Thursday, August 1, 2013

What are television's best hangouts?

Everyone has a favorite hangout – or they had one at one time.

Maybe it’s the Dairy Queen at the center of a one stoplight town (was that just me?) or maybe it’s a family diner.

Television is no different. And, while most television shows become synonymous with their stars, there are some that become synonymous with certain locations.

So, what are television’s best hangouts?

10. Moe’s Tavern:  Ah, Springfield. Sure, it’s a cartoon. It’s still important to a lot of people, though. The truth is, ‘The Simpsons’ wouldn’t have survived for as long as it did without being something of a pop culture lightning rod. At the center of that lightning rod is Moe’s Tavern – the home of double entendre and macho men. While Moe’s doesn’t have the appeal of being a place you can see yourself hanging out (personally, I’ve never had much luck imagining myself into a cartoon), it does have the appeal of being a place you would really want to hang out if it was 3-D.

9. The Bronze: There were a lot of different sets over the seven seasons of Buffy. It could be argued
that the library was actually a better hangout than the Bronze – but it was blown up in season three. Then there was the magic shop, but it was blown up in season six. There was the Summers’ house – but it lost some of its appeal when Joyce died in the living room in season five. Really, the only place in Sunnydale that was always there was the Bronze. That’s where Willow pretended to be a vampire, Oz played with his band, Faith and Buffy dirty danced and Cordelia talked down to her minions. The good news is that The Bronze didn’t blow up over Buffy’s run. It was, however, swallowed into a giant hole in the final episode. Yeah, Buffy had a certain pedigree in property destruction.

8. McLaren’s: I really am over ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ The show has yanked me around for a few too many seasons, quite frankly. Still, the early seasons of the show were magic. Who doesn’t think it would be absolutely entertaining to live in an apartment above your favorite bar? Seriously. How convenient would that be? McLaren’s has been the site of some of the most important moments in the show’s history. And, even if I no longer care who the mother is and I find the Robin and Barney relationship ridiculously forced, I do have a soft spot in my heart for McLaren’s and the memories it holds.

7. The Peach Pit: Every teenager has a hangout, but the pure genius of the Peach Pit on ‘Beverly
Hills 90210’ was the fact that both the adults and the kids could interact in a way that didn’t feel forced or contrived. Sure, Nat was an adult and he spewed advice like a psychologist on Ritalin, but he was also a friend that would just sit and listen to the kids when they needed it. Not only did the restaurant serve as a great job for Brandon, but it also proved that Dylan had a heart when he stepped in to save his friend (several times). The restaurant was also a place for drama throughout the years, with Brenda being held at gunpoint and Nat nearly dying of a heart attack. Man, I miss the old 'Beverly Hills 90210.'

6. Regal Beagle: Even though the apartment set on ‘Three’s Company’ was the central location for all the action, the Regal Beagle was easily the second most important place on the show. Without the Regal Beagle, we wouldn’t have been privy to all of John Ritter’s wonderful slapstick action – because if he didn’t meet a girl at the Regal Beagle and bring her home, Jack Tripper wouldn’t have been able to fall over himself (sometimes literally) to get himself out of situation after situation back at the apartment. Plus, who doesn’t love the awesome 70s music 
and fashion on display at the Regal Beagle?

5. Boar’s Nest: When you think about 1970s television, it’s easy to overlook ‘The Dukes of
Hazzard.’ When you do that, though, you ignore the macho masterpiece that was the early precursor to the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies – as well as the fact that the show was filmed in a time where two “good ole boys” could drive around in a racist car – and nobody cared. I remember loving this show – and one of the things I loved most about it was the Boar’s Nest. The Boar’s Nest was a sexist retreat – kind of like an antiquated Hooters – where the women walked around with their butts hanging out of their shorts while the men swilled beer and ogled them. Today, it’s seems shallow and embarrassing. It’s still pop culture gold, though.

