TV Shows That Made Us Believe We Could Have It All

by - May 10, 2017

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...Only later to find out that what we really need is to breathe.

Television is part of our culture whether we like it or not. It's easy entertainment that doesn't require much effort, just some sweet free time. But what we may not fully realize is that TV not only dictates our twenty-to-forty minutes after dinner, but also influences us, our lifestyle choices and even potential careers according to some studies.

Am I the only one who after watching an episode of The Good Fight, thought to myself Lawyering seems cool, all that bravado and arguing. I can't argue with my boss at work, but surely I can pull it off in the courtroom. Well, surely, not. It's probably as further from the reality as it could possibly be. Reality is not often entertaining.

After recently starting to watch The West Wing in the evenings after work, a different thought settled in my mind. How can they do it? The characters turn full-time working with tons of extra hours into a walk in the park, so effortless at what they do and still 90s chic (C.J.'s outfits might now be out of style, but I'd still rather try some of those pantsuits than the current trends in office attire). The key thing is that they don't look tired, overwhelmed, under actual stress or with another afternoon headache, unlike me who had felt at some point all of the above in one afternoon. It might be just me, but let's face it, I'm not that special. Yes, I should take it purely as entertainment and nothing more, but once the thought is there, it's there.

Social comparison is a powerful, nasty thing. Yes, I know, we shouldn't, but we compare with our peers, friends, co-workers, family, the pencil skirt ladies in the underground. We start wondering if they can do it, then why can't we? And this is when the cycle of unhealthy thinking begins pushing us out of balance.

Below is an excerpt of some of the most popular TV shows that not only portray full-time careers, but also time for personal life, time for fun, and in some cases - extracurricular activities (ahem, Charmed).



The ambitious Dr. Brennan manages to kick-ass as a great forensic anthropologist, have a romantic relationship, be a mother and a professional role model for her interns, and also have time for the occasional season's finale drama. Does she ever need to relax, you know, curl up with the latest issue of the Journal of Forensic Anthropology? I've watched probably the first seven seasons and I can't recall any screen time devoted to her character's me-time needs. She's either one of those well-balanced people who can pull it off and have it all or perhaps she is that good at making us believe so.



I have to admit, I have a soft spot when it comes to Charmed. It was one of my favourites growing up. Not long ago I was running late for work due to watching reruns in the mornings until the TV channel swapped it for some other show and I had to stop. I can't explain why I like it so much, something to do with sisterhood and a sense of family, fighting for the powers of good and trying to make the world a better place. If you ignore the questionable costumes of the past decade, you'll see what I mean. Granted, the Halliwell sisters' love life is quite complicated, but those girls find time to have a job and fight the baddies. Piper runs a successful business, which is a full-time job, also she becomes a mother later in the series. Phoebe goes through different work ventures, but eventually goes into a demanding career and, of course, finds the time to join forces with her sisters. I think Paige is the only one of them whose character had faced difficulty balancing responsibilities and keeping a stable job. Yet, we often see them at the end of a heavy day dancing it off in P3 like they have just woken up from a three-hour nap rather than a charmed battle.



Friends went through the stages of employment, unemployment, relationships and yeah, the craziness. I might be a bit unfair as it's a comedy and I shouldn't take it seriously, but Rachel's storyline often makes me secretly wonder. In comparison to the rest, she has the fastest growing career and I guess it's not always nine to five. Does she has to stay late in the office sometimes? If so, how come they always have time to hang out together afterwards in Monica's apartment or Central Perks. New York commute must take long I reckon? She's always her usual chirpy self though. On a side note, does she works out? She still manages to look great even after having a baby in season eight. Maybe it's just because she's played by Jennifer Aniston...



I remember this episode in the fourth or fifth season where Rachel Zane has to juggle working at the firm under Harvey's supervision while also studying for law school. She comes home early in the morning, fingers trembling and Mike (the boyfriend) asks her softly 'Work or study?'. Later in the episode she was briefly admitted to a hospital for dehydration, which is a synonym for the ultimate exhaustion maybe? Anyway, she crumbled physically under the stress and it was written into the plot, but just once. I don't know how long it took her to get her legal licence, but I'd imagine it must be longer than a week? Yet, it wasn't important enough to be mentioned again. She's just another superwoman that the TV seems to be full of. 

It's undoubtedly admirable, but it doesn't necessarily gives the right example. Having it all? Managing multiple stressors and commitments without having an impact on our health? Haven't most of us tried it some point before realizing that it doesn't work like that? I guess there's plenty of evidence to show that audiences don't necessarily want their entertainment shows to reflect too closely to real life. Any that's good, because how else are we meant to unwind? However, we are increasingly under pressure to conform to the image of a super-human who doesn't feel any of the tiredness or carry the baggage of us mere mortals.  TV is full of these characters, and that's all good as long as it stays entertaining and stays away from teaching us how we really should be.

Use the comments to talk about shows you've seen that portray characters in similar ways, or if you know any good examples that give a realistic portrayal, let us know!

In Arts & Entertainment we will try to turn off our hard-working brains and deal with the less-exhausting prospect of our leisure time. Here we will talk about all things visual: new exhibitions, books and movies that made or failed to make an impression and also discuss what example the popular culture and our society give us - when is healthy to follow it and when to say enough.

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