What TV Show Do You Wish You Lived In?
One of the great things about TV, like many other forms of entertainment, is its ability to show us worlds far beyond our own. Some are rooted in reality but just a bit askew, set in a different era or a hyper-realized reality, shining light on the underbelly of people, professions and society. Others are fantastical and unlike anything possible in reality, set in far off times and places and steeped in fantastical magic or technology. Some of these shows present settings which, while fascinating to watch, would be nightmares to live in. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would want to go to “The Wire’s” Baltimore. (You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would want to go to reality’s Baltimore!). This list isn’t about those shows. This list is about the other shows. The ones that give us places so amazing that we would readily discard our lives to inhabit the show’s reality. And not only do we want to be in and of that time and place, but be want to be with those specific characters, hanging with them and experiencing the highs and lows of their reality. These are the shows we wish we lived in — what are yours?
There were no limitations on the shows our group could choose but it comes as little surprise that many of the selected shows are steeped in fantasy or science fiction given the awe, wonderment and excitement presented in even the grimmest of sci-fi/fantasy shows (“Battlestar Galactica” and “Game of Thrones” excluded on account of excessive and relentless grim).
“The Wizards of Waverly Place”: The world is a place of misery and agony and fury and pain. People are despicable, backstabbing scumbags who will dig their fucking cleats into your face just to climb ahead of you and laugh at you while you clutch at your wounds and bleed because hurting others makes their shitty petty fucked up lives somehow more endurable. I want to live in a fantasy. I want to live in a world where everything is easy and nice and the only conflict is that you might have accidentally brought a taxi cab to life or turned someone temporarily invisible. Where everything is nicely polished up in 22 minutes and the whole family hugs at the end. Sure, it’s Disneyfied and the Maus Haus means no sex and violence except in candid internet photos. Fuck it. It’s worth it to live in a world where magic exists and if you’re hungry you can wish yourself a cheeseburger without having to worry that some undying demonic force is going to wipe his ass with the bun — either the one that holds your burger or the one on your decapitated girlfriend’s head. The worst things to happen are mere hijinks, and that’s totally fine with me. I would have swallowed the fucking blue pill before you could have said “Wal-Mart.” —Brian Prisco
“Cougar Town”: Chalk it up to my new obsession with the show, but right now, I’d like to live in the world of “Cougar Town.” Classic series (the comedies, at any rate) always find a way to create a sense of community between the characters and the viewer, and the most successful and beloved shows create groups you get to hang out with on a weekly basis. The ups and downs, the heartaches and joys; these things become almost tangible the more time we spend with the show. More and more, my favorite comedies are those that make me happy I’m watching them. They try to smartly entertain me, rather than morosely lecture me. (In other words, more community, less “Community.”) Watching a smart, sharp show like “Cougar Town” is genuinely, unironically fun, and I have a good time watching the gang hang out, have their misadventures, and always come back together for a big glass of wine. If I could, I’d happily spend my weekends getting buzzed, writing songs, and playing Penny Can with the Cul-de-Sac Crew. And I would love every minute. —Daniel Carlson
“The West Wing”: I hate the world as we know it. I hate the bargaining, the compromising, the kowtowing to opponents who are both venally small-minded as well as intellectually stunted. As much as I appreciate and respect the efforts of our current administration, it frequently feels like too much lost for too little gain. It’s all the more frustrating because what I do in the real world is so directly impacted by politics, and the lives of the vulnerable population that I work with can be so painfully and directly affected by the misguidance of our leaders. You know what I want? I want to be in a universe where I believe that people genuinely care. I want to live and work in the world of “The West Wing,” a world filled with bright eyed, brilliant minds who genuinely believe in the greater good. I want people around me who, despite the hard choices, despite the losses and failures on both sides, never give up and always fight on the next day, that aggressively and pugnaciously take on those who seek to use folksy nonsense and barely-veiled prejudices drawn from millennia-old