SFCentric History: 10 Vintage Television Shows Set in San Francisco

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San Francisco is an old, iron safe filled with gold, glory, disaster, and secrets. SFCentric History is a column, by SF writer V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi, that digs in the vaults of local history and shares the sensational people, places, and things that rocked San Francisco.

With such a beautiful and unique backdrop, it’s no wonder that several television shows have chosen San Francisco as their setting. For this week’s SFCentric History, I will take a look at 10 vintage TV shows that were set in the City by the Bay.

Racket Squad (1951-1953)

Photo: Amazon

The Racket Squad was a 1950s show where San Francisco detective Captain John Braddock would narrate different stories in which people were scammed. Each episode would explain the scam and how to avoid it, because “it could happen to you.”

Have Gun – Will Travel (1957-1963)

Photo: TheCabin.net

In Have Gun – Will Travel, a gentlemenly gunfighter for hire named Paladin lives in 1875 San Francisco. The Hotel Carlton is his home base in this Western series.

The Californians (1957-1959)

Photo: FamousFix

Another Western TV show during the late 1950s was The Californians. It took viewers back to the Gold Rush, and featured newspaperman Sam Brennan, a vigilance committee, and the lawlessness that dominated the era in San Francisco.

Dante (1960-1961)

Photo: Vintage45’s Blog

When former gambler Willie Dante opens his nightclub, Dante’s Inferno, no one wants to believe he is on the straight and narrow. That fictitious club in the show Dante is located in San Francisco.

Love on a Rooftop (1966-1967)

Photo: Pellucidar Notations

With a storyline that seems just as timely today as in 1966, Love on a Rooftop is about a young married couple struggling to live in San Francisco on their salary. Dave Willis makes $85.37 a week, and he and wife Julie decide to live in a converted store room with a fabulous rooftop view of the city.

Khan! (1976)

Photo: Vintage Toledo TV Site

There were a lot of cop/law/detective shows set in San Francisco, and Kahn! was one of them. The cool thing was that Kahn was a Chinese-American detective, and the show featured Asian actors (although the title character was played by Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese actor Khigh Dhiegh).

The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977)

Photo: Wikipedia

The Streets of San Francisco was a popular show that showed the city in all its glory. It was about two homicide detectives, played by Karl Malden and Michael Douglas, and was shot in SF at locations such as a house at 287 Union Street, what is now the New Potrero Market, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Up and Coming (1980-1981)

Photo: The Coli

Up and Coming is about a successful African-American family who moves from Oakland to San Francisco. It stars a young Cindy Heron, who would go on to be a part of Oakland’s own mega girl group En Vogue.

Hotel (1983-1988)

Photo: Wikipedia

In true ’80s glamour, Hotel was a dazzling Aaron Spelling production, centered around the fictitious St. Gregory Hotel in San Francisco. The Fairmont lent its beauty for shots of the hotel on the show.

Full House (1987-1995)

Photo: Christmas TV History 

You can’t have an article about old school San Francisco shows without including Full House. In it, the Tanner family all live in a victorian house in the city (the Full House house is located at 1709 Broderick Street, and the show’s creator Jeff Frankin actually bought it in 2016), where adorableness always ensues. A follow-up sitcom, Fuller House, is now streaming on Netflix.

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V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi is one of those rare born-and-raised San Franciscans (unicorn status). She is the Style & Culture, SF Editor for Hip Latina, and writer for several publications on fashion, art, culture and all things San Francisco. Alex aims to educate everyone (including natives) on anything you could possibly want to learn about the best city in the world. Follow her at @SFCentric and @TheItFactorBrand.