Monday, May 2, 2011

10 Lies Television Tells

Ever since the days of Full House (possibly even earlier!), television shows have been lying to me. AND TO YOU, ALSO! Real life is difficult for television. It's messy, complicated, and often boring. Television does not like these things. It likes drama! and funny! and increasingly ridiculous situations!

And it lies. For example,

  1. When your fiance leaves you at the alter, don't worry! Because you'll totally be over it in a week or less. And, bonus! You'll probably be totally fine hanging out with your ex all the time, because obviously that won't be painful or anything. I most recently saw this on Happy Endings, but I'm sure it's been played out in other shows. For instance: Friends, How I Met Your Mother. Somehow I don't think this is how it typically works in real life.
  2. If you have a good job, you can easily afford to have a big family, live in a nice neighborhood, and pay for all of your children to go to top-notch colleges and grad schools. Ahem, The Cosby Show. I realize that these people were doctors and lawyers, but... seriously? In real life, there's no way that actually works.
  3. You can have a great social life, hobbies, and great grades that will get you into an Ivy League school. Also, you'll totally get plenty of sleep, I promise. Once again, The Cosby Show. Also Gilmore Girls, though Rory's route to Yale was, I think, at least relatively realistic. And didn't DJ from Full House end up going to Stanford? I really don't know how these fictional people did it, but I'm thinking the fact that they're fictional might have had something to do with it.
  4. Everyone has a close and unbreakable group of friends. The culprits here are almost too many to list. Friends, Cougar Town, Happy Endings, Cheers, How I Met Your Mother, CommunityThe Big Bang Theory -- basically every sitcom based around people who have friends. And as great as this would be if it were true (maybe for you it is?), nobody I know has that type of super-close, unwavering group of friends.
  5. All extended families live within driving distance of each other -- usually even closer! The same town! And they are all super-close and involved in each others lives. Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, Arrested Development, Modern Family. Okay, this one I know for plenty of people is actually true (and actually for most of my life I lived incredibly close to part of my extended family as well), but the way these shows portray it is often strangely, um... functional? And happy? And stable? It's kind of like the Kodak-moment version of family, even for the crazy ones. Everyone's always hanging out together, in the same room, doing these family reunion type things.
  6. If you're a doctor or a lawyer, your work is always fascinating and glamorous and you have a super-dramatic personal life. House, Ally McBeal, Grey's Anatomy, too many more shows to name. And I'm definitely not a doctor or lawyer, but I've been in hospitals and those are definitely definitely not glamorous places. I mean, they're stark white and smell like disinfectant. People are always trying not to die. Somehow I suspect that television greatly exaggerates the glitz of these careers and totally plays down all the mundanities like paperwork.
  7. You/your band will be discovered and become super rich and famous while still in high school. Hannah Montana, The Lizzie McGuire Movie (this counts, as it's based on television), Sonny With A Chance, Big Time Rush. So... basically all the Disney/Nick shows have some element of FAME, whether it be musical or otherwise. And this is all nice and good, but generally being a success takes not only talent, but also a ton of work and a dollop of right-place-right-time. It's not all rainbows and puppies; working so hard and being so young means missing out on a lot of normal-people stuff and it's annoying that these shows don't notice that.
  8. Even though your job is minimum-wage (or nonexistent), you can still easily dress fashionably and go out all the time with your friends. Friends, most notably. But also Gilmore Girls and pretty much every Disney Channel show out there. Probably tons of shows I can't think of as well. I realize this is mostly a plot device because there's absolutely no story with someone who never goes out because s/he can't afford it, but still. It can get annoying.
  9. If you happen to land on a deserted island, there will be plenty to read. Lost, Gilligan's Island. Okay, seriously, I know everyone has their little list of books they'd bring if they were trapped on a desert island, but really? I don't understand how Sawyer and The Professor always seemed to have something to read. Did they just read the same two books over and over? Was there actually a library on board the ship and somehow all the books survived sans water damage? I'm so confused and as a bibliophile I must know the answer in case this ever happens to me. 
  10. Publishing is super glamorous and you'll definitely be totally famous. 30 Rock, Castle. Alright, this one primarily shows up in movies (The Proposal, My Future Boyfriend), but it applies here, too. According to these TV shows, there'll be a cardboard cut-out of you in bookstore windows when you publish a book and people will recognize you and possibly stalk you or sue you and etc. etc. etc. IT'S ALL VERY FANCY. Honestly though, I'm not sure I'd recognize my very favorite authors if I passed them on the street, and these are people whose blogs and tweets I follow. (Also, thank you to Laina for this suggestion.)
So, what other lies does television tell us? And do you agree/disagree with my list?


  1. I am very interested in this sort of thing, I think about it when I watch TV, particularly commercials. I was thinking about writing a blog about the lies commercials tell us. Particularly the lies that commercials subtly IMPLY, like if you use the hair product that J-Lo does, nothing will weigh you down... EVER. What I always notice is what incredibly nice apartments people have on TV even if work for minimum wage. Interesting blog, thanks Jordyn!

  2. Number 11 - if you have a baby you will still look fabulous and it will never need to be rocked for hours every night. In fact it will mysteriously disappear for great chunks of your life!

    Great post :)

  3. cathleen a. daly
    Ah, I think about this stuff all the time when I watch TV, but more with the shows themselves than with commercials. Though there are a few commercials that just make me mad, primarily that one for the Highlander with that super-bratty kid. And yes, people on TV always have zero financial problems despite either having low-paying jobs or, as far as I can tell, never actually working at all. Television! It loves reality! #sarcasm

    (Also, have you read this Cracked article about the 6 most baffling things tv commercials assume are true. It's amusing & pretty true.

    Bingo! Yes! Have you by chance watched the show Cougar Town (it's so much better than it sounds, I swear)? This show is probably the worst culprit of that... it wasn't until this last episode that I remembered one of the main characters actually has a toddler.

  4. Don't forget Sex and the City, that show is FULL of lies! A writer whose only job is to write one weekly column in a newspaper lives on the upper east side without roommates? And then the shoes, and clothes and of course #4 is a big one! But don't get me wrong, I will always love that show no matter how bad the movies based on it are.

    And to add to Alexa's point, what about going into labor and giving birth scenes on TV? Did anyone see last week's parenthood? I was so annoyed when that teacher went into labor and then when Julia holds the baby it is SO not a newborn!

    -just sayin. Thanks for this post!

  5. You're pretty wrong about Gilmore Girls with these. Rory didn't have a social life - she had one boyfriend and two friends, and spent the rest of the time studying, so her getting into Yale was more than pretty realistic. Lorelai's living close to her extended family (parents) was neither functional, happy, or stable. They fought at pretty much every dinner and went half-seasons without speaking to each other. And Lorelai managed the entire high-end inn, she didn't work for minimum wage.

  6. Thank you....I needed that.Your writing reminds this Englishman that most American folk are like me....hard working .but not well off.Thank you for reminding me not to be jealous of a , in reality...struggling group of nice people.The chances are British TV was doing the same to American Audiences.(The Police boxes can't travel everywhere in time and space either)