NYC’s best television shows: The top 25 Gotham series

Tune into our era-spanning list of New York City’s best television shows—and watch a clip from each one.

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  • NYC’s 25 best television shows

  • Photograph: Virginia Sherwood

    NYC’s 25 best television shows: 25. Law & Order (1990–2010)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 24. Naked City (1958–1963)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 23. Gossip Girl (2007–2013)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 22. Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 21. Kojak (1973–1978)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 20. Sports Night (1998–2000)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 19. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 18. The Odd Couple (1970–1975)

  • Photograph: Courtesy Margaret Herrick

    NYC’s 25 best television shows: 17. Fame (1982–1987)

  • Photograph: Eric McCandless/FOX

    NYC’s 25 best television shows: 16. How I Met Your Mother (2005–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 15. Barney Miller (1974–1982)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 14. Friends (1994–2004)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 13. I Love Lucy (1951–1957)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 12. Girls (2012–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 11. Louie (2010–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 10. Sex and the City (1998–2004)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 9. Delocated (2008–2013)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 8. The Honeymooners (1955–1956)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 7. 30 Rock (2006–2013)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 6. All in the Family (1971–1979)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 5. The Cosby Show (1984–1992)

  • Photograph: Dana Edelson/ NBC

    NYC’s 25 best television shows: 4. Saturday Night Live (1975–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 3. Sesame Street (1969–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 2. Mad Men (2007–present)

  • NYC’s 25 best television shows: 1. Seinfeld (1989-1998)

NYC’s 25 best television shows

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NYC’s 25 best television shows: 5. The Cosby Show (1984–1992)

The Cosby Show (1984–1992)

With The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby transitioned from the biggest stand-up around to the star-creator of the biggest series on television. (The show held the No. 1  ratings slot for a mind-blowing five seasons in a row.) So yeah, successful guy. Set in a wet dream of a Brooklyn abode, a spacious two-floor brownstone in Brooklyn Heights (the apartment’s filmed exterior was actually in the West Village, and most of the show was shot in an Astoria studio), the show chronicles the Huxtable family’s ups and downs with a squeaky-clean (but never nauseating) warmth. Bonus: Cosby, wary of Los Angeles, apparently stipulated that the comedy must be filmed in New York. Go Cliff.—Tim Lowery

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NYC’s 25 best television shows: 4. SNL (1975–present)

Saturday Night Live (1975–present)

“Live from New York, it’s saturday night!” If that exclamation (and the opening credits of cast members out on the town that followed) didn’t make you want to move here as a kid, we have to ask: Were you a boring child or something? Or just deprived of a TV? Lorne Michaels’s landmark variety show was quickly embraced by twentysomethings (the old anecdote was that if you were at a party, all commotion stopped when SNL was on) with its ahead-of-the-curve music bookings (Jimmy Cliff, Gil Scott-Heron, Patti Smith), stable of young, unknown actors and sketches slathered with stoner-friendly goofiness. During its early days, at a time when NYC was seriously struggling, Mayor Ed Koch honored resident wild man John Belushi during an episode. Years later, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, during his tenure, would make an appearance. As a career launchpad, it’s unmatched. And if there is one commonality throughout its decades-long run, it’s that one skit could be disastrous and the next one absolutely brilliant. Not unlike the moment-to-moment experience of living here.—Tim Lowery

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NYC’s 25 best television shows: 3. Sesame Street (1969–present)

Sesame Street (1969–present)

It was originally going to be called 123 Avenue B, with the idea that the home of Mr. Hooper, Bert and Ernie, Grover and Oscar the Grouch was in Alphabet City. The beauty of this kid-TV staple, however, is that it actually takes place in a meta–New York that’s both recognizable (those could be the bodegas and brownstones on the end of your block) and a fairy-tale idealization of our beloved urban playground. This was a place where the air was sweet, multiethnic neighbors helped each other out and kids learned life lessons from friendly cookie-obsessed monsters and giant yellow birds—a typical NYC neighborhood that doubled as an American utopia. Now can someone please tell us how to get there?—David Fear

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NYC’s 25 best television shows: 2. Mad Men (2007–present)

Mad Men (2007–present)

Don’t be surprised that a show this recent ranks so highly: Matthew Weiner’s transformative ’60s-era drama is simply that good. It revolves around the iconic Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a reinvented man who is, himself, devoted to advertising’s art of deception. But the drama also serves as a time capsule of a volatile New York City, peopled by outer-borough strivers zeroing in on the big jobs, proto-hippies partying in the Village and an overall mood of bygone urbanity. Swaddled in cigarette smoke and a boozy haze, Mad Men captures a licentious office climate that many nostalgic viewers wish would return. Apart from its fashions, the show has also re-created classic NYC restaurants like swanky Lutèce and the Forum of the Twelve Caesars.—Joshua Rothkopf

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NYC’s 25 best television shows: 1. Seinfeld (1989-1998)

Seinfeld (1989–1998)

Besides, you know, forever heightening our expectations of what a sitcom could do—and, like all groundbreaking popular works, spawning a host of lesser, typically crummy copies—Seinfeld, appropriately, tops our list because of its unabashed New Yorkiness. While it was technically filmed in the un-Gotham locale of an L.A. lot, cocreators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s formative years as New Yorkers shine throughout the series, whether its in scenes detailing subway woes, pacts with pigeons in the park, soup-ordering etiquette, Woody Allen sightings or the racial implications of the black-and-white cookie. And George, Jerry and Elaine’s cynical takes on love and success are something every seasoned local can relate to.—Tim Lowery



Users say

10 comments
mark
mark

Family Affair! Taxi!

Billy
Billy

Night Court?!?

NMiguelCosta
NMiguelCosta

White Collar? Person of Interest? Why not?

AZ
AZ

will & grace?

LR
LR

Taxi was one of the top 5 I was looking for as well

Tom
Tom

Where are NYPD Blue and Taxi? C'mon.....

DB
DB

Where's White Collar? Absolutely stunning use of NYC as a backdrop.

ML
ML

Enormous miss on Taxi. Top 5 for sure.

GersonK
GersonK

Where are you Car 54, Where Are You?? So full of New Yorkers.

Ellen
Ellen

No Taxi? Definite miss!!