Workplace comedies take up a lot of the limelight in television these days. These are shows that are set mostly in a place of employment. This could be an office, a restaurant, a supermarket, or a courtroom. Generally, shows set in workplaces are popular as they are relatable to a wide audience. Most people have jobs, after all. After a long day of work it can be nice to just relax while watching a show about someone else working hard (and laughing at them).
But sometimes workplace comedies do not ring true to life for the people who actually work in the professions depicted. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a flaw in a show, but it asks of audiences a higher level of suspension of disbelief.
The hospital has become a common setting for television. There are countless medical dramas that show the inner workings of hospitals and doctors— Grey’s Anatomy, House MD, ER, etc. Though ‘Scrubs’ is the silliest and most outlandish of the bunch, it’s also the most realistic.
In Scrubs, the doctors are not heroes or geniuses. Most of the patients they see are not dying of mysterious diseases that the doctor miraculously cures at the last minute. The patients in ‘Scrubs’ have real, ordinary ailments, and the doctors cannot always cure them. Scrubs’ also accurately deals with the social dynamics of residency, showing how friendships are forged within a hierarchy.
Superstore is a sitcom about retail workers at a large chain department store in Missouri. People who have worked in retail know that the show does get some things right— the camaraderie among coworkers, the annoying management, and the demanding customer. But there are some aspects that are not true to life.
Real retail workers also know that working in a department store is difficult work. Superstore makes it seem like it’s all fun and games. Sure, there is time spent messing around with coworkers and just talking. But most of their time at work is spent dealing with customers, lifting heavy objects to stock shelves, etc.
Accurate: ’30 Rock’
30 Rock is an NBC sitcom created by and starring SNL writer Tina Fey, whose character works for a sketch comedy show suspiciously similar to SNL. Though 30 Rock is supposed to be based on real life experiences writing for ‘SNL,’ it’s also, like ‘Scrubs,’ known for being wacky and surrealist.
That said, it somehow accurately depicts the truth of what working for a such a show is like. ‘SNL’ writers report that working for the show necessitates a life as chaotic as is portrayed on ’30 Rock.’ They really do work very long hours sitting around the table discussing ideas, and they talk about food a lot. One difference an SNL producer notes is that “They throw food at Liz (Fey’s character on ‘TGS’) a little bit more than we do.”
Veep is a satirical sitcom about American politics. Following a fictional Vice President played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the show depicts the White House staff as their attempts to make changes in policy are often squandered by bureaucracy and various mundane obstacles.
‘Veep’ offers a cynical look at American politics, as nothing ever seems to get done in the White House. (It appears that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s specialty is shows where nothing ever happens.) But although it may seem to some American audiences that this is realistic, it’s actually unfairly steeped in profound cynicism and criticism. The politicians in ‘Veep’ are often shown as not really caring or trying. In reality, many people working in politics are idealistic in their intentions.
Accurate: The Office
The Office is such a universally liked show for a reason. Sure, it’s hilarious and has plenty of romance to keep viewers watching. But for anyone who works in an office, it’s also relatable— sometimes painfully so.
Though some characters’ antics would surely get them fired in real life, they can be seen as exaggerations of real people who exist in every office. For example, a lot of people experience their managers as incompetent and tone-deaf as Michael comes off in the show. Every workplace has someone analogous to Oscar— the overqualified employee who is perpetually annoyed by everyone. And everyone knows a Kevin— everyone else in the office wonders how they were ever hired.
Inaccurate: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a police comedy about a team of New York Police Department detectives who solve crimes in the city. The show is known for its diverse range of quirky characters, and has also been celebrated for depicting difficult and serious topics.
One thing it’s not known for is accurately portraying police work, and NYPD in particular. For one, NYPD has a contentious past and current reputation, and is infamous for its unequal treatment of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Contrary to this, the show depicts the officers as friendly and harmless. There are also various logistical inaccuracies, like the fact that in court cases in the show, prosecutors just come out with new pieces of evidence unbeknownst to the opposing council. In real life, all evidence would have been submitted to the court well in advance.
Accurate: ‘Parks and Rec’
Using the same mockumentary style as The Office, Parks and Rec appeals to a similar audience. Instead of a paper company, it follows the day-to-day events of a Parks government office in Indiana.
Most viewers don’t have firsthand experience working for their local government, and some issues the Parks and Rec characters have to deal with might seem outlandish. But actually, producers did research for the show by attending real town meetings, and took examples from real people to use in the show. In fact, there were actually a group of people at an LA city council meeting who were strongly against building parks in their town, which was a plot line used in the show.
Inaccurate: ‘2 Broke Girls’
2 Broke Girls is a sitcom about two young women trying to get by living in Brooklyn. One of the girls comes from a rich family, while the other grew up in poverty, but both need to make money, so they work at a diner in Williamsburg. The show chronicles their day-to-day lives at the restaurant.
Though some aspects of the show might ring true to people who have worked in food service, some are not a good representation of the industry. The main inaccuracy is that the servers at the diner don’t seem to even try to be nice to customers, and in fact are constantly hurling insults. They even have a motto to never smile. In real life, any true broke girls are going to want to make as much money in tips as possible, and smiling and being nice to customers is the only way forward.
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