The Lies in our Living Rooms

If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that what you see on TV is never a reflection of real life. Duh. Reality shows aren’t and scripted TV shows sure as hell aren’t. I’m not a fan of reality TV (housewives of what? don’t know, don’t care) but I watch a TON of scripted television. And they’re getting real life really damn wrong.

new girl jess gif

These are the lies in our living rooms – 7 gross inaccuracies on TV today.

1. The size of apartments in major metropolitan areas.

Apartments in cities are tiny. I remember the first time I walked in to a friends Manhattan apartment being blown away at how itty bitty it was and how it looked nothing like what I’d envisioned. Instead, it was a studio apartment that had been converted to a three bedroom. And each roommate paid more than N and I pay for our entire apartment. Woof.

I could park three of my apartments in the loft on New Girl, which is allegedly in L.A. And somehow their sprawling pad is occupied by a teacher, a bartender, a future yet currently unemployed cop (what is Winston up to these days?), and a “coach”. Mmmhmm. Sure. Which brings me to my next one…

Friends Apartment
I have just crushed some sweet girl from the midwest’s dreams about life in the big city. This is not what a Manhattan apartment looks like.

2. The cost of living in said areas.

Okay Mindy Lahiri, you’re an OBGYN so I’ll believe that you have a rad Manhattan apartment. But I do not believe for one second that a chef and a waitress (Monica Gellar and Rachel Green, respectively) had the sprawling pad they had in the Village. Sure it was “rent controlled” and “a friggen steal” but I’m not buying it for one second. And what about Carrie Bradshaw? She’s a newspaper columnist with a serious shoe addiction. In real life she’d be holed up in a studio apartment with three other girls wearing Steve Madden’s at best.

3. Ease with which witty banter takes place.

Have you been to dinner with a group of friends recently? Next time you’re out at a restaurant, quietly observe the larger groups. The witty banter can’t happen because most of them will be checking their phones every three minutes. It’s sad that we’re too busy tweeting about being with our friends to enjoy actually being with our friends. #millenialproblems

mindy lahiri wifi password

4. What women look like when they’re just hanging out.

There is a disgusting lack of yoga pants in prime time. Real life women wear yoga pants 837% more than is ever shown on television. Just sayin’. I’m wearing them now, in case you were wondering (you weren’t).

5. How often real life friends actually see each other.

It’s 11am on a Tuesday and you’re hanging out at a coffee shop? Lies. Seeing all of my friends together would involve a plane flight, intense planning, and an act of God. Even N, whose friends all live in a two-hour radius, only sees everyone together on New Years and the 4th of July. Oh how I wish this weren’t just a TV thing.

girls - shoshanna

6. Family business.

TV shows are either completely about families (i.e Modern Family or Parenthood *sob* I could go on and on about how much I love Parenthood) or they mostly ignore family. Most TV characters mention their families way less than I think most people do in real life. I will say that Girls does a great job of showing family involvement in the self-obsessed twenty-somethings lives. Leave it to Lena Dunham to nail it. New Girl gets an honorable mention for bringing Jess and Nick’s parents into the fold.

7. Every characters wardrobe ever.

Who knew that it would take so many designer clothes to make TV characters look regular? Jessica Day sure wears a lot of Kate Spade for a teacher. Olivia Pope’s outerwear collection alone cost more than my college degree. And let’s not even start on how much Free People and Marc Jacobs the Pretty Little Liars are decked out in. Evidently it costs a lot to look like a typical American teenager. I’d like there to be a TV show where they only dress the characters in clothes from Target. That is real life. That is my life.

The biggest lie of all?
The biggest lie of all?

Sometimes I forget how unrealistic what we see on TV can be. And this isn’t even getting in to the serious stuff like the ridiculous under-representation of Latino characters in primetime, the sexualization of everything, and of course the fact that people like me watch way more than the recommended number of hours per day. I’m pretty sure the recommended is zero? Who cares, I love TV.

  • Amen! We’re looking at places in Baltimore right now and the size of the places for a reasonable dollar amount is downright depressing. Especially for young people who grow up watching these things assuming that’s what adult life looks like.

  • Ha! You nailed it. Especially the friends hanging out all the time thing. Sadly, it typically does take a wedding, birthday, or holiday to get us all together… And we all live in the same state!

  • I once read an article written by a writer living in New York who actually did write a travel column for a newspaper at one time. Said writer broke down all of the costs of living in an apartment like Carrie’s, discounted for inflation, then explained how writers are paid per word, and that she wrote for the New York Star, a fictional B list newspaper, which would pay even less. It was revealed that a real Carrie Bradshaw (pre-book deal, which doesn’t happen until I want to say season 4) would have been struggling to eat enough to stay alive living in that kind of apartment, and no fancy meals out with the ladies or buying of $485 shoes would have transpired. The other three were a little more believable I think.

  • Ha! All so true. Also, I would kill for any of the PLL’s wardrobes, especially Hannas’!

  • Thank you for writing about this I do enjoy a good tv show (nice shout out to Parenthood!), but it’s important to remember that it isn’t reality. Just like we’ve been talking about Facebook and social media in general not doing a good job of representing the many facets of our lives. Makes me feel better about being a teacher and not having 200 pairs of shoes… 🙂

  • I started watching Friends when I was 10, with my mom. She made is EXTREMELY clear from the beginning that real people do not live like that.
    I think the perfect hair and make-up is what bugs me. Obviously, they’re on t.v.; I get it. But no one sits around their house fully made up.

