Can TV Characters Pay Their Bills?


This article originally appeared in Issue# 47

Bombarded by media images of glamorous jobs with big rewards and little or no effort, young people may conclude work is always exciting and extravagant lifestyles are easy to achieve. Class or family discussion of the following questions can help both young people and adults focus on the contrast between reality and the work world of television.

  • Discuss what favorite characters do for a living, how much time they spend working and how their work or labor is portrayed. What do their annual salaries appear to be? Could real people earning such salaries afford the lifestyle (furniture, clothes, vacations, amusements, etc.) portrayed?
  • Listen for dialogue concerning actual prices or costs of goods. What is mentioned? Is it realistic?
  • Look closely for ways in which currency is actually exchanged. How do television characters acquire possessions? Do they leave tips in restaurants? Do they jump out of cabs, or stop and pay the driver?
  • Do TV characters ever get the blues from routine tasks? How much of their work is delegated to them and supervised by others?
  • For a further activity, view a favorite program with a professional who works in the same field as the TV character. Afterward, question him/her about how closely the show relates to actual work.