Why No One in Books or On TV Actually Watches TV

[Disclaimer: Yes, I know that the characters in books and on TV are fictitious. In this article I’m not trying to say that these people are “real” in any way. I’m merely using them as an example to make a point. So no, I’m not nuts enough to really believe that these people live real lives inside the box in my living room. Now back to your regularly scheduled article.]

Have you ever noticed that, when you pick up a good book or watch a good TV show or movie that the characters rarely, if ever, watch television? They all seem to have TV’s in their homes, but rarely are they on. You rarely read about someone coming home and plopping down in front of the TV and that’s all they do for a whole chapter. You don’t see someone on TV come home and do nothing but watch reruns of old sitcoms.

Yet the characters you read about and watch are almost always well-off financially and have a lot of friends and social interactions. They have busy lives, cool jobs, nice cars, and swanky apartments or houses. They eat at good restaurants and go to a lot of parties. They travel and have adventures. And there’s always romance. Fictitious characters have great lives and are successful, but they don’t watch TV. So what gives?

We always hear that people who watch a lot of TV or movies want to emulate what they see on TV, that people strive to act like the people they see in movies or read about in books. Studies show that we want the same things these characters have. We see the nice cars, clothes, trips, and friends and we want them, too. TV is supposed to influence our behavior. Well, it must not because from what I can tell, watching TV isn’t making anyone watch less TV. And the benefits of watching less TV is exactly what TV is showing. If these characters aren’t watching TV and are so successful and happy, what makes us think we can have their lives by plopping down in front of the tube every night? If we want what they have, and we want to emulate their lives, we shouldn’t be watching so much TV.

I’ve been sort of aware of this twisted bit of logic for some time, but recently I started to pay attention and wonder why this should be. (I must not have enough to do.) So why don’t people on TV, in movies, and in books watch TV and how are they able to be so successful, well off and happy? Here’s what I’ve come up with based on many years of reading and watching.

People sitting around watching TV doesn’t make for interesting plots: Neither does it make for an interesting life. If you want an interesting and successful life, you have to go out and do things, not watch other people doing them.

The characters in books and on TV are so successful because they spend their time working at their fabulous jobs or starting their own businesses, not watching TV: Heck, in some shows or books they don’t do anything but work. If you want to be successful, you have to work. Watching TV won’t get it done.

Fictitious characters have a lot of disposable income because they aren’t throwing away $100 or more every month on TV packages: They also aren’t distracted by advertising for random crap. Because they aren’t spending so much on other things, they have a lot more money to buy the clothes, cars, and furniture that make them look so cool.

They all look so good because, without TV, they have a lot more time to exercise: They also snack less (since snacking and TV tend to go hand in hand) and probably consume less fast food.

Their houses look so good and unique because, without TV, they have time and money to dedicate to home improvements and furnishings: Their taste isn’t dictated by TV but rather by personal preferences.

These characters are so happy because their lives are not ruined with all the negative news circulated in the media: They aren’t depressed and down about the economy or the crime rate, they just go on blissfully unaware of impending Armageddon. Since happiness equates to a can-do attitude and success, they are more likely to be successful.

Characters are more social because they aren’t at home waiting for their show to air: They meet their quirky neighbors and the guys down at the bar. They connect with their kids. They spend time with friends and family and, as such, develop deeper relationships than those who watch TV all the time.

Their kids seem better behaved (not on reality TV; those kids watch TV) because they aren’t exposed to all the violence, sex, drugs, and mayhem contained on TV: Their kids are also thin because they don’t spend time plopped in front of the screen.

Characters are awesomely talented because they have the time to practice their talents: TV isn’t sucking away their music or athletic practice time, so they get better at what’s important to them.

Some of them are super-smart because they spend their time reading and learning things out in the world rather than watching every re-run of King of the Hill: The lack of TV means they have more time for education or, heck, being a child prodigy like Doogie Howser.

They have much higher self esteem (some even think way too highly of themselves) because they aren’t getting the destructive messages from the media that they are too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, stupid, out of the loop, or ugly: And we all know that a high self esteem correlates to success.

All of this kind of makes you wonder, if we base our lives on what we see on TV, why are we watching so much TV? If we were truly basing our lives on what we see on TV, we wouldn’t be watching TV. We would be out and about, meeting people and working hard. It’s a funny irony that watching TV is not the way to become like the people you see on TV. Turning off the TV is the way to become better off financially, healthier, happier, better looking, smarter, and more social. So start emulating your favorite characters and turn off the TV.

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14 Responses to Why No One in Books or On TV Actually Watches TV

  1. None says:

    That was the worst crap I have ever read. If someone wants an example of the worst assumptions/conclusions/generalizations to draw from one item, I would direct them to this article. May I have my 2 minutes back?

    So people are slow, stupid, fat, unsuccessful and sad because they watch TV. Any amount of TV at all? Like most anything else, used in moderation it is not bad.

  2. Traciatim says:

    Ummm, Seinfeld?

  3. Shane says:

    Good post !!

    I think about 95% of the TV I’ve watched in my life has been a WASTE of my life.

    The other 5% has been inspiring, informative, mind-opening etc etc

    I think it is good to be selective and choose the programs you will watch. Rather than wasting your existence channel-surfing – Recovering channel-surfer here ! hehe

  4. M E 2 says:

    Not true! All the Bundys did was watch tv. (Married With Children) And the gang on Friends were shown watching tv now and again.