  • I can’t even imagine living up north in those cracker jack box sized apartments. I need my space and my land. Woof.

  • JC

    There is so much about this that is true. I miss college when it was an actual possibility to see my friends at 11 on a Tuesday. Even though there is no way we could even afford hanging out in the coffee shop, ordering breakfast…psh

  • Preach! I especially love the Target bit 🙂 90% of my wardrobe and home furnishings for my small, non-rent controlled apartment are from there. And yeah, any show that has friends constantly just casually dropping by each other’s apartments.. no. ESPECIALLY in apt buildings where there would be a locked outer door or a buzzer. WHY IS THIS NEVER AN ISSUE ON TV? It drives me nuts, if you couldn’t tell 🙁

  • Haha amen to all of this! I never really thought about how my expectations of a roomy apartment totally stem from what I see on TV… I’m being brainwashed!

    Enter my current giveaway!

  • And I’m also wearing yoga pants. One of my sisters living in NYC paid more a month in rent for her share of an apartment than what we paid for a 5 bedroom house in NC. I’ll stick to the suburbs.

  • Whyyyy do I love this post so much? It’s perfect and every bit of it is so true. 🙂 Can I just live my life through a TV show for a week? TV shows make life look so easy.

  • TV shows like Friends, Boy Meets World, and How I Met Your Mother have given me unrealistic expectations about friendships. I mean… can’t we all just live across the hall from each other and then be buried next to each other when we die? That’s not how it works? What? I can’t just hang out at the coffee shop/bar/burger place all day with my friends? We all have schedules and live in different places? I CAN’T HANDLE THIS!

  • A show in which the characters are dressed in Target and Old Navy duds, their houses are furnished from garage sales, and the apartment sizes are actually accurate? I’d watch that. I do like that on New Girl Jess drives like, the worlds ugliest car, but I have noticed that she wears a lot of expensive brands, and that the apartment they live in is damn near the size of a small country in LA standards. Sometimes TV is just ridiculous. But hey….we don’t watch it because we want to see more of what we already live with ourselves, right? Great post. Loved it.

  • Maybe it’s the taste, but I was never too keen on having roomy living room that emulated the designs we’d see in TV shows. I think it has something to do with the fact that I like minimalist designs and that I’m not big on “mainstream” lifestyle as depicted in the media. 😛

  • Olivia popes coats?! I drool.

  • Truer words have never been written. It can be so easy to forget that it isn’t real life and it’s normal to not see all of my friends weekly or even monthly. Parenthood is one of the best shows ever made, I will talk about it all day with you.

  • Sex and The City definitely gave me false expectations of living in NY lol

  • Brilliant! Especially the outfits and seeing friends without planning it – never gonna happen! lol

  • SO TRUE!! and number 5? I live in a city where the farthest I ever travel to see a friend is a 10 minute cab ride (which costs approximately 1 USD) and I still only see my friends if there’s a party or someone’s leaving the damn country!


  • Yoga pants! You are so right about that. Also I own 0 Kate Spade dresses as a teacher in LA. I wish I owned 25 like Ms. Day

  • This post couldn’t be more true!! The clothing we see on so many people on TV shows is not realistic… most women I know do hang around the house in yoga pants…and most teens do NOT dress the way the girls do in PLL. And I never really thought about how unrealistic it was the Monica and Rachel had such a swanky apartment in NYC. I have so many friends who live in NYC that literally live in shoeboxes and can’t believe I never realized how unrealistic Friends was!

  • This is such a great post – I really wish I wrote it! Apartments are SO small and hunting for a studio in NYC right now that does not break the bank is almost comical!

  • This post is so true. I was just out tonight at dinner and half of the table was on their phones. I simply agree with everything!! great post.

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  • I had a group of friends that were able to get together all the time, even though they were married and had kids. But they’ve all moved away. Sad face.

    Otherwise, you’re pretty much right. TV is LIES! ALL LIES!

  • random unimportant fact. My friends mom owns the apartment next door to the one from sex in the city. and its rent control for $570 a month since it has been in her family over 70 years.

  • This is so true! I always said that about the clothes, especially on PLL, like have any of them EVER worn the same outfit twice? And I always think, I would NEVER have worn that to high school, heck I wouldn’t wear half of the stuff they wear to work. And Olivia Pope, I drool over her coats, love EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.

  • Yes. All of this, yes. Friends is one of my favorite shows ever, but good lord you cannot afford that apartment.
    I’ve also always been confused as to why Monica and Rachel’s apartment was so much bigger than Chandler and Joey’s place, even though it’s just right across the hall. Is this a thing in New York apartment buildings?

  • You might be better off thkining of a small business idea that you can run yourself and be in complete control of. 99% (if not 100%) of the time, the companies that advertise for home-workers will make their money, not from a percentage of those home-workers earnings, but from the money that these potential home-workers pay out to them for the chance’ to work from home. As such they have no incentive to find work or pay the person for any work as it simply isn’t how they earn their money. Can you get a sewing machine and learn to sew and sell clothes on ebay or something like that? Good luck!

  • Allyson

    I agree with most everything, expect with seeing my friends. When I was in my 20’s I saw my friends almost daily. We all lived within 20 minutes of each other. When HIMYM came on, I really identified! Now we are in our 30’s…most are married with kids. I would say we see each out a few times a month. I (single no kids) make it a point to see a few of my girlfriends that have kids more than that….weekly. The guys hang out and watch games on Sundays. We always celebrate all our b-days and holidays too. There are about 12 of us in our group of friend. It takes work….but it is worth it.

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