LA is portrayed in dozens of different ways in the media— some laugh-worthy, some spot-on. So in the spirit of awards seasons — and West Coast weather envy — we decided to make a short list of throwback shows set in our own backyard. Check the below list for a fond reminder of some excellent portrayals of LA living on the small screen.
Remember Girlfriends? The early 2000s series revolved around Joan Clayton, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, as the often unlucky in love, rule abiding, sex pot of a lawyer, and her three best girlfriends — plus William, the wonderfully goofy, charming, male GF — as they maneuver through their Downtown LA-based professional and personal lives.
Clueless, the muse of every 90s Valley girl, shaped a generation with Rachel Blanchard as Cher Horowitz– the Jeep-driving, credit card swiping, ditzy — however emotionally and socially insightful — diary-keeping teen. The spin-off of a 1995 movie of the same title takes place in Beverly Hills with many a green lawns, six figure cars and seven figure homes.
Out in Bel Air, The Banks’ resided, along with their out of town Philly-born nephew, Will. In its six year tenure, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air covered a whole rundown of locally and globally relevant themes: love, sex, drugs, crime, violence, race, policing, legal policy and so on, but with a hugely hilarious angle and refreshing insight from the antics of a young Will Smith.
The Jamie Foxx Show
For five years, the fictional location of Downtown’s King’s Hotel was the main set for The Jamie Foxx Show, starring Jamie Foxx as Jamie King, Garcelle Beauvais as Fancy and Christopher B. Duncan as Braxton. Remember when Jamie was purusing singing and slaying the shit out of those ballads on screen? We do. Everything there ever was to love about 90s LA is richly showcased in the show, from the parties to, prominent music figures, to the ball players to the fashion.
So The OC was kind of amazing. Ben Mckenzie as troubled teen Ryan Atwood arrives in Newport Beach from Chino (of all places) to live with Sandy and Kirsten Cohen who take him in. The show revolves around Ryan’s culture shock from domestic abuse and poverty, to living in one of the wealthiest cities in America and partying in the hills of the OC and LA.
Before Bryan Cranston was our favorite meth-selling, narcissistic dad on Breaking Bad, he was goofy dad Hal on Malcolm in the Middle. Malcolm, as played by Frankie Muniz, was the center of a wildly dysfunctional family living in a suburban home in Studio City, supplying suppertime laughs and cleverly infectious monologues.
Everyone has guilty pleasures, and two of ours happen to be the poorly written, but fascinating reality television series, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and The Hills. Laguna Beach is where we met Lauren Conrad, a student at Laguna Beach High School, and her gaggle of blonde friends. The show’s spin-off, The Hills, is where we watch Lauren’s move to LA to pursue a career in fashion, chronicled alongside all of her friendship and dating failures and successes.
***Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Feb. 19, 2016.