We almost missed these shows nailing it because we were so busy laughing.
There’s the hometown you know, and there’s the hometown everyone else thinks they know because of the many TV shows set there. But, every now and then, an episode or skit surprises locals with a deep understanding of their city, an understanding that only blips on the radar of people who have actually lived there. Here are some small-screen moments of striking accuracy that you may have missed.
SOUTH PARK and HAWAII
Comedy Central’s flagship cartoon is riddled with winks to Coloradans, but in the episode “Going Native,” the show reveals a stunning knowledge of modern Hawaiian culture. Characters rely on a Mahalo Rewards Card that mocks a combination of the kama’aina discount afforded to residents and the Aloha Privileges Card certain hotels distribute to guests. Even the University of Hawaii’s former football coach makes an appearance as “chief” of the haoles (non-Hawaiians). At one point, a misleading silhouette of Blue Hawaii-era Elvis clearly mimics a menehune, something no one would recognize unless they were extremely familiar with the islands. For a show often associated with outlandish plot lines and vulgar language, the Hawaii satire is on point.
THE SIMPSONS and BOSTON
In the episode “The Town,” Homer takes the family on a Boston “hate-cation” to make them hate the home of a cheating football team as much as he does. Instead, they fall in love with aspects of the city that Bostonians have been privy to for decades: historical sites on every corner, a saturation of universities, an abundance of arts and culture, and—can’t forget this one—the beloved third ball in candlepin. Bart takes issue with the skateboard-proof cobblestone roads, but everyone else is on board . . . until Homer’s inability to cope with the football team causes him to humiliate the family in front of a dozen of the most famous Bostonians. D’oh!
The accents and mirror time are exaggerated, but that’s about it in “The Californians,” a SNL soap opera parody about Los Angeles. Driving routes are conversation centerpieces, especially when venturing just a few extra miles beyond the city limits:
“All the way on the other side of the 10? It’s almost Long Beach, man!”
“Stewart, look at me. You can do this. I know a shortcut through El Segundo. Take the 105 West and exit on Culver. When you zee the Zankou Chicken on the left, turn right. Take Venice and follow it all the way down. Then, you’re in Marina Del Rey.”
Including parking instructions with driving directions is a must as well. How are you supposed to trust someone if they don’t tell you the street parking situation or which Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will validate for the nearest garage? Also, many an Angeleno will attribute food success to local sourcing, whether they’re talking about “real California avocados” or tangerines from a vendor at an off-ramp by the 2. And yes, everyone in SoCal puts “the” in front of freeway numbers. Don’t ask, just do.
PORTLANDIA and PORTLAND
From the overly pretentious feminist booksellers at Women and Women First to the Etsy vendors who default to “putting a bird on it,” Portlandia has introduced viewers to every Portland stereotype in the book. When an environmentally conscious couple tries to order lunch, things get real—almost too real—for actual Portland residents.
“Is the chicken local? Is that USDA organic or Oregon organic or Portland organic?”
It’s nearly impossible to dine in the city without overhearing someone inquire about the origin of their meal, but Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s characters take it to the next level by visiting the chicken farm (and joining the farm leader’s cult . . . but that’s another story). As a whole, the chicken dialogue is cringingly accurate for native Portlanders.
MASTER OF NONE and NEW YORK
The locations really make this one—not staged cafés like Central Perk, and not places everyone and their grandma know (Grand Central, Times Square, Katz’s Delicatessen), but episodes take place in real bars and restaurants that New Yorkers frequent and love. Digs like Parm and Mission Chinese Food may not stand out to most viewers, but anyone who’s done a prolonged stint in The City That Never Sleeps will recognize these and many more in every episode of Master of None. The inclusion of so many local favorites is a subtle love letter to the city as it is today, not as it’s often depicted in movies and TV.
BELOW DECK and YACHT LIFE
Inter-crew hook-ups, soul-sucking drudgery, unfathomably spoiled and demanding guests, copious amounts of drinking, highly Instagrammable scenery that almost makes up for the aforementioned negatives: all things this Bravo show actually gets right. While the personalities and drama factor are obviously cranked to 11 for TV, the core sentiments hit close to home for those who’ve worked in the yachting industry. In a way, this makes sense—although producers are in charge of casting each season, the crew members still need real certifications, including first aid, watchkeeping, basics for conducting oneself on a boat, and (presumably) experience doing this particular work at sea.