The Good, The Bad, and The Drunky – HNTP Reviews the Best and Worst Fictional Watering Holes on the Small Screen

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Every good showrunner knows that nothing brings about intrigue, drama, conflict and romance like putting all your main characters in a room together and getting them all stinking drunk. For this reason, bars are generally mainstays of modern television series. These places are literally “where the magic happens.” Also the beer goggles . . . lots of that happens there too.

But how many of these watering holes are places where, you, the viewer, would actually enjoy kicking back with friends and getting your proverbial drink on?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Cheers from Cheers

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Should you drink here? Heck Yeah!

Who wouldn’t want to toss back a few at the bar where “everybody knows your name?” With its traditional wooden furnishings and a casual folksy sports bar kind-of-feel, Cheers probably wouldn’t be the swankiest bar you ever drank at, nor would it have the best selection of beers and cocktails. But Cheers isn’t the kind of bar you attend for the ambiance, or even the quality beverages.

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Cheers is the kind of bar you seek out when you don’t feel like getting dressed up or slipping into those painful high heels. You go to Cheers to relax and hang out . . . to laugh at Carla’s snide remarks and wisecracks, listen to fun facts by Cliff, get free therapy sessions from Frasier, and give Norm advice about his never-seen wife Vera.

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And if you are in the mood for some free drinks, flirting a bit with the womanizer behind the bar certainly wouldn’t hurt . . .

Emerald City Bar and Grill from Grey’s Anatomy

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Should you drink here? Do Leprechauns wear green?

Nobody knows how to party like the overworked doctors at Seattle Grace Medical Center. And because of this, this Irish Pub is the home of plenty of crazy nights. Louder and a bit more raucous than Cheers due to its limited seating space and a slightly younger crowd, the Emerald City Bar is less the kind of place you go for conversation and more the kind of place you go for flirtation, and to further your intoxication.

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Yet, like Cheers, the vibe at the Emerald City Bar is refreshingly laid back, the furnishings are warm and inviting, and the bartender and owner Joe is sweet, friendly, and offers great relationship advice to boot. And something tells me that you are going to need that relationship advice after spending a few boozy nights in Emerald City with all those hot doctors . . .

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MacLaren’s Pub from How I Met Your Mother

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Should you drink here? Abso . . . wait for it . . . friggin lutely!

With the same relatively young, hip crowd offered by the Emerald City Bar and well spaced out booths that offer an intimate, conversational vibe like that found at Cheers, MacLaren’s Pub is kind of the best of both worlds in terms of TV bar culture. Given all it has to offer (not to mention a full food menu to boot), it’s easy to understand why Ted, Barney, Lily, Marshall and Robin spent most of their free time at this particular bar, which just so happened to be located in the same building as their apartment.

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If you are a single womanizing guy like Barney or perpetually lovelorn like Ted, MacLaren’s also offers the added benefit of being filled with modelesque female guest stars who are more than willing to date you for at least a two-to-four-episode arc.

Apart from the main characters, however, MacLaren’s always seemed woefully short on eligible men, which I personally always found disappointing and just a wee bit sexist . . .

Central Perk from Friends

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Should you drink here? Sure, but you may want to wait until Gunther invests in a liquor license.

So, Chandler, Monica, Joey, Ross, Rachel and Phoebe’s favorite night and weekend hangout just so happened to be alcohol-free. This is something that never phased me when the show originally aired, but now, having reached drinking age, it strikes me as a bit unusual, especially during the early seasons when the crew were all single and in their late 20s.

I mean, it’s not like this was exactly a teetotaling bunch. See, for example, The Margarita Episode . . .

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The Vegas Episode . . .

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And pretty much every Thanksgiving episode . . .

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Nevertheless, the décor and atmosphere in Central Perk is pretty much unparalleled when it comes to offering up a comfortable and friendly yet stylish environment to eat pastries, get totally buzzed on espresso shots, and chill out with good and funny friends while listening to an impromptu performance of “Smelly Cat.”

