Why Media Love Making Shows About Media

Nancy Anderson
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Communications people love to talk about communications people. Media people love to talk about media people. We’re as bad as the celebrities that always want to talk about other celebrities. And nowhere is that more evident than on television where so many workplace comedies take place in communications, advertising, movie studios, television station, radio station, and print media offices. From the brilliant ('WKRP In Cincinnati', 'Mary Tyler Moore') to the not-so-brilliant ('Good Morning Miami', 'Rewind'), television has a long history of shows about television, radio, movies, PR, and ad men.

So, why? The easy answer is that people write about what they know about. Television writers write about television (and especially about television writers). They worked in radio first? Write about radio. Ad guys? Write about ad guys and PR companies. But, with rare exceptions, the American public has rejected most workplace sitcoms about the media, chiming in with low ratings and crowds disguised as empty chairs. The general American public doesn’t know about working in a television station or a newspaper office.

For example, one day, early in my career, I was working in programming at the FOX station in Albany New York, when I got a call from a very frustrated viewer. This chap insisted that he saw his ex-wife on an episode of 'Ned & Stacey' (remember that sitcom, with Debra Messing, Greg Germann, and Thomas Hayden Church?). He wanted to come down to the station and talk to her, having assumed that both a) the show was aired live, and b) we made the show right there in our studio in West Albany. Upon further discussion with the gentleman, there was no doubt in his mind that everything he saw on television was shown live and made right there in our Capital Region studios, including NFL Football, 'Beverly Hills 90120', and 'Cops'.

That’s extreme, but what we find familiar, others don’t always understand, just as I would not really get the intricacies of a sitcom about bee farming or Lane Bryant. Yet, we keep shoving out shows about ourselves. Outstanding series like 'SportsNight' and 'Beggars and Choosers' just didn’t resonate with the people, didn’t play in Peoria.

So, what about you? You’re looking for work, a job in communications. What fictional media outlet would you want to work at if you could? Here are some contenders:

  • Frasier Crane’s KACL talk radio on 'Frasier'.
  • Darrin Stephens’ McMann and Tate ad agency on 'Bewitched'
  • Ray Barone’s Newsday sports department on 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
  • Steven Keaton’s WKS public television station on 'Family Ties'
  • Liz Lemon’s TGS on ’30 Rock’
  • Dylan Messinger’s meagerly-rated morning show on 'Good Morning Miami'
  • Val Tyler’s public relations firm on 'What I Like About You'
  • Dave Nelson’s WNYX radio on 'NewsRadio'
  • Lou Grant’s insane WJM on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
  • Gary Brooks’ KPPQ sports talk on 'Gary Unmarried'
  • Dana Whittaker’s Continental Sports Channel from 'SportsNight'
  • Murphy Brown’s 60 Minutes-esque 'FYI' newsmagazine
  • Jordan McDeere’s NBS, home of 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip'
  • Andy Travis’ nut house radio station on 'WKRP In Cincinnati'
  • Rob Malone’s cutthroat television network in 'Beggars and Choosers'
  • Don Draper’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on 'Mad Men'
  • Or somewhere else?
So, where would you want to work?

Michael Hochman
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Michael is a Copywriter, Creative Marketer, and Broadcaster with 15 years in Programming, Marketing, Promotions, and New Media at television and radio stations in markets like Philadelphia, Syracuse, Albany, Wichita, and Kansas City, as an advertising writer in marketing departments and at ad agencies, and as a freelance copywriter. A Philly native and graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School, Michael is available for freelance work, full-time writing, and wedding receptions.

"Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright." - Aaron Sorkin, "The West Wing"

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