The Best California TV Shows

Watch a version of your life reflected back on the small screen.,


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“City of Ghosts” (2021)Credit…Netflix

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the rise of a certain kind of Los Angeles television show.

Instead of exclusively depicting L.A.’s rich and famous, this newer crop of shows reflects a majority-minority city, where the median annual income is below $30,000 and, for most people, life isn’t all that glamorous.

For me, an Angeleno who lives far from the beach and knows few people who work in Hollywood, the joy of these shows is seeing a version of my life reflected back.

Many of you wrote to me about TV shows that feel true to your experience of California. Some reveal the grittier side of San Diego, or showcase reliably stunning views of the Central Coast.

I’ve shared your recommendations below, which include productions spanning nearly half a century:

The Rockford Files” (1974), Los Angeles

“Rockford may have lived in a trailer on the beach in Malibu, but he spent most of his time in less rarefied parts of L.A. As a kid in Aptos, Ventura Boulevard and downtown L.A. (long before lofts!) defined L.A. for me. Even now, when I’m in some of the more workaday sections of the Southland, something I see triggers the ‘Rockford Files’ theme music in my head.” — Ryan Ver Berkmoes, Monte Rio

Lou Grant” (1977), Los Angeles

“The show portrayed all sections of Los Angeles, from downtown, to the beach, to Bel-Air, to like, y’know, the Valley and stuff, and to the scruffier sections in the east and south. I first watched the show when I lived back east, and was thrilled to visit many of those locations after I moved to Southern California in the early ’80s.

Recently, I picked up several DVD box-sets of ‘Lou Grant,’ and was amazed at how well the show holds up after all these years. One episode, first broadcast in 1979, dealt with undocumented immigrants. Forty-two years old, and it easily could have been written 42 minutes ago.” — Bob Haus, Oakland

Nash Bridges” (1996), San Francisco

“I used to watch ‘Nash Bridges’ in part as a scavenger hunt trying to determine exactly where in San Francisco the scenes were filmed. I even saw the crews in action around town. There’s something special about seeing the real places you know show up onscreen.” — Mark Jones, Sacramento

Monk” (2002), San Francisco

“The opening of the show with Monk walking to his apartment at the top of one of San Francisco’s many steep hills is priceless!” — Chick Harrity, Calistoga

Terriers” (2010), San Diego

“Not only was it a very good show with intricate plotting, crackling dialogue and great acting, it also shone a light on a bit of a seedy underbelly of the San Diego beach towns. If I recall correctly it took place in Ocean Beach.

I had never seen a show that took away the fun and sun of San Diego beach culture and instead replaced it with the scrappy day-to-day (or as was often the case on this show, night-to-night) living in a part of California most people consider idyllic.” — Dan Hess, Los Angeles

Bosch” (2014), Los Angeles

“My husband and I were huge fans of ‘Bosch.’ Sadly, my husband died in March, and months later I finally got around to watching the last season. In the last episode, Bosch’s daughter is sitting outside Du-Par’s.

I have spent the past few months moving from Connecticut to Los Angeles. I now live a mile away from there — rounded the corner one day after first moving here and there it was.” — Marlene Cavagnuolo, Los Angeles

Lucifer” (2016), Los Angeles

“My favorite is ‘Lucifer’ because it shows the L.A. I remember most from 11 years lived there: the kind of morally amorphous city the devil would surely choose to live in.” — Ney M. Fonseca Jr., Teresopolis, Brazil

Big Little Lies” (2017), Monterey

“I was born and raised on Monterey Bay. I spent much of my adult life living and working there, though not since 2005. One of my family’s greatest joys was Sunday drives around the region.

I adored ‘Big Little Lies’ for all the iconic Central Coast, Monterey peninsula and Big Sur locations that were beautifully showcased.” — Rhoda Flint, Bellingham, Wash.

The Rookie” (2018), Los Angeles

“The star of the show is Los Angeles. It’s a well-done police procedural with a good cast and excellent plot. It stays interesting episode to episode.

Being a former Southern California girl, I have developed a love for SoCal that I didn’t have for the first 20 years of my life.

I was blown away by the detailed street-to-street detail, and the different downtown L.A. neighborhoods. The cast are all very likable and tough. Plus the diversity of the cast is what it should be, with Black and Hispanic actors making up the main characters.” — Iris Buckley-Jacobson, Atascadero

City of Ghosts” (2021), Los Angeles

“‘City of Ghosts’ on Netflix is a little miracle of a show — humane portraits of L.A. neighborhoods outside the ones we’ve seen for years, naturalistic performances and a delightful art direction and animation style. Super great for adults AND kids! Hope you like it.” — Paul Kimball, Campbell

For more:

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix right now.

Check out our California songs playlist.

Does the songwriter of “I Love L.A.” actually love L.A.?


A Covid vaccination in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday.Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

The latest on Omicron and the pandemic

Omicron, now in at least 20 countries, spread earlier than was known.

How two flights to Europe may have spurred its spread.

See where Covid-19 is surging in Europe, once again the center of the pandemic.

Merck’s Covid treatment pill won the blessing of an F.D.A. panel on Tuesday.


Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The rest of the news

Key gun ruling: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, 7-4, to uphold California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Theranos trial: Under cross-examination, the start-up’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, admitted that she had made mistakes.

Supreme Court abortion case: A University of California, Irvine, law professor argues for abortion access: “I Was Raped by My Father. An Abortion Saved My Life.”

Women on corporate boards: A judge will begin hearing evidence that could undo a state law credited with giving women seats in boardrooms traditionally dominated by men, The Associated Press reports.


Vaccine mandate: San Diego’s city employees must now show proof of vaccination or request an exemption, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

A test for the “great man theory”: U.S.C. has a new football coach.

Ski areas opening: Despite a dry fall, the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski areas will open this week, The Associated Press reports.


Mural removed: A Fresno pastor ordered a mural depicting residents who have died from violence to be removed from his church’s building, The Fresno Bee reports.


Shrinking snowpacks: The snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada could disappear in 25 years, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Computer maven: Jim Warren, an influential figure in the community that sprung up in the Bay Area around the emerging personal computer industry, has died at 85.


Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times

What we’re eating

Chocolate cheesecake with graham cracker crunch.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Jacqueline Leventhal:

“The Lafayette water storage reservoir is a 975-acre site located on the west end of Lafayette in Northern California’s East Bay. It is the perfect place to walk all year long. Birds, wildlife, picnic areas, benches and bathrooms are scattered throughout.

There are two trails. The popular 2.8-mile trail is easy and flowing around the reservoir. The four-plus-mile unpaved rim trail is good for the more hearty and offers great views.

It is a little oasis in the middle of urban life. You can walk the ‘rez’ any time of day — with strollers, dogs. It’s about an hour around and you will leave refreshed and inspired by this gorgeous natural setting.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

Has your child been vaccinated against Covid-19?

Share stories of your children receiving their coronavirus shots and how it has affected your holiday plans. Please include your child’s name, age and city of residence — and even a photograph, if you’d like.

Email me at and your submission may be included in a future newsletter.


An adult sea otter pushing a pup on the surface of the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing.Credit…Nathan Frandino/Reuters

And before you go, some good news

California has found an especially cute way to fight climate change: sea otters.

Successful efforts to increase the animals’ numbers off the California coast have led to the growth of kelp forests, which gobble up carbon from the atmosphere.

Read more from Wired.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Game for world champion Magnus Carlsen (5 letters).

Jack Kramer, Steven Moity, Mariel Wamsley and Jaevon Williams contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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