4. Cheers: It’s fun to have a place where everybody knows your name – and Cheers was one of those places. This show was one of the few ensembles that survived the loss of a major character and not only carried on – but also got better.  Cheers wasn’t just about the workers at the bar. It was also about the people that frequented it. There’s an adage that says you can’t pick your family – but that’s exactly what they did on Cheers. Even though these people weren’t related by blood, they were still a family in their hearts and deeds. That’s why the show was so funny when they tortured each other.

3. The Foreman’s Basement: When you talk about locations being another character on a show, you
can’t overlook the basement on ‘That 70’s Show.’ Sure, we all knew what they were doing down there – but it still felt like an awesome environment. The Foreman’s basement was fairly dirty, sometimes cluttered and always smelly – but it was still the best place to hang out in Point Place, Wis. Between Kelso and the “stupid helmet,” Hyde and his shower full of beer and Eric and his ‘Star Wars’ models, the Foreman basement was full of more than memories. Sure, there was a lot of pot down there, but there was a lot of love, too.

2. Arnold’s: ‘Happy Days’ was before my time, but I remember watching reruns when I was a kid. Besides the Cunningham house, the only other recognizable set that made it into pretty much every episode was Arnold’s.  The greasy diner screamed 1950s comfort – and fans were just as happy to visit the restaurant as Richie, Potsie and Ralph were. To be fair, ‘Happy Days’ went downhill pretty quick in its final years – and let’s not even discuss that whole shark jumping thing – but I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get a little bit nostalgic when they see Arnold’s on their screen.

1. Central Perk: The coffee shop on ‘Friends’ was almost another character in the show – it was that recognizable. While the shop didn’t make an appearance in every single episode of the show – it did make an appearance in about 75 percent of them – and that’s a pretty good number. Central Perk had a fairly unrealistic layout – and I find it interesting that  our “friends” always managed to snag that couch – but there’s a sense of familiarity about Central Perk that cannot be denied – and I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t want to hang out there. Some of the most important moments in ‘Friends’ history happened there – including Ross and Rachel’s first kiss, Rachel’s entrance to the show, Phoebe’s singing sets and Ross and Chandler’s bully confrontation. Really, could that place BE any more comfortable?

Honorable mentions go to:

The Pit: ‘A Different World’ went through a lot of cast changes and thematic surges over the course of its run, but The Pit was one of the few things that lasted multiple seasons. Besides Whitley and Dwayne, The Pit was one of the few things that could be considered a mainstay.

Ten Forward: The entire Enterprise was kind of a hangout, but ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ hit on a great idea when they introduced the social center of the ship. The best addition to Ten Forward was the facility’s other-worldly bartender – Guinan.

The Double R: ‘Twin Peaks’ is one of those shows that still manages to have a devoted fanbase – even though the show went off the air 20 years ago. Think about that. It was a two-season show that still has a fanatical following. Sure, I guess you could call it a cult classic – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be remembered forever. The Double R is part of the mystique of 'Twin Peaks' that still entertains.

Café Nervosa: ‘Frasier’ is one of those shows that I loved part of the time and hated the rest of the time. I can’t put my finger on it. Still, most of the scenes in the quaint coffee shop were both entertaining and welcoming. Café Nervosa was one of those sets that actually lets viewers feel like they’re part of the action.

Monk’s Diner: I was never a fan of ‘Seinfeld.’ Just wanted to get that out there. Still, if there was a location that was important to the group, it was Monk’s. What’s interesting about Monk’s is that it might have actually had more heart than the group. Do you think that was on purpose?

The Max: ‘Saved by the Bell’ is never going to win any awards, but I did love it when I was a teenager. I was obsessed with Kelly and Zack – and I even tolerated Screech. While the school was the main setting, local diner The Max was the heart of the show. Granted, it was a really cheesy heart, but it still felt like going home.

 What do you think? What’s your favorite television hangout?


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