tracts as the foundation for a free society. “The West Wing” is a land of ideologues, to be certain, women and men who revel in their successes and suffer painfully in their defeats, but that’s because they never disassociate themselves from the issues, from the vitally important work that they’ve inexplicably signed on for. The hours are horrible, the work frequently thankless, and the opposition harsh and unyielding. Yet every day they storm the gates once again, determined to win the war, even though they might lose the occasional battle, and they do it with love and a wicked sense of humor. At the heart of it all was a brilliant, loving, understanding leader who was burdened with some of the most awful decisions imaginable, but a man who you would still respect at the end of the day. Sometimes I can’t help but think that I want Jed Bartlett as my president and, damn it, I want to be there at his side for every win and loss. —TK
“Star Trek: The Next Generation”: This was a no-brainer because, as cynical and snarky as I may be, there is something intoxicatingly appetizing about Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful vision of the future. While the world he created is optimistic, it’s far from utopian — many of today’s racial, sexual and religious battles have ended, sure, but there are of course new divides to take their place, albeit inter-planetary rather than just intra-humanity. From the very first episode, Q notes that humanity has a compulsion to learn and grow, and “ST:TNG” shows us a future where intellectual curiosity is the primary currency. Science, the arts, and exploration are not only an integral part of society, but they’re the very point of society. That is a world anyone should want to live in. Then there’s the technology, from holodecks to warp drives to replicators, the stuff of our modern dreams, which falls squarely within Clarke’s third law. Using this technology to shoot across the stars and reach the farthest expanses of our universe? I would happily live in the remotest periphery of this world. But add to the fact that I can not only live in this larger world, but live specifically in the world of Picard’s crew? Where I’m not only on a ship racing through the universe, but I’m getting to be part of these explorations, debating the morality and effect of the Prime Directive and being led by one of the greatest ship captains ever, Jean-Luc Picard (oh captain! my captain!)? I love my family and friends, but I would drop them all in a heartbeat for this. —Seth Freilich
“Hawaii Five-0”: I took my time thinking about how if I got this chance I should really take it on a world entirely unlike my own, so I started considering sci-fi and fantasy shows. Then I remembered that every fantasy show I’ve seen — no matter how bad-ass the characters are — I still know in the back of my mind that there’s no indoor plumbing. And as for space? Forget it. We still lose people in the ocean and we know where all of the ocean is. The sheer vastness of space scares the piss out of me. No, if I really have to pick what TV show I’d like to smoothly slip into, it would be “Hawaii Five-0.” Living in tropical paradise with a collection of hot cops as friends? Sign me up. Just look at them! And the location! You don’t even have to watch the show to appreciate how pretty it all is. —Genevieve Burgess
“Lost”: We have to go back! I’m with Jack — I’d totally go back. Even though the whole thing was a dirty, stinking trick, I still miss those island days and the people who felt almost a part of our real lives. Sure, there was danger and some wonky time-skipping, but all that was tempered by Sawyer and Jin, Desmond and Jack, Hurley and Sayid, even Charlie. I’d wile away the hours swimming or exploring, maybe playing chess or going on a walkabout with Locke. And depending upon when and where I landed, I’d join the book club and steal Sawyer out from under Juliet. In between all the madness and mystery there were beautiful moments like the one in this clip; when our hearts soared as high as Hurley’s. And that part at the end — when Sawyer’s looking around, sipping his Dharma beer — let’s just say he wouldn’t be sitting alone anymore. —Cindy Davis
“Community”: “Community” exists within a universe where seemingly anything can happen, with or without paintballs — from city-sized blanket forts to zombie outbreaks to the observable existence of alternate timelines. It’s a show where any story you could ever want to participate in can happen, and hopefully will (six seasons and a movie!). But that’s true of many great sitcoms, isn’t it? What makes the world of, in, and around Greendale Community College worth being a part of is the camaraderie of the main study group. The sheer, unadulterated enthusiasm these people have for hanging out together. Oh, sure, the rest of the school thinks they’re the worst because they bicker all the time and break up every other week, but that’s only because they’re jealous of all the hijinks that ensue with the group. I want to make movies with Abed, play video games with Troy, go drinking with Jeff, talk politics with Britta, eat Shirley’s baked goods, rag incessantly on Pierce, play with Annie’s Boobs, and be extraordinarily awkward around the real deal. And that’s just when they aren’t saving the school from rival City College. If Greendale is the place that welcomes outsiders, then the original Spanish study group are the Alpha Outsiders. Come to think of it, that sounds heck of a lot like Pajiba. —Rob Payne
