Television has always had a love affair with New York City. Every aspect of life in the big town has been depicted on the tube, with a plethora of indelible characters emerging.
Their names ring familiar, even after all these years: Ralph Kramden, Ed Norton, Lucy, Patty Lane (Patty Duke’s character from her eponymous show), Rob and Laura Petrie (yes, they lived in New Rochelle, but he worked in Manhattan!), Archie Bunker, Edith Bunker, George Jefferson, Weezie, Iggy and Latka, Cliff Huxtable (well, yes), all of those Friends, Jerry, Elaine, George, Kramer, (and yes, even Newman), and so many others. You know them all by heart.
New York is where live television took shape in the Fifties. The later sit-coms loved NYC for its rich tapestry of characters — mostly lower-middle class heroes — and the endless possibilities of great plot lines.
OK, so what are the all-time champs? Here is my Top Ten list:
I was never a big fan of the show, but I know it had and has a major place in the zeitgeist — deservedly so. The show gave us Jennifer Aniston, which is reason enough for me to love it. How many Yuppies probably identified with this ‘Yupper‘ West Side crew?
9. I Love Lucy
I never did. But has any woman established TV more convincingly than Lucille Ball, a true trailblazer? Ricky Ricardo worked at the Copacabana, which screamed New York chic in the Fifties.
8. The Jeffersons
Talk about transformative TV. Plus, George Jefferson single-handedly made the East Side seem a little funky. That’s saying a lot.
7. The Dick Van Dyke Show
Mary Richards had to go clear out to the Twin Cities to make it on her own, but Rob and Laura Petrie and the gang were true New Yorkers at heart.
6. The Patty Duke Show
…and not only because I had the biggest crush on Patty Duke’s freewheeling teenage alter-ego, Patty Lane, when I was a kid. The show took place in Brooklyn Heights! Now many shows could boast that locale in the early Sixties. Was any teenager cooler than Party Lane — except perhaps her square identical cousin, Cathy?
5. The Cosby Show
Yes, Bill Cosby has descended dramatically in our eyes, but this show had and has a special place in New York annals.
The action in that garage could only take place in NYC. Those people all scream NYC, especially Louee the caustic dispatcher, one of the most (and least) lovable characters in TV history.
Could these people be anything but New Yorkers? Their pettiness. Their selfishness. Their crassness. Their wit. Their charms. Their arrogance. New York unfettered!!
2. All in the Family
Oh yes. Archie Bunker reeked of the soul of Astoria, Queens — not the posher Jamaica Estates, or the more refined (and Jewish) Forest Hills or Rego Park. No, Archie just had to be form the working class part of Queens. And we all loved him for it. Edith, too!
1. The Honeymooners
My favorite TV show of all time — still! Ralph Kramden’s aura inhabits 6 out of every 10 people I glimpse on the F train. Pure Bensonhurst. Ralph was forever a romantic in his way, dreaming of stardom and riches and success while remaining true blue to his pal Norton and his long-suffering wife Alice. A GREAT New Yorker!!