Because, let’s face it. That trademark orange couch is just to die for! In fact, according to an article by Bizdaq, a really cool site which appraises fictional businesses using real-world stats and figures, were Central Perk to exist in real life, it would be a total cash cow, with real estate values through the roof.

So, you could imagine how much more profitable (and fun) it would be if it started selling booze . . .

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Fangtasia from True Blood

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Should you drink here?  You could, but you might not live to tell the tale.

Up to this point, the TV watering holes we’ve reviewed have been laid back, charming, and even folksy. But if a sexy, dangerous, and decidedly more R-rated night is what you had in mind, Louisiana’s Fangtasia is the kind of bar you could really sink your teeth into . . .

At first bite, Fangtasia may give off a bit of a touristy vibe, selling mugs, souvenirs and t-shirts to patrons, just like your local Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Café.

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But once you dig a little deeper, you will find that there is nothing cliché about this honest-to-goodness vampire bar, owned, staffed, and patronized almost entirely by real, blood-drinking, fang-having, fast-moving vampires!

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At Fangtasia, not only could you drink overpriced liquor until you pass out, you can also watch vampires dance scary fast, take a picture with 1,000-year-old sexy Viking vampire Eric Northman, and maybe even manage to earn yourself the kind of hardcore hickey you’ve always dreamed about.

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Then again, anyone who ever watched True Blood will tell you that Fangtasia isn’t exactly the safest place to get toasted and leave your inhibitions at the door. In fact, it’s fairly inevitable that the Big Bad of the Season will make at least one appearance there, leaving a bevy of dead bodies in his or her wake. And if you don’t want one of those bodies to be yours, you are probably better off ordering the t-shirt online and drinking at home, or at one of the other bars referenced above.

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Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons

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Should you drink here? D’oh! I mean, NO!

Everybody’s got a bar like this in their home town. They are small, stuffy, dark, and filled with middle-aged alcoholics with bloated beer guts, drinking cheap beer out of dirty mugs.

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Truth be told, given the poor property value of Moe’s seedy tavern, our friends at Bizdaq aren’t entirely sure how good ole Moe manages to keep the lights on in the place. We’re thinking it may be accomplished by less than legal means.

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Speaking of thinly-veiled fronts for illegal activity . . .

Bada Bing! From The Sopranos

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Should you drink here? Fugghedaboutit!

If you happen to be a mafia kingpin with armloads of excess cash that needs to be laundered until it’s squeaky clean and your “primary” job as a sanitation worker isn’t quite cutting it, there’s no better way to do it than to own and operate a seedy strip club right off the highway in Northern New Jersey.

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If Moe’s bar is dark, Bada Bing is positively cavernous, not to mention windowless. In fact, the only lights in the entire place are those coming from the sequins on the strippers barely concealed chests. Oddly enough, the most inviting place in the Bada Bing just so happens to be the back office, where Tony and his crew can discuss their shadiest and most illegal dealings without fear of unwittingly getting overheard by someone dumb enough to squeal on them to the cops.

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Bada Bing may be a nice place for a made man to go and get his rocks off, but to me it looks like the kind of place you only frequent if you want to get whacked . . . and not “whacked” in a good way, either.

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There you have it, seven TV Watering Holes as reviewed by HNTP’s least sober staff writer. Now, it’s your turn. Which fictional television bar do you consider most worthy of your cash, time, and spare sobriety?

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  • To me Cheers is like an upscale Moe’s. People who spend time there, spend way too much time there. Sometimes YEARS. Like that time Sam came to visit Fraser in Seattle and he see Niles for the first time and how much he resembles a young Fraser and he says something to which Fraser replies: You weren’t exactly running a health club.”

  • guenna77

    they went to Central Perk simply because they lived above it; it used to be a bar. at one point they did a flashback to just before the series began. Rachel was still engaged to barry, joey was moving in with chandler, ross was still married to carol (though not by the end) and the bar was closing to make way for a coffee shop. they used it as meta-commentary on getting older and everything changing.

  • M H

    Definitely don’t want to stay there (the mattresses are gross), but some day-drinking at the Hotel Cortez bar would be awesome.