“Pushing Daises”: I imagine, when it doesn’t smell of formaldehyde, that the air smells of spices and buttery pastry. I imagine, in this candy floss universe rendered in glorious technicolor, that every day, every hour, is glazed in sweetness. I want to get my floury fingers all over it and have my every move whimsically narrated in Jim Dale’s rich tones. It’s not just the heightened realism of the “Pushing Daisies” universe that’s so alluring; it’s the cozy atmosphere of the (snicker if you will) Pie Hole. It’s the humble philosophy of the extraordinary pie maker who, despite his strange gift, clings to any sense of normalcy he can find. I want to snuggle Digby and go shopping with Chuck (who is Zooey Deschanel without the gratingly over-the-top tweeness). I want to examine every knick-knack in the Darling Mermaid Darling household and burst into song with Olive. It’s a sun-drenched throwback to a more innocent time and, despite the ever-climbing body count and unavoidable peril, it would be like living in a warm, sweet-smelling hug. I would never want to leave. —Joanna Robinson
“Firefly”: What’s better than space nerds in space jumpsuits? Space cowboys, y’all. Why not hitch a ride on Serenity with others aimin’ to misbehave and enjoy the outlaw life full of Old West talkin’ and get-ups? Life may not be easy on the edges of civilization in 2517, skirting the authorities and dealing with criminals, but I’d follow Captain Tightpants anywhere. It’d be like “Deadwood” but with better medicine. And space! If I felt bored, I’d play with Wash and his dinosaurs. If I felt philosophical, I’d talk with Shepherd. In the mood to shoot something? Jayne and Zoe would be up for adventure. And while I couldn’t distract Mal from Inara, perhaps she could teach me how to distract Simon from Kaylee (sorry, girl). We’d be on the run, a-dustin’ off our dusters and swearin’ in Mandarin. Sure, there’d be plenty of danger, such as Reavers, and River being weird. But given my druthers, I’d choose life as a Browncoat. It’d be shiny. —Sarah Carlson
“Mad Men”: From a historical perspective, I’d love to experience such a pivotal era in U.S. history from such a glamorous vantage point. And to be perfectly shallow, being able to wear the fashion trends of the time (when it isn’t Halloween) would be an amazing experience as well. Hell, I work from home, so it would be a refreshing change to work at an office that’s also quite a social experience as well. There are certainly less endurable workplace rituals than hanging with Joan Holloway around the water cooler or the break room, but I’d definitely not want to be one of the endless stream of beddable secretaries who roam through Don’s office. What I like most about this clip is Peggy Olsen rejecting a number of revolting advances but, strangely enough, going for Pete Campbell’s schmucky ways. Unfortunately, I’d probably fall for the guy with a chip-and-dip, too. —Agent Bedhead
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: One might find this an odd choice. Because, clearly, electing to live in Sunnydale and join the Scoobies means I’d probably die. But what a death it would be. And, prior to that death, I might get to cast spells, kill some demons or hang out with and totally sex on hot vampirey menfolk. There’s a sweet magic shop, the college has quite the array of extracurricular activities, the high school library has a particularly excellent selection, and the local government is just begging for a fine young upstart to turn things around. Hell, even studying with Giles seems like a damn good time. Say what you will about living on the Hellmouth — every day really is an adventure. And until you get flayed alive, staked by mistake or run through with a sword during an epic finale battle, you spend your time with great friends, awesome enemies, and, hell, sometimes you even get to sing a song or two. —Courtney Enlow
