Actually, though, I haven’t even had any time for TV in some time now, so I get my tear-down thrills vicariously. Like when I saw that the show Glee would partially be set in Bushwick now, and two of the characters would be living in a airplane hangar-like loft for $1,800. This is bullshit! You can’t even get anything in Bushwick anymore for that much. Well, you could get something but not an airplane hangar-like loft. I call major bullshit on this one. I’ve never watched Glee, but that doesn’t stop me from judging its lack of reality when it comes to NYC real estate. So, in honor of the new TV season, I figured I would look back on other shows—many of whom I have also NEVER seen—and judge them according to a somewhat (highly) arbitrary system that I’ve developed.
The original show about young couples struggling to get by in Bushwick, The Honeymooners is one of those classic shows that used to be shown twice a day on channel 5 in NYC in the late 80s, but I never watched it back then because I had better things to do, like play with My Little Pony and pretend the pastel horses were a secret, unholy army that would help me take down my brother’s He-Man warriors, led by the evil and smelly Moss Man. Anyway! If I had watched, I think I would have found it boring, because I was very young back then. But now, looking at clips online, I see that The Honeymooners was way ahead of its time, at least aesthetically. The character Norton sports a fedora, pushed back on his head at the angle that is favored by many Bushwick residents of today. And, although both main male characters work for the city as a bus driver and a sewer worker, they make salaries that are in keeping with Bushwick professionals of today—$62/week.
Reality Score: 7/10
This is another show that I never watched, although I certainly feel like I have, and feelings are, as we all know, very important. Welcome Back, Kotter has a very contemporary feel because it deals with a struggling public school teacher trying to figure out how best to serve his students. Also, it features John Travolta, who is ageless. Ok, no, Travolta is the opposite of ageless. Wow, can that man age! The fashions seem really outdated, which, of course, they are. But the annoying trend of catchphrases is strong in Kotter. It’s funny to think about how, these days, all of the annoying trendy things to say, basically get written out in texts, in emails, and in tweets. In the 70s, people said these things out loud. This makes me feel all squirmy even to think about. But they did it! That’s pretty hard-core.
Reality Score: 6/10
The Cosby Show
Possibly the best TV show ever, featuring the transcendent Phylicia Rashad (nee Ayers-Allen), The Cosby Show was set in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone on Cranberry Street. This show basically got everything right, even the fact that it would require two full-time professionals to afford a house on a fruit street in Brooklyn Heights. Cliff’s sweaters were incredibly fashion forward and does everybody remember when Denise tried to replicate a Gordon Gartrell shirt for Theo? The fashion on this show was tight. Probably the only complaint I have is that Vanessa and her friends (Janet and Kara) would frequently talk about going to “the mall.” What mall? The Fulton Street Mall? That sounds terrible! But Vanessa was kind of terrible, wasn’t she? Yes, she was.
Reality Score: 9/10
Sex and the City
No, this show didn’t take place in Brooklyn. I mean, I guess it took place in Manhattan because hey! there’s Magnolia Bakery! But really, this show took place in the same fantasyland where I had an unholy army of pastel ponies ready to attack at my command. A fun sort of place, but not very real. However, toward the end of the shows run, the character of Miranda and her husband and her baby moved out to Brooklyn. Because, of course they would. That’s what you do when you have a baby and are the least popular character on the show. You move to Brooklyn. How real was it? Actually, it was pretty real. A cab refused to take her home from Manhattan, and that totally does happen, and none of her friends wanted to visit. People aren’t like that anymore, but that’s only because almost no one lives in Manhattan these days. But those who do? Still don’t like to come to Brooklyn. Because they’re idiots who still live in Manhattan? Maybe.
Reality Score: 6/10
This is another show that mostly takes place in Manhattan but did feature some solid Brooklyn time. It might still? But I, like everybody else, stopped watching after the second season. However, in those first two seasons, it was notable that some of the main characters (the terribly sincere Humphrey family) lived in what was called Williamsburg, but was clearly DUMBO. Which, no. I hate that. Just have them live in DUMBO. That’s not any more far fetched than any of the other stuff that the show had high school students doing. I'd go into what some of those things were, but I barely remember because the show went bad such a long time ago. It’s sad how those things happen. Not everything is The Cosby Show, you know?
Reality Score: 5/10
Bored to Death is that rare show that is both completely impossible to believe as being real and yet so grounded in the physical reality of a place that it is possible to suspend your disbelief. Or not suspend it exactly, but embrace it. This might also be my personal feeling because I’m partial to any references to one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Tatiana’s, in Brighton Beach. And I like shows that reference the fact that it is almost impossible to make a real living just as a writer. And Ted Danson was completely great in this show. At least, he was in the first two seasons. He might also have been in the third, but I stopped watching. I had to save my TV viewing hours for Game of Thrones, which, while not set in Brooklyn, is one of the greatest things to ever be on TV in history. Possibly a lot of other people felt the same way, because Bored to Death was cancelled. Sad.
Reality Score: 8/10
Two Broke Girls
Well, I have never seen this. But it looks absolutely terrible. And it references cupcakes and hipsters and all sorts of idiotic outdated things and the main characters work in a Williamsburg diner where they have to wear UNIFORMS? Yeah, right. Then again, referencing hipsters and cupcakes and Williamsburg is a really good way to make something popular—at least it is on the Internet. So maybe this whole show is just some sort of savvy marketing experiment? If so, it seems to have worked because the show got renewed for a second season. Well, played savvy Hollywood executives! You are terrible people, but I understand, because we’ve all been there. Hipsters hipsters hipsters!
I get that this show was controversial for a whole lot of reasons, but it is also a very, very realistic portrayal of a certain subset of Brooklyn society. And it is eerily accurate. Other than the little flub of Weatherup being referred to as a Carroll Gardens bar instead of a Prospect Heights bar, it is pretty true to Brooklyn life. Even the apartments are appropriately decorated and appropriately crappy according to how much help the characters get from their parents. Plus, that time when Adam is doing his monologue and mentions that when he was a teenager he would get nervous and sweaty and smell like a gerbil? That is exactly what guys smell like when they’re sweaty! Exactly like gerbils. I loved that. I’m biased. I really like this show. Because it’s real? Maybe. But mostly because it’s smart. Which is a very Brooklyn thing to be. Occasionally.
Reality Score: 9/10
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