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November 23, 2014

TV 101: Five Lies TV Tells Us

by Jay Black, posted May 12th 2010 3:02PM
I was going to use a picture of Bill Clinton here, but didn't want to get political. Would have been funny though, don't you think?This is how accustomed to being lied to the average TV watcher is: There's a genre called "reality" television that in no way reflects any kind of reality that any of us have ever lived. We're at the point where a network could air a solid half-hour of the color red and call it 'The Color Blue Show' and none of us would say a word.

I'm not mad that TV lies to us -- real life is ugly! I'm not sure I'm ready for a show that accurately reflects how often the average person picks his nose or looks at Japanese tentacle porn. TV's lies only become a problem when we try to measure our own lives against them.

So, let's outline some of the bigger lies TV tells in the hope that by doing so I can both make the average TV watcher feel better about themselves and also fulfill the requirements of my court-ordered community service ...

1. You should stand up to your bullies

If you get all your information the local news, you might think bullying started on MySpace in 2006. My research indicates that it's been around since at least the '70s when Peter Brady had to stand up to bully Bobby Hinton in defense of his lisping sister. I don't really need to describe what happened in that 'Brady Bunch' episode, because each and every bullying episode is exactly the same:

Our hero gets bullied, so his dad takes him into the garage for some boxing lessons. While there, Dad gets on one knee and tells his son that inside of every bully there lives a coward and that all you have to do to expose this coward is to stand up and defend yourself. Our hero, though scared, takes his father's advice and the day is saved.

Great! Except that sometimes, instead of a coward, what's really inside of a bully is an even bigger, angrier bully, with an even more refined sense of social pathology. You shouldn't stand up to that bully. Your best bet in that situation is to pool your money with the other kids and hire insane bully-slayer Ralphie Parker to do your dirty work for you, 'Drillbit Taylor' style.

2. Raising a kid in no way affects your lifestyle

TV producers realized something a long time ago: Getting a character pregnant is an awful lot of fun, but newborns are no good for anyone. Actually, in that respect, TV perfectly reflects life.

TV's answer to this problem is to mention the kid only when he's necessary to the plot. In the meantime, the main characters are free to live their lives without their newborn child interfering with them getting into another few seasons' worth of wacky adventures.

There was no worse offender on this front than 'Friends,' where this happened not once, but twice. In the first season, teenage boys around the globe were sent the message that having a baby would in no way affect your ability to a) one day have sex with Jennifer Aniston and b) own a monkey. At the end of the eighth season, Ross had another baby that, despite being the offspring of two of the main characters, was acknowledged even less. Ross Geller: dinosaur expert, hair gel enthusiast, and terrible, terrible parent.

3. It's possible to remove yourself from the "Friend Zone"

If Krypton really wanted to punish General Zod, they wouldn't have bothered with The Phantom Zone. They could have just shoved him in "The Friend Zone," where instead of being squeezed into two dimensions and spun through space, he would have been forced to endure all the pain of a relationship without any of the sex.

It's a fate worse than death and, unlike the Phantom Zone, not even a nuclear bomb hurled into space can break you out of the "Friend Zone." Anybody who's ever been in it knows that you're in there for life.

And yet, TV insists on showing us example after example of people breaking free of the "Friend Zone" with relative ease. On TV, all it takes is an overheard conversation or a third act speech and the next thing you know, the focus of our hero's love is falling into his arms.

It's unconscionable!

Any girl who has had to sit through a "can we take this relationship to the next level" conversation can blame TV shows like 'The Big Bang Theory' for giving nerdy males the false promise of sex being the "just friends" endgame. The only thing you're likely to find at the end of the "Friend Zone" rainbow is a giant pot of "Could you please hold my purse while we shop together and I tell you stories about the jerks I hook up with while sending you the subtle, but powerful message that you and I will never, under any circumstances, be involved in a sexual relationship."

