Supply-Closet Sex and Instant DNA

I'm sure you're sick of hearing writers wail about how there's no way in hell Carrie Bradshaw could afford all those swanky shoes on the income a freelance journalist actually makes.

But "Sex and the City" isn't the only television show guilty of stretching the truth about my trade. On T.V., editors fly 3,000 miles to conduct a chat with a writer that would normally require a three-line e-mail. Book agents hop in a limo, cross a couple of state lines and surprise their authors for lunch. Aspiring authors make a couple of phone calls and land themselves a fat book advance in five minutes flat.

All dreamy scenarios, to be sure, and all pure fantasy.

But writing isn't the only profession that's been tarted up for the tube. Any CSI will tell you that running around a crime scene in heels in your Saturday night best is a recipe for blisters, sprained ankles and a hefty dry cleaning bill. And any lawyer or doctor will tell you that they don't have nearly as much supply-closet sex with their colleagues -- not to mention their clients and patients -- as their fictional T.V. counterparts do.

In fact, when I checked with my extended online network of working professionals, I found that everyone who'd ever toiled a day in their life had gripes about their T.V. alter egos:

Despite their televised versions, therapists protested they weren't all repressed bores and masseuses maintained they weren't all flaky sex addicts. Motivational speakers exclaimed they were not that irritatingly perky. Mediums transmitted that they didn't usually get bedside visits or phone calls from ghosts. I even heard from a commercial shark diver who snarled that he would never throw "whole cured hams, sides of beef and 20-pound frozen turkeys" into the sea to entice a Great White (apparently they prefer tuna).

Some workers have also found that the way their job is portrayed on TV can lead to unrealistic expectations about what they do for a living and how they should be doing it. See for yourself:

If You Want a Freebie, Call the Salvation Army

"The design and home improvement shows on T.V. cause us so much headache and heartburn," said Jim Grosspietsch, who co-owns and operates a $2 million-a-year interior design firm in Chicago.

On the "HGTV-type shows," he continued, designers often "redesign entire rooms or floors for homeowners, complete with space plans, elevations, color renderings, furniture selections, accessory selections and the likeā€¦ and then present those plans and selections before they have been hired or paid."

Not so in the real world, he said, where "we are hired first based on past project work and we collect a retainer up front before we design anything."

Oh, and that $500 to $1,000 living room renovation you were expecting in 48 hours? Complete fiction.

"A 'typical' project really takes four or eight or 12 months," Grosspietsch said. In fact, just waiting for the new sofa to arrive can take two months.

And as for cost, T.V. viewers might want to add a couple of zeroes to the price tag to bring their expectations in line with reality.

'I'm a Doctor, Not a Miracle Worker!'

But it's not just interior designers who find themselves having to reset client expectations about how long it takes to get the job done (hint: it's much longer than an hour). It's also professional organizers, charity event planners, doctors, lawyers and criminal investigators.

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