“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.” -Woody Allen
President Jed Bartlett. Jack McCoy. Don Draper. Liz Lemon. Detective Lennie Brisco. Kimberly Wells. Samantha Jones. Gordon Gekko. Ally McBeal. Dr. Mark Green. Alicia Florrick. Betty Suarez. Sam Seaborne. Jane Rizzoli. These are just some of the brightest characters that have graced the small television screen in the last 10 years. They not only entertain us but we are invested in their story lines. And for some us, they were more than just fictional characters on a TV show or in a film. They had careers that influenced us. We could also be the ones casing the crime scene for evidence or putting the bad guy in jail. Or maybe we could also be the ugly duckling that blossomed into a swan at a fashion magazine. We talked to some people who actually said television influenced their career choice.
Of course, television shows and movies can glamorize a career to an absurd degree. If we thought our jobs would be exactly like television we would be sorely disappointed when we saw that crime scenes weren’t’ completely covered in semen, not every DA looked like Angie Harmon or the blond version of Angie Harmon, there wasn’t always a hilarious gay guy in the office to be your quippy sidekick and again, every single one of your coworkers was ridiculously attractive and had designer clothes.
But at the same time, there is something to be said for movies and television shows getting people interested in careers that may have gone under the radar. The film All the President’s Men changed how people looked at journalism. Woodward and Bernstein became fighters of justice with awesome hair thanks to the film based on the true story. The Law & Order franchise has shown us pretty much every aspect of the law and from every possible angle. Sometimes it’s not just about putting the bad guy away. Recently Vanity Fair reporter Julie Weiner wrote about the enormous appeal of The West Wing and how it convinced a whole new generation to go into politics. From Weiner:
“In the same way that the noble, sleeves-rolled sleuthing of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein in All the President’s Men prompted legions of baby-boomers to dream of careers in journalism, The West Wing, which made policy discussions seem thrilling and governing heroic, has become a totem—its romanticization of a stuffy, insular industry infusing a historically uncool career with cultural cachet. Rather than treat the political process as risible at best (Dick, say, or Primary Colors), a horror show at worst (The Ides of March), The West Wing was pluckily idealistic. A hyper-real drama about waiting for a callback from some freshman congressman (D—Nowheresville) would have sent aspiring White House interns and aides running back to law school. Instead, The West Wing “took something that was for the most part considered dry and nerdy—especially to people in high school and college—and sexed it up,” says Eric Lesser, who worked in the Obama White House as a special assistant to former senior adviser David Axelrod and is now a student at Harvard Law School.”
We talked to some people who said their careers were influenced by television and it wasn’t just because they thought a Rob Lowe look-alike would be their coworker.
“For sure I wanted to work in newspapers because of The Paper. For a lot of people there was All The President’s Men, or some others, (Absence of Malice was really good) but for me it was the hustle and energy and characters from The Paper. I went on to work in journalism for 10 happy years, and I’m still involved in writing in the company I now run.”