On Location: Seinfeld

Despite the glut of movies and TV shows set in and/or filmedĀ in New York, it is always Seinfeld that I am mostly frequently reminded of as I walk the streets of this city.

The entire show was, of course, actually filmed on sets in Los Angeles, but it managed to capture something about New York (most probably the quirky temperament of its citizens) that makes it stand out in depictions of the city. Also, New York wasn’t just an incidental setting, but rather crucial to the plot and essence of the show.

As such, the Upper West Side that Kramer and co. called home makes a decent little tour for spotting sites that inspired the series’ creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

The most obvious site is the coffee shop used as the exterior for Monk’s, the series diner. Most tourists will get a quick snapshot of Tom’s Restaurant at Broadway at west 112th, and three years ago I was no exception:

The interior, however, is just a generic coffee shop that bears no relation to the series, and is little more than a regular haunt for Columbia students (including, back in the day, Barack Obama).

The other pilgrimage many Seinfeld fans will make is to one of the ‘Original Soup-Man’ restaurants dotted around the city. Few real fans would refer to the chain’s figurehead as the ‘soup-man’, with “the Soup Nazi” having far greater currency, though apparently using the term was forbidden by company founder Ali Yeganeh, mostly because it was his draconian rules for ordering that inspired the moniker and the episode which made him a part of television history.

The original location at 259-A West Street was closed and then reopened a few years back under the new banner, and there are now 500 franchises across the country.

Having sampled the fare at the downtown location, I can report that the soup is nice, but not really likely to induce your knees to buckle.

Sadly, the Royale Pastry Shop, the bakery said to have been the inspiration for Schnitzer’s (think marble rye, chocolate babka and black & white cookies), is no longer found at 237 West 72nd St, and has ironically been replaced by a Jenny Craig.

However, probably the least known Seinfeld ‘location’ is the diner which the interior for Monk’s was reportedly based on: Broadway Restaurant at 2664 Broadway, between 101st and 102nd.

The restaurant is a charming little remnant of old-school dining, an unassuming eatery which seems to have no awareness of its part in the iconic series.

Finally, while it’s anyone’s guess as to how closely it resembles the home of his television counterpart (probably not at all; $2.35m two bedroom apartment with a fireplace?), the apartment Jerry Seinfeld was living in when the series began airing is at 230 Central Park West in a building called The Bolivar. He sold the “bachelor pad” in 2006.

Flight of the Conchords filming locations

Although it was never explicitly mentioned, Chinatown was a much a part of Flight of the Conchords as its music videos.

The HBO series depicted struggling New Zealander musicians Bret and Jermaine in their bid to conquer New York, or at least find a place for themselves. The pair frequently struggled with making ends meet, living in a decidedly unglamourous apartment where they shared a bedroom.

Pretty much all of the interior scenes in the series were shot in studios in Brooklyn, but the exterior shots of Bret and Jermaine’s apartment, featured briefly in the scene below, can be found at 28 Henry St, not far from the Manhattan Bridge.

Indeed, Henry Street seems to be a common location chioice when depicting struggling artists, as Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless – a struggling author – also calls Henry Street home before his narcotic-induced transition.

The rather generic office building used as the exterior of the ‘New Zealand consulate’ where the band and their hapless manager held meetings is a few minutes away at 232 East Broadway.

The other staple setting, Dave’s Pawn Shop, is just around the corner at 10 Montgomery St.

I can also report that the owner of the store was particularly excited to have a fan of the show visiting his shop. When he saw me taking pictures of the exterior he loudly declared “Flight of the Conchords!” and invited me to come inside for a chat, even insisting that he take a picture of me in front of the store.

As opposed to many film and television productions which often change filming locations dramatically from scene to scene, Flight of the Conchords stayed remarkably faithful to the Chinatown/Lower East Side area. For example, nearby Columbus Park was used for this scene where Bret and Jermaine battle with a racist fruit vendor:

‘New Zealand town’, which was a central plot point towards the end of the second season, was also constructed at 200 Clinton St:

Many scenes were also shot just over the bridge in Williamsburg, but for the most part it’s hard to walk around Chinatown and not think of scenes like these: