San Diego’s Best TV Shows

Only a hundred miles south of Hollywood, San Diego has “guest starred” in a number of television productions over the years, including a few of the most popular or critically acclaimed shows of recent years.

Here’s a look at the best TV series filmed on location in San Diego — including the ones that called their towns by other names.

1. Veronica Mars (2004-2006, 2019)

The original three-season run of this neo-noir detective series made stars of Kristen Bell in the title role and Amanda Seyfried as her mysteriously murdered best friend. Although it was set in the fictional seaside town of Neptune, CA, the series was filmed at San Diego County locations like Ocean Beach, Normal Heights, San Diego State University and Oceanside High School. After a 13-year hiatus, Veronica Mars was back with a vengeance in 2019, its teenage cast all grown up, working adult jobs, and still embroiled in mysteries.

2. Animal Kingdom (2016-present)

Sopranos in surfer town is the gist of this gritty drama, about an Oceanside crime family that goes to almost any length to enrich themselves, keep one step ahead of the law and their underworld rivals, and protect the family against all threats. The action revolves around hardnosed family matriarch “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin as we’ve never seen her before) and her teenage grandson (played by English actor Finn Cole), with many of the scenes shot on location in Oceanside.

3. Silk Stalkings (1991-99)

Crimes of passion was the premise of this long-running network murder-mystery series. Although the fictional story was set in Florida, most of the series was filmed on location in San Diego. Three different sets of actors played the male-female detective team during the show’s nine seasons. Episodes were filmed in La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido.

4. Simon & Simon (1981-89)

Time trip back to 1980’s San Diego in this popular CBS show that featured polar-opposite brothers — played by Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker — who run a private detective agency. The Coronado Bridge, SeaWorld and Interstate-5 feature in the opening credits.

5. Weeds (2005-2012)

Mary-Louise Parker lights it up (and got a Golden Globe nod) as Nancy Botwin, a suburban mom who turns to marijuana to support the kids after the death of her husband. Although it seems like ancient history given the subsequent plight of the plot in California, at the time it was cutting-edge television. Seasons four and five were set in the fictional town of Ren Mar (a.k.a. Del Mar, San Diego).

6. John From Cincinnati (2007)

This totally offbeat HBO series was both set and filmed on location in Imperial Beach. Austin Nichols stars as the paranormal title character, who interacts with locals played by the late Luke Perry, Rebecca de Mornay, and Ed O’Neill after he breezes into town. Despite a great sound track and surf scenes, ratings were low and “John” was sent packing back to Ohio after just one season.

7. Pitch (2016)

Another great show that lasted just one season, this fictional sports drama starred Canadian actor Kylie Bunbury as the first woman to get called up to a Major League Baseball team — the San Diego Padres. Much of the series was filmed at Petco Park. Despite a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, the show didn’t make it into extra innings.

8. Zoorama (1955-70)

Local morning show personality Bob Dale hosted this early version of a reality show filmed entirely at the San Diego Zoo. Although produced by a local station, the show eventually went nationwide on CBS. Animal Planet announced in April of 2019 a new series filmed behind-the-scenes at the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park.

Top 10 San Diego Books (Part Two)

In the run-up to writing Nemesis, I came across a number of other authors who’ve set their stories in San Diego or penned notable books while they were living here. In doing so, I realized that “America’s Finest City” actually boasts a pretty fine literary heritage, more than many people would suspect.

My bucket list of the best books written or set in San Diego is broken into two parts: 1880s to the early 1980s (the first century); and mid-1980s to the present day.

Nemesis and all of these books are available at the usual places online, as well as local bookshops like Warwick’s in La Jolla, Mysterious Galaxy in Clairemont, Bookstar in Point Loma, and the various Barnes & Noble branches.

My picks for the best San Diego books published between the 1985 and now are . . . .

The Postman by David Brin

San Diego earned more sci-fi cred with this post-apocalyptic yarn that was later made into a Kevin Costner movie. A longtime local resident, Brin moved down the coast from his native LA in the 1970s to attend UCSD and never left. A jack of all trades, he juggles gigs as a NASA consultant, futurist, speaker and writer. Published in 1985, The Postman was one of his earlier works.

“This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth. Gordon was a survivor — a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating bio-war. Fate touches him one chill winter’s day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold. The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it Gordon begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery. The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream.” — David Brin’s website

The Loud Adios by Ken Kuhlken

Born and raised in San Diego, Kuhlken attended San Diego State before playing semi-pro baseball in Tijuana and honing his literary skills at the celebrated Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Loud Adios — which won a Best First Novel award in 1990 from the Private Eye Writers of America — and other books in his Hickey Family series are mostly set in San Diego, Tijuana, Tucson and Lake Tahoe.

“Private Investigator Tom Hickey, now an army corporal military policeman assigned to the U.S./Mexico border, accompanies Private Clifford Rose to a Tijuana nightclub where Clifford claims they will find his sister Wendy . . . Her captors, Tom discovers, are led by a German occultist and financed by the powerful del Monte family. He comes to believe they are plotting a coup whose purpose is to give the Nazis a base from which to attack San Diego, home of the world’s largest military/industrial presence.” — Ken Kuhlken’s website

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

If you’ve ever wondered what the San Diego of the future might be like, this sci-fi tale could quench your curiosity. Set in a 2025 world that’s even more high-tech (and mind blowing) than present, the story won a Hugo Award and Locus Award as the world’s best sci-fi novel of 2007. From UCSD to the U.S. Marines, Rainbows End puts an innovative spin on various aspects of local life—including a cover illustration that imagines futuristic San Diego.

“As Robert becomes more deeply involved in conspiracy, he is shocked to learn of a radical change planned for the UCSD Geisel Library; all the books there, and worldwide, would cease to physically exist. He and his fellow re-trainees feel compelled to join protests against the change. With forces around the world converging on San Diego, both the conspiracy and the protest climax in a spectacular moment as unique and satisfying as it is unexpected.” — Goodreads

The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow

This may not be Winslow’s most popular book, but it’s certainly my favorite — set along the shore in Pacific Beach where I was born and raised. My brother was the family surfer dude; I was the nerdy kid digging for fossils at Tourmaline Canyon, browsing the tidepools at Bird Rock and trying to spot sharks from the end of Crystal Pier. So Dawn Patrol (published in 2008) summons a lot of youthful memories.

“Boone Daniels lives to surf. Every morning he’s out in the break off Pacific Beach with the other members of The Dawn Patrol: four men and one woman as single-minded about surfing as he is . . . But Boone is also obsessed with the unsolved case of a young girl named Rain who was abducted back when he was on the San Diego police force. He blames himself—just as almost everyone in the department does—for not being able to save her . . . Harrowing and funny, righteous and outrageous, The Dawn Patrol is epic macking crunchy from start to finish.” — Don Winslow’s website

Swift Vengeance by T. Jefferson Parker

Although most of Jefferson’s mysteries are set in LA and Orange County, a move to Fallbrook sparked a flurry of books with San Diego as its geographical base. Swift Vengeance (2018) is the latest of those works, the second in a series that features local private eye Roland Ford (as well as the San Diego-Coronado Bridge on the cover).

“Private Investigator Roland Ford is on the trail of a mysterious killer who is beheading CIA drone operators and leaving puzzling clues at each crime scene. His troubled friend Lindsay Rakes is afraid for her own life and the life of her son after a fellow flight crew member is killed in brutal fashion . . . Ford strikes an uneasy alliance with San Diego-based FBI agent Joan Taucher, who is tough as nails but haunted by what she sees as the Bureau’s failure to catch the 9/11 terrorists, many of whom spent their last days in her city.” — T. Jefferson Parker’s website

Nemesis by Joe Yogerst

It would be remiss of me not to add Nemesis to the list. A mix of murder mystery, historical fiction and classic Wild West literature, the story follows U.S. Marshall Cradoc Bradshaw and newspaper reporter Nick Pinder as they race against one another to capture an anonymous killer who’s who dispatching the town’s movers and shakers in gruesome ways.

“Forget Deadwood, Dodge, and Tombstone, the biggest, baddest boomtown of the 1880s was San Diego, California. The attraction wasn’t gold or silver but cheap land, the promise of an oceanfront paradise where it never snows and rarely rains, and the too-good-to-be-true deals offered by local real estate merchants. In the wake of bona-fide settlers came the hucksters, con artists, and snake oil vendors — so many flimflam men (and women) that those duped called the town ‘Scam Diego.’ Abetting the crime and chaos is the nearby Mexican border, a convenient refuge for the rustlers, ex-Rebels, and banditos who floated back and forth across the unmarked frontier.” — Joe’s website

Top 10 San Diego Books (Part One)

In the run-up to writing Nemesis, I came across a number of other authors who’ve set their stories in San Diego or penned notable books while they were living here. In doing so, I realized that “America’s Finest City” actually boasts a pretty fine literary heritage, more than many people would suspect.

My bucket list of the best books written or set in San Diego is broken into two parts: 1880s to the early 1980s (the first century); and mid-1980s to the present day.

Nemesis and all of these books are available at the usual places online, as well as local bookshops like Warwick’s in La Jolla, Mysterious Galaxy in Clairemont, Bookstar in Point Loma, and the various Barnes & Noble branches.

And my picks for the best San Diego books published between 1884 and 1981 are . . . .


Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

Published in 1884, Jackson’s landmark book was written in a New York City hotel room upon her return to the East from a long Southern California sojourn. It brought the region’s multicultural heritage to life and helped illuminate the plight of Native Americans in the West. And it’s definitely one of the books that my characters in Nemesis would have read. The city of Ramona in San Diego County allegedly owes its name to the novel’s popularity.

“One of the greatest ethical novels of the nineteenth century, this is a tale of true love tested. Set in Old California, this powerful narrative richly depicts the life of the fading Spanish order, the oppression of tribal American communities and inevitably, the brutal intrusion of white settlers. Ramona, an illegitimate orphan, grows up as the ward of the overbearing Senora Moreno. But her desire for Alessandro, a Native American, makes her an outcast and fugitive.” — Goodreads



The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum

Flush on profits from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (published in 1990), Baum began wintering in Coronado in 1904, living with his family at the Hotel Del or various rented houses along the beach. San Diego’s seaside environment had a profound impact on several of his books, in particular The Sea Fairies (1911), Sky Island (1912), and The Scarecrow of Oz (1915), all of which are set in locations reminiscent of the Southern California  coast.

“Cap’n Bill and Trot journey to Oz and, with the help of the Scarecrow, the former ruler of Oz, overthrow the villainous King Krewl of Jinxland. Cap’n Bill and Trot had previously appeared in two other novels by Baum, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island. Based in part upon the 1914 silent film, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. This was allegedly L. Frank Baum’s personal favorite Oz book.” — Goodreads


Dr Seuss Books by Theodore Geisel

Geisel was already a well-established cartoonist, screenwriter and children’s author when he and his wife moved to La Jolla after World War Two. But the books he would write during his San Diego years would make him an American legend, among them The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), Green Eggs and Ham (1960) and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960). It’s always intrigued me that “Dr Seuss” was writing and illustrating these books at his house in La Jolla while I was growing up in nearby Pacific Beach.

“Poor Sally and her brother. It’s cold and wet and they’re stuck in the house with nothing to do . . . until a giant cat in a hat shows up, transforming the dull day into a madcap adventure and almost wrecking the place in the process! Written by Dr. Seuss in 1957 in response to the concern that “pallid primers [with] abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls’ were leading to growing illiteracy among children, The Cat in the Hat (the first Random House Beginner Book) changed the way our children learn how to read.” — Goodreads


Somewhere In Time by Richard Matheson

Sixty years separate the Wizard of Oz and Coronado’s next great literary turn. Originally called Bid Time Return, Matheson’s 1975 science fiction classic revolves around an ailing screenwriter who becomes obsessed with a photograph of an 1890’s actress while he’s convalescing at the Hotel Del. He figures out a way to travel back in time to meet and court the actress, although the reader is never sure if the journey (and love affair) is a product of his cancer-stricken mind or really happened.

Somewhere in Time is the powerful story of a love that transcends time and space, written by one of the Grand Masters of modern fantasy. Matheson’s classic novel tells the moving, romantic story of a modern man whose love for a woman he has never met draws him back in time to a luxury hotel in San Diego in 1896, where he finds his soul mate in the form of a celebrated actress of the previous century. Somewhere in Time won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and the 1979 movie version, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, remains a cult classic whose fans continue to hold yearly conventions to this day.” — Goodreads


Fast Times At Ridgemont High by Cameron Crowe

Not the teenage passage movie, but the 1981 book that inspired the celebrated Amy Heckerling film. Crowe graduated from San Diego’s University High School the year before me — we were both writers on the El Cid student newspaper. But most of the anecdotes and characters in Fast Times are drawn from his stint as an “undercover student” at Clairemont High, where my cousins went to school.

“This is a true story. In the fall of 1979 Cameron Crowe at 22 years of age walked into the office of Principal William Gray’s office and asked permission to attend classes for the full length of the school year to research a book he was to write of his experiences inside the walls of [fictional] Ridgemont High . . . This is the day-by-day journal of horny and wasted semi-blank adults who don’t know a thing about their future.” — Goodreads






The birth of a murder mystery

Questions and Answers with Joe Yogerst


It all started in Borneo . . .


What was your inspiration for NEMESIS? What appealed to you about this story?

Believe it or not, my inspiration happened during a trip to Borneo. I got sick fron1eating something I probably shouldn’t have, and spent several days recovering in a ren1ote jungle lodge at the base of Mt Kinabalu. The guy I was traveling with gave me a book to read while he clin1bed the mountain – Black Dahlia by Jan1es Ellroy. I couldn’t put it down, had the book finished by the time my friend was back down the mountain. And I ren1ember telling n1y friend that I wanted to write a book like that – a n1urder mystery that reflected the politics, culture and history of a particular city in ways rarely seen before.
The plot went through several iterations before NEMESIS en1erged – a version set in Hong Kong, anoth­
er in the San Francisco Bay Area and finally one set in San Diego. Which is really the truest, because like Ellroy I wound up setting the story in the place where I was raised and knew best in the world. Somewhere along this
road, I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Fell head over heals for that book, too. I actually got to interview Carr for a magazine story I was writing on the world’s n1ost significant battles (he’s an avid military historian). And that book was highly influential in having me set NEMESIS in 1880s San Diego rather than contemporary tin1es.

What is your writing process? How long did it take you to write NEMESIS?

Whether I’m writing journalism or fiction, my writing process is pretty much the same. I only write Mon­ day to Friday, reserving weekends for family and friends – unless, of course, I have a pressing deadline. During weekdays I’m generally at n1y desk – and banging away at the keyboard by 8:30 or 9 o’clock. I take a very short break for lunch and then write again until around two or three in the afternoon. The rest of the day is set aside for exercise, short naps, correspondence, or researching what I have to write the following day.
I’d have to boot-up a bunch of bygone computers to tell you when the writing on NEMESIS actually start­ ed. Because I was doing it part-tin1e – fitting in bouts of fiction around n1y full-tin1e freelance journalism work
it took a number of years. Let’s just leave it at that!

What should readers know about you?

It’s important to know that I was born and raised in San Diego – in a seaside suburb called Pacific Beach.
I’ve lived here for two-thirds of my life. But because my n1other was from Arizona, I grew up in a household filled with country music, cowboy shows on TV, and classic Western movies.
I’ve had fictional stories swirling around inside my head since I was a kid. I used to listen to records in my boyhood bedroom and make up whole n1ovies to go with the songs – kind of like what ABBA did with their songs decades later.
I got sidetracked into journalism, rather than fiction or creative writing, =in high school prin1arily because my school had a great student newspaper, El Cid, and a great faculty moderator, Danny Wilson, who inspired us to write at a time when it was very cool to be a journalist (Watergate era). I didn’t really think about writing fiction until n1uch later in life – but I never stopped making up plots, characters and stories in my head. And there are still hundreds of them swirling around in there.