4. A mixed group of men and women can remain friends after two (or more) pair off sexually.

Another by-product of the writers' room: spinning the wheel of sex and pairing off different permutations of the cast is an easy way to generate story lines. On the original '90210,' for example, every single member of the cast had sex at least one time with every other member of the cast, including a very special episode where Brandon talks Steve out of using steroids using only the language of love.

The problem is that in real life, it's hard enough to keep a group of friends together after just two of them partner up, let alone break up and then re-partner with two other members of the group. It was fun to see Robin and Barney get together on 'How I Met Your Mother,' but having raging neurotic Ted be able to just shrug off an ex and a friend hooking up was due to the needs of the plot, not a reflection of any kind of reality.

5. People are generally competent at their jobs.

Right before you board a plane, remember this: The mechanics who worked on that plane care just as much about their jobs as you care about yours. Let that chilling thought sink in for a moment.

It's not that there aren't people who are good at their jobs, it's just that the vast majority of us half-ass everything we do (I'm no exception: insert joke here during second draft). 'CSI' and 'House' would have you believe that the world is filled with nothing more than crusaders who doggedly pursue a goal no matter what the obstacles, but in reality, the average person has about two Google searches in him before giving up.

Bonus Lie: All bloggers live in their parents' basement (or, insert yours here).

First, I haven't written anything from my parents' basement since the water main burst. And second, there are about 400 more lies I didn't get to in this column. I want to hear your choices in the comments!

(Jay Black is a writer and comedian who really hopes you like this column. To find out more about Jay or to catch one of his live shows, you can check out his Web site at www.jayblackcomedy.net)

[Follow @jayblackcomedy on Twitter]

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18 Comments

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Jim

The security cameras on bank ATMs are all capable of 10 megapixel picute quality

May 15 2010 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave

Families can live in large homes with new furniture and immaculate housecleaning off the salary of a father who does something for a living like writing a local newspaper column or songwriting. A point accented every now and again by a scene that opens up with dad just hanging up the phone with a publisher having just promised he'll "have that piece in by Monday".

May 14 2010 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jenny

My favorite: All evidence in a criminal investigation will be blindingly obvious, require no scientific background, and will be spoken of in emphatic tones just as the sun is setting and the light is most dramatic.

The CSI Effect.

It is a real phenomena -- current juries expect evidence to be just like CSI.

May 13 2010 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jaye

If those are the worst lies TV has ever told you, count yourself lucky - there's a lot worse out there.

May 13 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeff

Wow this is so true! electronic cigarette

May 13 2010 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rockpundit

Your article makes me sad :(. No matter how naive I may sound, I like to dream a little. You can call this realism, I call it abdication.

May 13 2010 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BLMPthebear

One of my favorite lies that movies and television always tell is the "It's not really goodbye, it's just see you later" Whenever a heart wrenching story ends with two lovers or friends going their separate ways they like to say that they aren't actually leaving. I remember saying this about my high school graduation many years ago and so I never said goodbye to anyone. I regret that too this day because I haven't seen many of those people since, including the close friends who we said we would always stay together. Sometimes goodbye is goodbye

May 13 2010 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sam

You are wrong about the Friend Zone thing, you just need to know how to do it. I have twice been in the "Friend Zone" and then moved into the "Having Sex Zone", one of them led to a 2 year relationship. The secret is that you can't move from one to the other directly, you need to leave the Friends Zone, and find another girl, this is the only way to affect change in the relationship.

May 13 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
matt h

This list could've been funny, but most of these lies are truths.

It's not that hard to break out of multi-year friendzones, I've done it 3 times already.

sex doesn't ruin friendships, once you grow up and aren't an overly emotional teenager anymore.

Likewise, why the hell wouldn't you stand up to a bully? He's going to keep bullying you if you dont.

May 13 2010 at 10:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Every family, regardless of occupation or income level, has either a large, well decorated home in the suburbs or apartment/condo in the city. This includes a living/family room one could park a semi in.

May 13 2010 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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