From drama-packed reality TV to top-notch iconic series, New Jersey is the setting for plenty of familiar shows both past and present. While some are filmed in the Garden State, others simply take place in New Jersey, having been filmed somewhere else. But, even in those cases, there is Everything from suburbia to iconic boardwalks has set the stage for high-quality viewing. But what are the best TV shows set in New Jersey?
Using Rotten Tomatoes aggregated scores, we ranked the top shows taking place in New Jersey from lowest to highest scores. With some surprises on the list (the top spot is likely not what you expect), using both the critic consensus scores and audience scores, we determined which shows outrank the others. Curious to find out what show took the number one spot? Take a look below at the top five TV series that critics and viewers alike love watching.
5. WandaVision (Available on Disney+)
Critic score: 91%
Audience score: 81%
One of the newer series on this list, Disney+ and Marvel’s “WandaVision” takes place in the made-for-TV town of Westview, New Jersey. Each episode is set in a new decade, with Westview changing to reflect the latest times and trends. Playing into popular family-sitcom tropes, the story of Wanda Maximoff and Vision is a genre-bending step for the superhero universe. The idyllic suburban setting serves a large role in setting the tone for the series. While the show itself wasn’t filmed in New Jersey, the state’s aesthetic is on full display with subtle and not-so-subtle homages. Ranging from architecture and highways to the state flag and “Welcome to New Jersey” signs, the setting is recognizable—even with being filmed in Atlanta.
“WandaVision” isn’t the first Marvel production to “show” the Garden State. The fictional military facility in the made-up Wheaton, NJ is known for being the birthplace of Captain America and can be seen across multiple movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
4. House (Available on Prime and Peacock)
Critic score: 90%
Audience score: 96%
Taking place at the fictitious Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, “House” is a medical drama that centers around a genius diagnostician. Dr. Gregory House is both lauded and hated for his unconventional and, sometimes, unethical tact when dealing with rare medical diagnoses. The series ran on Fox from 2004 to 2012. Compared to other TV shows on the list, it is easy to forget that the show takes place in New Jersey. With the fictional hospital actually based on Yale-New Haven Hospital, the NJ setting places less of a central role in the series.
While the show’s hospital may not be a real NJ medical facility, aerial and establishing shots of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital were filmed at Princeton University’s Frist Campus Center. And for the sixth season of the show, the abandoned Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains, NJ places a key part of the storyline.
3. Boardwalk Empire (Available on HBO Max)
Critic score: 92%
Audience score: 96%
Set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era, “Boardwalk Empire” was a critical and fan favorite during its five-season run on HBO. The period drama centers around the main character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the city treasurer and a highly corrupt and powerful political figure. Thompson is loosely based on real-life AC crime boss Enoch L. Johnson. The series showcases the lavish lifestyles of bootleggers and organized crime figures in Atlantic City. Infamous gangsters such as Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Bugs Moran are all depicted throughout the series.
Although “Boardwalk Empire” wasn’t filmed along the real-life Atlantic City boardwalk, the set designers set out to create as historically accurate as possible setpieces. Relying on historical documents, photographs and blueprints, the Atlantic City boardwalk of the 1920s and 1930s was recreated in Brooklyn.
2. The Sopranos (Available on HBO Max)
Critic score: 92%
Audience score: 98%
Tied amongst critics but surpassing “Boardwalk Empire” by audience scores, “The Sopranos” just barely bested the AC-based period piece for the number two spot. Running on HBO for six seasons, there may be no other show that impacted New Jersey more than the story of Tony Soprano and his mafia-aligned circle of Italian-American friends and family. Set primarily in Essex County, and filmed on location throughout the state, “The Sopranos” is filled with easily identifiable NJ landmarks. From the first time you see Tony in the pool of his North Caldwell house to that final moment in Holsten’s Ice Cream in Bloomfield, plenty of the show’s locations exist in real life.
The show ushered in the era of movie-quality TV regularly found today. The show’s massive success and impact in the years following its much-discussed series finale only adds to its ever-growing legacy. The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel set during the time surrounding the Newark Riots, explores the life of a young Tony Soprano growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
1. Ramy (Available on Hulu)
Critic score: 98%
Audience score: 86%
Maybe surprising to some, Hulu’s “Ramy” surpassed the arguably most iconic New Jersey TV show for the top spot amongst Rotten Tomatoes’ critic scores. Series creator, and star as the titular character, Ramy Youssef, was raised in Rutherford, NJ. Youssef uses his own life experiences as inspiration for the show. Set in an unidentified NJ town, “Ramy” focuses on the life of a late 20’s Egyptian-American trying to find his place between conflicting lifestyles and ideologies—the millennial unconsequential approach to life and his Muslim family’s expectations. Though filmed in Queens, the show is undeniably New Jersey. Countless scenes show Ramy sitting at a counter in his family’s diner.
With seasons one and two currently streaming on Hulu, and the third set for a future release, “Ramy” has only just begun. Since its 2019 release, the series has garnered a slew of accolades including two Emmys and a Peabody Award.
Main photo via DMED Media