New York City on the Screen

By Emily Blake

Manhattan, even with its flaws, is a city designed for the screen. Filled with mystery, history, and aesthetic, TV shows have captured the allure of the city that provides the perfect backdrop for some of the most iconic media moments.

Mad Men

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Mad Men shows the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly sides of being a woman in NYC, especially in the era of the 1960s. However, its aesthetic, its excitement, and its depiction of iconic NYC landmarks and experiences remind you why this city is just so iconic. In one of the early episodes of the series, a friend of Joan Harris’s is brutally laid off from a job. The woman is inconsolable and expresses how she wishes she never even moved to Manhattan. Joan responds by saying “What are you talking about? This city is everything,” which is something almost every New Yorker can relate to.

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The Mindy Project

The opening scene of season 2 of The Mindy Project’s Christmas episode just screams holidays in Manhattan the iconic shot of Rockefeller Center, the shock on Mindy’s face when she hears how expensive a “dead tree” is, and “how impossible it is to return a bra at a department store” all represent a quintessential New York Christmas. Nothing says NYC more than when Mindy tries to haul a Christmas tree onto the subway because no taxi will pick her up while she’s carrying it on her back. The episode ends with Mindy finally winning over the dreamy lawyer she’d hosted an entire Christmas party for in the first place. In the typical cliche yet completely magical fashion, the two kiss on the balcony of their downtown office building amidst the falling snow, complete with a sparkly blue dress and sugar cookies in the shape of an evergreen tree.


Sex and the City


The Sex and the City movies are iconic, but the essence of the original TV series definitely serves as a reminder of the most potent combination there is: the power of sisterhood set in the middle of Manhattan. Carrie Bradshaw is the fearless, fashionable writer and true New Yorker I, myself, and many other girls aspire to emulate. There is something so powerful about watching Carrie and her group of ride-or-die girlfriends experience the same dating and life turbulence that we all face, especially within the context of New York City—a place where even the most mundane or disappointing circumstances can hold a hopeful twinge.


Gossip Girl


Although this show might have impressed unrealistic expectations of the city upon an entire generation of young non-NYCers , the glamorous allure of this iconic show cannot be denied. Watching Blair Waldorf sit on the steps of the Met holding a Sant Ambroeus cappuccino in her pink tights, plaid skirt, and headband truly encapsulated an aspirational Manhattan moment. The shopping at Bendel’s, the walks through Central Park, and the chic apartment interiors work together to make Gossip Girl the guilty pleasure TV show that never fails to keep the extravagant dream of the Big Apple alive in the hearts of young adults everywhere.


While there are more New York City iconic scenes than could ever be compiled into one list, these are a few of the moments that have shaped the way prospective New Yorkers dream of living in the big city. Some of the shows are extravagant and idealistic, but, quite frankly, so is Manhattan. While viewers must take these romanticized depictions of New York City with a grain of salt, any New Yorker will confirm that the magic present in these shows truly does sweep through the streets of this great city.