café where Rachel works and Phoebe famously performs “Smelly Cat.” Additionally, the neighborhood is home to a number of well-known Off-Broadway theatre including the Lucille Lortel Theatre, where aspiring actor Joey performs in the show’s earlier seasons.
How I Met Your Mother: Ted’s nine-season search for his wife includes stops at countless iconic NYC destinations. At ’21’ Club Marshall finds what he declares to be the best burger in NYC; Ted (unwittingly) first meets his wife on the Columbia University campus; and the friends have a legen… wait for it… dary time at world-renowned locales, such as the American Museum of Natural History and Empire State Building. Additionally, the gang’s go-to watering hole, MacLaren’s, was inspired by McGee’s, a bar in Midtown Manhattan.
The Last O.G.: Starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish, this comedy follows a Brooklynite’s reintroduction to the community where he grew up after serving 15 years in prison. Primarily filmed in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, the sitcom (which debuted a new season on April 7), features locations throughout the borough, including Prospect Park, Sheepshead Bay and Williamsburg.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: The story of Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s foray into the male-dominated stand-up comedy industry gives viewers a peek into 1950s Manhattan. Mrs. Maisel lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side while her pursuit of a career in comedy takes her to iconic clubs in the West Village, such as the Gaslight and Village Vanguard, where she watches new friend and comedy icon Lenny Bruce perform. In the most recent season, viewers get a feel for another borough, as Midge’s in-laws move to Forest Hills, Queens.
30 Rock: The iconic address of the studio where Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, Jenna Maroney and Kenneth Parcell make the sketch comedy show TGS with Tracy Jordan is the actual home of NBC Studios. When New York City again welcomes visitors, The Tour at NBC Studios will offer a behind-the-scenes look at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, including Saturday Night Live—30 Rock creator Tina Fey’s inspiration for the beloved comedy.
Seinfeld: Contrary to Jerry and friends’ experiences on the show, nobody yells, “No soup for you!” at The Original Soupman on West 55th Street in Midtown. Meanwhile, at Morningside Heights’ Tom’s Restaurant (Monk’s Diner), the cast was known to enjoy all the great, no-fuss comfort food and 75-cent coffee their hearts desired. Finally, Gray’s Papaya’s hot dogs were declared by Kramer to be “better than filet mignon!”
Marriage Story: The story of Charlie and Nicole’s marriage dissolving is split between New York and LA, with NYC locations including the pair’s shared apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the theatre company in Manhattan where both are employed. Other major scenes are shot in the Flatiron District, Times Square and the West Village.
When Harry Met Sally: Since its release 30 years ago, fans visiting New York City have “had what Sally was having” at Katz’s Delicatessen on the LES, gone on double dates to Café Luxembourg on the UWS, and enjoyed Washington Square Park’s scenery, where Sally told Harry to “have a nice life” at the start of the film.
You’ve Got Mail: Important locales in this unforgettable ’90s romance are Café Lalo on the Upper West Side, “The Most Famous Café in the City”; Zabar’s, the specialty food market where Joe saves Kathleen’s Thanksgiving; and the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park, where the film memorably concludes.
For the girls
Sex and the City: New York City has often been said to be the series’ fifth main character, in addition to Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Notable moments across six seasons include retail therapy at Greenwich Village boutiques and Madison Avenue department stores, snacking on cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, riding the Staten Island Ferry, romantic moments at the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the girls catching a foul ball (and a date) at a New York Yankees game.
Gossip Girl: On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Blair and company famously held lunch breaks on the steps at The Met Fifth Avenue before heading further uptown to Constance Billard and St. Jude schools, filmed at the Museum of the City of New York. Meanwhile, scenes at the home of Chuck Bass and the Van der Woodsen family were filmed at the Lotte New York Palace, a five-star hotel situated just five blocks north of Grand Central Terminal, where Serena makes her dramatic entrance to the show in season 1.
