The Ten Best TV Shows Set in Miami

The Ten Best TV Shows Set in Miami
Courtesy of HBO

Think about all of the best or most-talked-about shows of the past few decades: The Sopranos. Seinfeld. Mad Men. Nearly all take place in New York City. But how often do you hear about a show set in Miami? Is it not a city worth writing about? Sure, it is — but far fewer showrunners have tackled the land of hurricanes, bad traffic, and shady people. It's a difficult place to get right — just check out these bad Miami TV offenders. But some productions have truly done the Magic City proud. 

So here they are: the ten best TV shows set in Miami, ranked according to whether they were actually shot here and how accurately they depict our beloved (and sometimes hated) city.

10. Dexter
Forensic technician moonlights as serial killer with a thirst for justice? It sounds plausible for a New Times headline, but it’s the premise of the TV show Dexter. Though the show is based in Miami, most of it was shot in Long Beach, and the finale was shot in Ontario — California, that is. Still, the show featured some Miami landmarks, including the fountain at Bayfront Park and the Doral Park Country Club. You can also revisit some defunct Miami locations, including the old Virginia Key dive bar Jimbo’s and Bicentennial Park, now home to Museum Park, Pérez Art Museum Miami, and the future Frost Museum of Science. And though many viewers are still reeling from that less-than-stellar series finale, most fans will still tell you Dexter is worth a binge.

9. Jane the Virgin
This newer TV show based on a Venezuelan telenovela has been garnering serious praise for smashing Latina stereotypes. And despite its somewhat outrageous concept (a young women gets accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine check-up — what?!), it has already won a Golden Globe and been nominated for a number of Emmys. When it comes to portraying the real Miami, though, Jane falls short. New Times has written about all the fallacies before, including the fact that in alternate-Miami, the buses run on time and Calle Ocho is somehow a wholesome, family-friendly place. The show does include some exterior shots of Miami in the trailers, such as quick frames of Mount Sinai Medical Center, downtown Miami, and PortMiami, so that’s something. And in general, it’s a great show.

8. Sábado Gigante
The epic Saturday-night variety show hosted by Mario Kreutzberger — AKA Don Francisco — began in the 1960s in Chile, but by 1986, it had moved its stages to the 305. What native Miamian doesn’t recall seeing this TV show as a child? You probably either watched with your abuelos or maybe caught a curious glimpse while channel-surfing during SNICK commercials. Whatever the case, Sábado Gigante was a huge part of Miami’s culture from the '80s until its cancellation last year. Many of us still wax poetic about El Chacal and La Cuatro, as well as the bizarroPrice Is Right-meets-Star Search vibe of it all. Side note: Did you know Sábado Gigante holds a Guinness World Record for longest-running TV show?

7. Nip/Tuck
Watching Nip/Tuck is like watching every car accident in Miami happen simultaneously in slow motion. It’s a freaking disaster, but you just can’t pull your eyes away from it, no matter how long it takes to get through it all. This crazy sexy tale of two plastic surgeons has to be one of the most incredibly twisted shows set in Miami — and sadly, nearly all of it was filmed on the West Coast. Some of the locations are gorgeous, but they certainly aren’t the MIA. On the plus side, episodes featured some big-name guest stars, including Bradley Cooper, Portia de Rossi, and Peter Dinklage. And really, a show about two hot hotshot plastic surgeons in the Big Orange doesn’t exactly feel like a stretch of the imagination.

6. Burn Notice
Burn Notice was a comedy about a spy who was “burned” (forced out of his gig). It's also the TV show more recent locals have encountered in person than any other, because the production was shot on location all around Miami-Dade County, from the Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market and the Biltmore Hotel to Sandbar and the Barnacle in Coconut Grove. Fans of cult icon Bruce Campbell (Ash from the Evil Dead movies) and B-list actress Gabrielle Anwar (Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and Daddy Who?) might have tuned in to this show from time to time, but those with a love for all things Miami were the true fans. Burn Notice spent roughly six years living and breathing the 305. No neighborhood was off-limits when it came to shooting for this quirky USA Network series. And though Burn Notice isn’t on the same binge-worthy level as shows such as Breaking Bad, fans still look back on it favorably.
 

5. Magic City
Some shows never get a chance to really shine, and that’s the case with the Miami throwback series Magic City. When this show was announced, fans of Mad Men and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny from Grey’s Anatomy) were psyched about it, as were many denizens of the real Magic City. Sadly, those who became enamored with the stories revolving around the Miramar Playa were let down when Starz lowered the ax. But although the show represented a Miami most of us weren’t yet alive to know, it was beautiful to see a show shot locally, with sets heavily influenced by architect Morris Lapidus (responsible for iconic locales such as the Fountainbleau, Eden Roc, and Deauville Beach Resort). Plus, showrunner Mitch Glazer grew up here, so it’s no surprise he got the spirit of the city right on this show.

4. The Golden Girls
Unless you watched the show back in the day, you might not have known The Golden Girls is set in the 305. The address of the house in which the “girls” lived was 6151 Richmond St., but if you’re from here, you know that no such address exists. There are, however, a Richmond Drive close to Zoo Miami, and a 6151 Richmond Lane in Homestead. But let's be real — those funny gals were definitely living someplace east of the Palmetto Expressway. In reality, most scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Still, despite its lack of authenticity, most Miamians have a soft spot in their hearts for this show about rowdy, raunchy senior citizens. 

3. ¿Qué Pasa, USA?
How many TV shows have taken place in Little Havana, one of Miami’s most interesting neighborhoods? A big, fat, whopping one. Some of you might remember watching new episodes ¿Qué Pasa, USA? or at least seeing reruns. Qué Pasa delves deep into what it means to be a first-generation Latino by telling the story of a Cuban-American family living exactly the same way many Miamians were raised. The intro shows a downtown that’s wholly unrecognizable today, but the spirit of Latino families growing up in the Magic City remains the same, so the show remains a beloved treasure in our hearts.

2. Ballers
Now in its second season on HBO, Ballers hasn’t been around long, but it has quickly dug itself deep into the hearts of locals for its ability to truly capture the 305 experience of the one percent. Expensive sports cars, sugar daddies, VIP parties, and, of course, “Miami snow” all make themselves known on this show about running a football team, among other things. Star Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson graduated from the University of Miami and is seriously in tune with what the city is all about (at least when you have seemingly endless amount of cash). Shot mainly if not fully in Miami, the show also has plenty of street cred for repping the MIA.

1. Miami Vice
Long before directing films such as Heat, Public Enemies, and The Last of the Mohicans, Michael Mann was busy driving around SoBe scouting locations for the quintessential Miami TV show: Miami Vice. When so many producers were opting to film in L.A., Mann decided to bring production to the 305. The Miami of the '80s was nothing like it is today. The crime rate was astronomical, and the streets of South Beach were often empty. Could you really imagine filming an entire TV show on Collins Avenue or Ocean Drive these days? Chances are the crew members would get their cars towed before saying cut. Sure, Miami Vice is completely cheesy (it was the '80s, after all), but it also feels like a love letter to the wondrous city it would one day become. P.S.: You can relive the show's glory days by streaming the entire series on Hulu for free.


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