One day I made the fateful decision to quit my job, sell my car, take all of my money out of the bank and buy a one-way airplane ticket to somewhere that I could be a foreign correspondent. That place happened to be South Africa during the latter years of apartheid. I wound up exploring much of Africa – my <‘year of living dan­ gerously” – and wound up in London. Where friends Io made in Africa helped me land a newspaper reporting job, which evolved into a travel magazine editing stint in England and eventually a gig as n1anaging editor of an American-Australian publishing house in Hong Kong. After that came a stint as a freelance writer in Singapore
13 years overseas in total before moving back to San Diego.

Eternal Egypt: King Tut Rediscovered

statue of Ramses the Great
A giant statue of Ramses the Great will tower above the museum’s atrium lobby. Photo courtesy GEM.

Remember that old express about a kid in a candy shop? That’s exactly how I felt getting a sneak preview of the Grand Egyptian Museum currently under construction on the outskirts of Cairo. I wasn’t around when Howard Carter famously discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. But as a lifelong aficionado of just about everything pharaonic, a tour of the museum’s restoration lab was the next best thing.

Inside the museum’s high-tech Conservation Center — being cleaned and catalogued by dozens of earnest young archeologists — are hundred of artifacts from King Tut’s crypt that have never been on public display. Everything from a golden bed embossed with recently discovered images of the god Bes to the pharaoh’s walking sticks and immaculately preserved wooden boxes that would have held food and other items for his passage to the underworld.


The museum will be fronted by a translucent stone wall the length of six football fields. Photo courtesy GEM.



Museum Opens in Phases

The whole world will get to ogle these precious items when the collection opens in phases between 2018 and 2022. Located only 5,000 feet from the Great Pyramid, the museum will showcase every single item found in Tutankhamun’s Tomb and more than 50,000 other objects from ancient Egypt including everything that’s currently in the old Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo. The immense structure — the world’s largest museum of any kind — will connect to the pyramids via a new archeological park strewn with huge pharaonic sculptures.

Without doubt, the Grand Egyptian will be an instant global icon, an item on every traveler’s bucket list. In anticipation of the five million people who are expected to visit the museum each year, luxury hotels are already rising all around the museum, part of a construction binge unequaled in the region since the pyramids arose 4,500 years ago.

Egypt Tourism Reboots

And that’s just part of the story. Up and down the River Nile, on the Mediterranean coast and across to the Red Sea, Egypt is rebooting as a destination, a flurry of projects designed to propel the nation into the 21st century and boost tourism for decades to come.

The country’s foremost destinations — Cairo and Luxor — boast spectacular new airport terminals. Alexandria and its nearby coast are evolving into a trendy Mediterranean resort area that will soon rival already-popular Hurghada on the Red Sea. With its recent deepening and expansion of the Suez Canal means the world’s largest cruise ships can now transit between Atlantic and Indian ocean waters with a minimum of fuss.

Marina Resorts and Railroad Trips

Taking a cue from the Emirates, Egypt is also creating golf resorts in the desert and marina resorts along the river and coast. Rovos Rail, the South African company that pioneered bespoke luxury train travel in southern Africa, is in the final stages of launching an Orient Express-like excursion all the way across Egypt from Alexandria to Aswan using 11 restored vintage rail cars. There’s also a proposal for a cable car across the Nile at Luxor linking the Temple of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.

Relics from King Tut’s tomb are being restored in the museum’s Conservation Center. Photo by Joe Yogerst.
Restoring one of King Tut’s day beds for the afterlife. Photo by Joe Yogerst


Miniature sarcophagus from Tut’s tomb. Photo by Joe Yogerst.
A previously unseen Relics from King Tut’s tomb ? Photo by Joe Yogerst


Cairo Travel Tips

How To Go

  • Egypt Air offers daily flights from the US, Europe and Asia.

Where To Sleep

  • Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza: On the river in downtown Cairo, within walking distance of the Old Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square.
  • Mena House Hotel: Brilliantly restored colonial hotel on the cusp of the pyramids and the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Where to Eat

  • Saraya Gallery at the Cairo Marriott: Middle Eastern gourmet inside an old palace on Zamalek Island.
  • Aura at the Four Seasons at the First Residence Cairo: Dine al fresco beside the pool with a million stars above.
  • Khan el Khalili at Mena House in Giza: Eyeball the Great Pyramids from your window table.

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