Empire HQ is located at 3353 Madison Avenue. Which looks nothing like this IRL.

I recently caught up with the hype parade surrounding Empire, a television show that the rest of you have probably been watching since January. The series revolves around a NYC music mogul and his family, and what everyone says is true: it's extremely addictive, dramatic, and unintentionally hilarious. It is a nighttime soap opera with a really talented cast, and a pretty good soundtrack.

We're currently 5 episodes in to the 18-episode second season, and it's already stronger than the first, but it still has one distracting flaw that suspending disbelief won't help wipe out. Despite the fact that I eagerly await Cookie's next power move and/or ensemble every week, it's extremely disorienting to remember that this show is supposed to be set in New York City—because nothing about it looks or feels like here.

Even though we offer nice tax incentives, it's not that unusual for a TV show to be set in NYC but actually be filmed in another city—in this case Chicago and sometimes LA. Nor is it unusual to have our city's subway system, housing, or neighborhoods be completely misrepresented on the screen. The most glaring example of this is the 1980s television show Bosom Buddies—it took place in NYC, but was filmed in LA. In the intro to the show, the two main characters are shown walking through what is supposed to be Central Park, but there are palm trees all over the place! Still, the show managed to feel more like NYC than Empire does.

It's fine. No one is asking for 100% reality out of Hollywood, and it doesn't take away from the show's allure. But there is just something about Empire that feels so, so wrong when you realize what you are looking at is supposed to be New York. And it was supposed to be filmed in New York—from the Chicago Tribune:

"Malik Yoba signed on to “Empire” to play Empire chairman Vernon Turner under the impression the show would shoot in New York, seeing how that’s where the story takes place. The show kept the story in New York but opted to film in Chicago.

Why? Better tax incentives, reportedly. Btw, Yoba grew up in Brooklyn, a borough that the Empire characters only go to when they are sad, down and out, or depressed. Back to the Tribune:

In order to convince the viewer “Empire” takes place in New York, the show stays away from filming Chicago landmarks and instead includes the occasional shot of New York’s skyline. Still, the drama created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong feels like a Chicago show. How could it not? We see the actors filming around town... we recognize the locations or Chicagoans on the show..."

There is a huge issue here—staying away from Chicago landmarks is fine, but the show also stays away from all of New York City and all of New York City's landmarks, because, you know, it's not being filmed here. While we get the occasional take-away stock footage shot of the Statue of Liberty, nothing else gives us a sense that we're in the city. And even when they do use stock footage like that, it's not always used accurately—when was the last time the Teen Choice Awards were held in the Manhattan Municipal Building?

Watch any episode and you'll be scratching your head over these Not New York locations, like when Hakeem refers to Webster Hall as "Webster Ballroom." The worst, worst, worst example came during Season 1 (episode 4), when Jamal moved out of his massive Chelsea loft that his father had been paying for, and finds a place he can afford on his own.

His new apartment is in Bushwick, where the set designers really used their imagination! While the interior has noisy neighbors and that forced run-down look that at this point is practically of-another-era Bushwick, outside is where things get even more unrealistic. When Jamal is working on a song (this is a show where all they have to do is think really hard for 15 seconds—and really want it—and a hit song forms)... anyway, he steps out into what appears to be a fenced-in driveway for his apartment building, with nice garages on the ground floor. None of this is representative of any era of Bushwick. And THEN, against the garage doors, there is a collection of drug addicts, hookers, and a small huddled group on the ground playing dice.

This is not Bushwick 2015, this is Skid Row in Little Shop of Horrors, the musical movie starring Rick Moranis. (But even that, of course, felt more New York—at least there were brownstones!)

Anyway, who cares. But maybe it would all be so much better if it were either 1) filmed in NYC, 2) set in Los Angeles, 3) set in Chicago, or 4) set in a fake soap opera name town like Genoa City.