Life Imitating Art?

Caralyn Green wants (unemployed) TV characters she can relate to.

By Caralyn Green
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 4, 2009

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This is television's face of the newly unemployed? Not anymore.

A recent Neilsen Company report issued Monday states that TV watching is at an all-time high, due in part to the increase of DVRs, the number of TV sets per home, the expansion of programming available online and on cell phones … and, according to some analysts, the recession and rising unemployment. The average American viewer now watches more than 151 hours of TV per month. That’s, like, at least five hours a day. And who can blame us? Watching TV is cheap, it’s easy (who feels like putting on pants? Not I!) and it’s an evening’s worth of entertainment that doesn’t involve facing folks who once again pester, “Found a job yet?”

Also, yeah, to be way more touchy-feely than that, TV is solace. There’s escapism of the American Idol sort at play, sure, but haven’t we always looked to TV for comfort, for support, for a reflection of our own lives, albeit, a reflection with better hair and a happy ending by the time the hour, or at least the season, wraps up?

We’re egomaniacs, the lot of us, so we love the things with which we most identify. And now that so many of us are unemployed, what’s out there to identify with? Where are the unemployed characters on TV, goddammit?

For awhile, Robin on CBS’s terminally underappreciated How I Met Your Mother was a jobless broadcast journalist, but she was unemployed not because she was laid off or anything, but because she quit her job to take another position with which she was ultimately unhappy. And thus quit again. The solution to Robin’s temporary joblessness? She simply had to want a job more and work harder for it, and—with the help of her friends, of course—Robin landed a gig hosting a high-profile morning show. The thing is, I liked unemployed Robin. She drank beer floats in her PJs, spent her nights boozing at a cowboy bar and whined a lot. She was someone I could laugh with, rather than at. Now that she’s got a salaried paycheck and benefits, and I’m back to envying her rather than empathizing with her.

Just like I want equal representation in entertainment when it comes to actors of color and queer characters, I’m hungry for equal representation of unemployed Americans.

I understand episodes are written and produced way before they air, so I’m going to give the networks a chance to catch up. My only hope is that by the time TV catches up to the unemployment
 

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