“Wife Swap”: Without much doubt the show that I would most like to live in would be “Wife Swap.” This isn’t because I don’t love my wife, for I do — she is the radiant point of light that illuminates each one of my days and without her I would be a very small and sad man. However, “Wife Swap” offers me a unique opportunity to live out one of my dreams, which is to do a kind of back-road tour through America. Instead of driving about with a witty bon vivant like Stephen Fry, let’s say, I’d have a gritty, Let’s-Get-Famous-American-Style cycle of adventure. Every couple of months, I’d go on a mission where I’d head off to some arbitrary community and embed myself in a life I’d never have the opportunity to experience or understand otherwise. You know, I’d learn what it was like to be completely insane, good at sports or successful. And of course, this show spun-off into “Celebrity Wife Swap,” affording me the opportunity to spend a week or two living the life of Gene Simmons or some other publicity-hungry entity. It would be like an awesome working vacation where I’d be a kind of travel writer, always moving yet always safe in the knowledge that each trip was going to end and I’d be able to return home, back to all my familiar points of light and the woman I love. —Michael Murray
“Parenthood”: I have no otherworldly, fantastical, or sci-fi ambitions. I don’t want to live in a place where people hatch schemes; I don’t want to live under the threat of danger; I don’t want to teleport or fly at light speed. I don’t want to be surrounded by hot women or exotic locations. I can watch all of those things on television or read about them in novels. Me? I just want to live in a big house with a large, adoring family that occasionally bickers; that deals with drama that feels large to us, but that is small-scale in the grand scheme; and that, at the end of the day, always comes back to each other, and dances in the kitchen to PG-rated hip hop like the lame suburban tools they are. I want to be someone who overextends himself for his kids, who makes lunches every morning and picks his kids up after school, and gets in fights with his wife over petty things while he’s brushing his teeth, then gets tipsy on three beers and makes out with her. It’s everything I never was growing up, but a Braverman is everything I want to be as an adult: Nice, compassionate, supportive, and most of all, good. —Dustin Rowles
“Doctor Who”: My parents bought me my first science fiction book when I was 8, a hard cover of Asimov’s Robots and Empire that still sits on my shelf, dug out of a dollar bin at Target. It sat next to a National Geographic book called Our Universe, all glorious glossy pictures and artist renderings. I knew that there were other worlds than these even before I really comprehended that there was a world beyond the two-block walk to the one room library on Main Street. I was the cliche, the kid who stared at the stars and believed that one day I would fly between them. There was “Star Trek” eventually, and a dozen other shows and a hundred other book series, but the show that captured the essence of what I felt staring up at the endless black for all those years is “Doctor Who.” It strips out the politics, the focus on space ships and blasters, the well-worn plots of a dozen different genres shoehorned into the future, and produces a distillation of science fiction’s heart blood: sheer wonder. Of any universe, which would I live in? I’d live in the one where I might hear that strange screeching tone as a blue box appears in the distance. I’d live in the one where I could see the turn of the universe. —Steven Lloyd Wilson
“Cheers”: I took a bartending course several years back, and my instructor told my class that the highest goal a bartender should always strive to achieve is the creation of a real-life version of “Cheers” for his or her patrons. I daresay I have never heard such absolute truth in my entire life. “Cheers” has been my best television comfort food for most of a very full television-watching life. Who wouldn’t want to have that guaranteed place to go where everybody knows your name? You have a core group of friends that are always there waiting for you and willing to indulge in a late-night, spur-of-the-moment viewing of The Magnificent Seven whenever you like. The most clever witticisms you could possibly imagine constantly fill in just the right spot at every conversational beat. A variety of perspectives are available to enrich your outlook: the humble hedonism of Norm, the acerbic faith of Carla, the dueling psychoanalysis of Frasier and Lilith, the befuddled wisdom of Coach or Woody, or the omnipresent “expertise” of Cliff. And of course, for your vicarious entertainment, we have the romantic travails of reliable Sam, erudite Diane, and ambitious Rebecca. But best of all, while the drinks may flow without end, the dangers and ugly side of alcohol will almost never intrude upon your circle’s adventures. Sure, life might take the occasional serious turn, but the situation always seems to work out for the best, and your reserved barstool remains in the same spot every night. With an ambiance of bittersweet humor and good friends who are not going anywhere, that little bar in Boston gives us the best balance that we could ever want from life. —C. Robert Dimitri
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