Girls: The story begins at Murals on 54 restaurant in Manhattan, when the main character, Hannah, is told by her parents they will no longer financially support her. As the series unfolds, Hannah and her friends Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna navigate their early 20s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They frequently congregate and enjoy latte’s at Café Grumpy, which is a real coffee shop that is fictionally managed by Ray in the series.
The Avengers: The film’s famous battle of New York included scenes across the City, with most of the action taking place in Midtown Manhattan. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye first met the alien attackers in front of Grand Central Terminal, mere blocks from Stark Tower (based on the former Condé Nast Building). In the end, Hulk defeats Loki for good in front of the historic Chrysler Building, with Man hattan still standing, before Thor beams him back to Asgard from Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace.
Batman: The masked hero that popularized the nickname “Gotham” for NYC has been portrayed in areas throughout the City for more than 80 years. With Wayne Enterprises headquartered at One Liberty Plaza, a block from the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, Batman defeats Bane in the final fight scene of the Dark Knight trilogy on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange, while the Queensboro, Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges play prominent roles in the film.
Spider-Man: Hailing from Queens, your friendly neighboruhood Spider-Man has made harrowing rescues all over NYC throughout the decades. In the 2002 Spider-Man film, Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, saves love interest Mary Jane from the Green Goblin in Times Square before defeating the villain on Roosevelt Island. Other high-flying fights in the franchise take place at the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Men in Black: Agents K and J fight aliens all over the five boroughs in this action-packed trilogy. In two memorable scenes, Agent J chases and captures the first alien he encounters on the job in the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side, and the agents save the galaxy in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, after thwarting the takeoff of the spaceship hidden atop the historic 1964 World’s Fair site.
Ghostbusters: The functioning firehouse Hook & Ladder Company 8 (Ghostbusters headquarters), Spook Central (55 Central Park West) and The New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are some city locations with major roles in the 1984 film. Upon re-opening to the public, the Ghostbusters Experience at Madame Tussauds New York in Times Square will invite visitors to re-enact the 2016 film and fight ghosts through a hyperreality experience.
Home Alone 2: Although Kevin didn’t mean to visit New York City, he managed to check out some of the best attractions in Midtown Manhattan while he was there. As he successfully thwarted the bandits’ plan to rob Duncan’s Toy Chest (based on FAO Schwarz), Kevin also enjoyed all the amenities offered at The Plaza Hotel, caught a show at Carnegie Hall from a VIP point of view, fed the pigeons in Central Park and met family at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
School of Rock: Imposter substitute teacher Dewey Finn and his students put on a show for their “final exam” in a Battle of the Bands shot inside Staten Island’s St. George Theatre. In the lead-up to this legendary performance, the class practices all year at Horace Green Prep School, filmed at the borough’s Wagner College.
Night at the Museum: While the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side is currently closed, you can still see many of its exhibits come to life as night guard Larry Daley protects them from would be thieves. When the museum re-opens to the public, visitors will be able to see one of the most prominent characters, Rexy, in a temporary solo exhibit (currently planned to be on view through August), including fossils, virtual reality experiences and life-size T. rex models that explore this famous predator in greater depth than ever before.
Ocean’s 8: In addition to a heist targeting the Costume Institute Gala at The Met—whose exhibition About Time: Fashion and Duration is now scheduled to debut Oct. 29 – major NYC landmarks and lesser-known neighbourhoods are featured in the latest installment of the Ocean’s franchise. The TWA Flight Center at JFK, now home to the new TWA Hotel, houses the fashion show where Debbie Ocean and crew recruit an integral teammate; the Cartier Mansion guards the necklace they are after; and a Bushwick, Brooklyn, loft acts as the team’s headquarters.
And here are a few additional TiT suggestions showcasing the unique city and its people (some from days gone by) that might be found on streaming services or the web:
TV – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Blindspot, Elementary, Fringe, Mr. Robot, Life on Mars, Madmen, CSI: New York, Saturday Night Live, and All in the Family.
Film – King Kong, Taxi Driver, Gangs of New York, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever, Wall Street, Annie Hall, Goodfellas, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Godfather, and Midnight Cowboy.
First published at Travel Industry Today