  5. Jay Gatsby says:

    Unfortunately, you are tilting at windmills (a little Cervantes reference for you there). Americans love their television for the very reason you state – The characters we “watch are almost always well-off financially and have a lot of friends and social interactions. They have busy lives, cool jobs, nice cars, and swanky apartments or houses. They eat at good restaurants and go to a lot of parties. They travel and have adventures. And there

  6. C.S. says:

    Great post, and great responses – particularly by Jay Gatsby. (One of my favorite characters, btw.)

  7. whitestripe says:

    i don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching television now and then. i ENJOY watching it, and i think it’s important to do things you ENJOY in your life. on a different note, i also ENJOY exercising, cooking, having coffee with friends, reading etc.
    I also DON’T pay for television packages, and in australia there are ‘only’ 5 free tv channels.
    if you feel bad or regret watching tv then turn it off. i don’t, because it doesn’t run my life and i don’t have to shape my life around my ‘favourite shows’.

  8. Ann says:

    Absolutely incredible. I never really noticed that no one in the entertainment media uses the entertainment media. It’s all a bustle of activity. Not that the characters would never watch a show or read a book, but considering those parts are of their lives aren’t portrayed, it’s easy to question our selective emulation.

  9. savannahzmomma1 says:

    This article is not crap. The writer makes a great and simple point. A quick disclaimer for me: I tape my Bill Moyers Journal and Suze Orman, otherwise, I avoid it. Unfortunately, my little one has encroaching addiction I’m having to handle.

    My friend, though, had the revelation a couple years ago that this writer had. She realized that the people on tv were having the life she dreamed of. She turned off the tv, but she kept her plan. She just watched a LOT LESS. And then she got to work living: she lost 40 pounds, took 60 points off her cholesterol score in 6 months, tackled her career and gained over 20,000 dollar/year increase in pay, became a YMCA fitness instructor on the side, in addition to her job, got a $6000 bonus for great work at her job, which she used to take her kid to Disney World. They are planning a trip to Machuu Piccu (spelling).

    So, yes. I watched somebody do just what this writer suggests: take back MUCH of that time and go ahead and just tackle life!

    This article is not crap. I watched somebody live the truths. She still likes her special shows, but she’s got a plan. The PLAN comes first, and she plans the tv into it.

    Life for my friend is not what is left over after work and tv.

  10. damon says:


    re: Jay Gatsby
    I think you nailed it.


    re: SavannahzMomma1
    I like your statement: “Life for my friend is not what is left over after work and tv.”


    re: None

    I disagree with you, I think this was actually pretty good.

    If you re-read the opening, the author says she’s making a stretch here; she’s using creative thinking to point out that there is more social interaction and less TV in shows and movies, and then using that to suggest maybe we should emulate that.

    While none of this is pure fact, she’s just making assumptions and having fun with the topic, there are scientific data that proves that watching TV does lead to depression and isolation.

    And she has a good point; how much time do you spend a week watching TV? What if you cut out 2/3 of that? What if you cut out all of that? You’d have a lot more time to investigate that business idea, or learn a new trade or aspect of your job, or get out and socialize.

    Those are all activities that make you feel like you are accomplishing something, and thus boost your happiness. TV does the opposite, you accomplish nothing or next to nothing (some people fold laundry or claim to “work” while watching TV but there are studies on that as well) and again, there are scientific data to support this.

    So I don’t think she’s that far off, I think she was trying to have fun with the topic, but there are studies to support what she’s saying. And she has an interesting point that all the fictitious people we see or read about aren’t keeping the couch warm.

  11. Cindy M says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the less TV I watch, the better I actually feel about myself. Now about the only time it gets turned on is before bed; I use it to fall asleep. Better to stay physically busy as much as possible and live life. In what little spare time I have now I’d rather read a bit and have gotten more particular about just what I read. People did without TV for centuries and lived out their lives just fine. None of us is actually made better by most of the drivel on television, not really.

  12. Funny stuff. It’s unfortunate that not everyone got the humor.

    As one reader pointed out, the Friends gang did watch some TV. When they weren’t watching TV, they were usually sitting on their butts in the coffeehouse!

    And, Lorelai on Gilmore Girls watched TV, mostly rented movies, on a semi-regular basis. She even convinced her mother to start watching more TV.

  13. Gail says:

    The only thing we can watch on our TV is DVDs and videos as we are not connected to an antennae or cable or dish or whatever. We save a lot of money just avoiding that. I DO however read a lot of books, most likely 200-300 a year. Generally when the TV is mentioned it is becaue the ‘star’ of the book is bored, tired, or whatever, turns the TV on, can’t find anything on and then turns it back off OR they turn it on when tired and the next thing they know the find themselves waking up with the TV still on in the background.

    Yes people in books watch TV, but it is not the major source of entertainment nor does their life revolve around it. I was married once to a man that turned the idiot box on when he got up in the morning and didn’t turn it off till he went to bed–I could have screamed I hated it so much. We always had to hurry back from whereever we went so we wouldn’t miss whatever show. We went to buy a couch and within 15 minutes of looking for this expensive purchase that should be done thoughtfully, taking time and care, he was chopping at the bit to get home to watch Dallas. You will never see this kind of nonsense in books. Book characters never rush home to watch inane TV shows. I don’t know about TV characters running home to watch TV as I don’t watch it myself.

    Oh yes the other time you will see TV watching mentioned in books is a side character (usually a senior citizen) that has their whole life spent in front of the TV watching the news etc. and this is worked into the plot of the book as to help the ‘star’ of the book keep up with a disaster, kidnapping, whatever. It is part of the plot, but not something the average book character is doing.

  14. reader says:

    wow. I think we should all just abandan the telly and read books!!! what’s wrong with books they love whoever reads them and puts them on a shelf—-

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