Observation Deck

Which New York City Fantasy Is Right for You?

When life in the most binge-worthy place in the world gets you down, pretend you are on television.

The first year I lived in New York, I would occasionally be struck with intense sentimentality for the city. It usually hit me on a late-night cab ride home over the FDR or just before I ran onstage for a show in the basement of a comedy theater that paid me in free drinks and friendship. I’d think, Wow. I can’t believe I live here! Now, six years into my New York life, I’ll get stuck between stops on a downtown train for 40 minutes or pass a pile of poop I know by a glance belonged to a human butt and think, Wow. I can’t believe I live here.

Don’t get me wrong, New York is my favorite home. I love it more than New Jersey, where I’m from. I love it more than Los Angeles, where I spend maybe a fifth of my year. I even love it more than China, where I lost the only fight I’ve ever fought. (It was against another American who said some pretty racist things to my friends and then sat on my chest and choked me until a grown man threatened to blind her with his bare hands. Good times.) And while I love it, New York is sometimes too goddamn much, and that’s where Television New York picks up the slack.

When I feel the thrill of living here fade, I turn to shows set in NYC to make me horny for New York again.

When I feel the thrill of living here fade, when I want to experience the city without walking it, smelling it, or being limited to my penniless existence within it, I turn to shows set here to make me, I guess, horny for New York again. I assume every New Yorker does this, or we wouldn’t be bombarded with alternate NYC realities on every channel and streaming platform.

So which fantasy New York City is right for you? To help you decide, consider a few options…

UNREALISTICALLY LUXURIOUS NYC

Prep schools, Manolos, brunch, Soho House, elevator buildings, private cars, a pool in every bathroom, or whatever. In real-life New York, billionaires gobble up property and strip the city of its culture, and yet we’re a little curious what their apartments look like. Unless you become a high-end sex worker, which we’ve all at least considered, you can only get this access from series like Billions and Succession. These shows make spending a year’s worth of private school tuition on a Veuve Clicquot–soaked brunch seem like a normal Sunday afternoon. Now that I’ve mentioned Succession, it would be really easy for me to talk about how I am in four—no, too generous—three and a half seconds of an episode. (It’s in season one, episode five. You can’t miss it—I never do.) I could tell you how I had one line and committed to acting mostly with my ponytail, since I was, at the time, an untrained performer with a really shiny ponytail. We could sit here and debate whether Kieran Culkin went home that night and journaled about working with me. Maybe he wrote that the minute I walked on set I reminded him of Catherine O’Hara in Home Alone. He definitely did, but don’t worry, we don’t have to go down that road. Anyway, Veuve.

succession new york shows

BROKE WITH YOUR BESTIE NYC

There’s real joy in seeing a place you commonly visit in your day-to-day life represented on TV. In the summer, I don’t want to sweat through my shorts walking to lunch at the Grey Dog that gave me food poisoning that one time. I want to watch Abbi and Ilana do it on Broad City. I want to see them go to a rooftop party when I’m too depressed to socialize, get high in sunny Madison Square Park when it’s raining outside my window, and bargain hunt in Bed Bath & Beyond when I don’t want to trek to the general Union Square area. Now we all know I can’t bring up Broad City without acknowledging that, yes, I did recently work with Ilana Glazer on an upcoming film. No, I can’t give you any details except to say that I could probably lift her if I tried, but I didn’t try. I am waiting for her to ask. (You know how to reach me.) 

broad city new york shows

DREAMY INTERCONNECTED NYC

Whenever celebrities are asked what they love about a certain city, they say, “The people!” Because that is the only correct answer when you rely on your fan base for income. High Maintenance, my favorite recent version of New York, really takes that whole people-make-the-city concept and turns it into something legitimately gorgeous to watch. The New York High Maintenance gives us is beautifully written, well acted, and gorgeously shot, but it’s also not too different from the real thing. Each episode feels like one of those days when you smoke a little before you leave for work to soften the edges and find you’ve saturated the colors of the city. Before I get sentimental again, let me pause to admit I have never once appeared on the show High Maintenance. If you think that’s bullshit, please calm down. It will happen. We will get me on this show. Together.

high maintenance new york shows

When you’re sick of the city, spend a little time in an alternate New York of your choosing. If none of the above suits you, try Soundstage NYC (Friends or How I Met Your Mother), Danger Is Everywhere NYC (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or any number of Law & Order spin-offs in rerun), or, for you borough babies, White Brooklyn (remember Girls?). Sitting in your tiny apartment watching a fictionalized version of this place is enough to remind all of us that New York City is forever the hottest girl in school everyone has a massive crush on, even though she smells like pee in the summer.

Taylor Ortega is a writer, comedian, and actor based in New York City. You can see her as Shego in the live-action Kim Possible movie on Disney Channel or performing comedy for free drinks in a variety of city basements. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her website.