TV Timeout: Reality check needed

Local business people say their counterparts on the small screen lead far more interesting lives

   Most of the journalists I know live in basement suites and drive the same cars they’ve had since they graduated from college — even the ones from the class of 1986.
   So why is it every time I see a newspaper reporter in a TV show or movie they’re living in a high-rise penthouse with views of a downtown cityscape and are driving a Mustang convertible?
Also, because of shows on the tube and big screen, viewers often get the impression that journalists have as much time as they want to work on whatever stories they choose to.
   My editors and ulcer say otherwise.
While it’s a given that jobs on TV aren’t as glamorous or wacky as they may be in real life, at times fiction can get a little ridiculous.
   Here’s what some local people have to say about how their professions are portrayed on television.

Dan Parsons
Attorney with Roy, Simmons and Parsons

   What TV show or movie do you believe most people usually associate with your profession?
   “The number of TV shows and movies about lawyers is amazing; everything from ‘Perry Mason’ to ‘L.A. Law’ to ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘The Practice.’ Also, how about every John Grisham novel ever made into a movie?”

   Describe the qualities and traits of the main characters from these shows.
   “One of the things I’ve always thought is funny, and have always been amazed by, is how handsome and beautiful TV attorneys are. They are either portrayed as handsome, beautiful, zealous and a hero or uncaring and the worst of the villains.”

   Because of these shows, what do you believe most people assume being an attorney is like?
   “Very exciting with lots of courtroom drama, which obviously isn’t always the case.”

   What qualities and characteristics do you believe real attorneys must possess?
   “Professionalism and ethics, contrary to popular belief. To be a good attorney you have to care about others and you can’t just punch a clock, because you’re dealing with people’s lives day in and day out. Also, you have to believe in the legal system.”

   Are there things that happen on TV to attorneys that rarely happen to them in real life?
   “It seems like attorneys are always adopting runaways or sleeping with a witness.”

   What are some things attorneys do daily that are rarely shown on TV?
   “People don’t realize that you talk on the phone for literally four or five straight hours.”

   Any other myths about attorneys to dispel?
   “Nope. Every joke you’ve ever heard about a lawyer is true. In fact, out of professional courtesy, a shark really won’t eat a lawyer.”

Joan Carpenter
Private investigator, Carpenter Investigations

   What TV show or movie do you believe most people usually associate with your profession?
   “‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Rockford Files.'”

   Describe the qualities and traits of the main characters from these shows.
   “Unlike these guys, I don’t drive a convertible, I don’t live in Hawaii, I don’t have oodles of money at my disposal and run and chase bad guys, and I don’t have a sidekick.”

   Because of these shows, what do you believe most people assume being a private investigator is like?
   “Most people automatically think all I ever do is follow cheating husbands. It’s kind of like the P.I. has been demoralized into all we do is chase scum. They also think I know karate. On TV, you need to know karate — how else are you going to whip the bad guys?”

   Are there things you see on TV shows about private investigators that are accurate?
   “Some of the surveillance stuff is normal. The difference between TV and reality is that you can be sitting doing surveillance for hours and hours with nothing happening. On TV, it’s a 30-second clip of a person exiting a door and then the P.I. taking pictures. In reality, sometimes you have to sit there for five hours.”

   What are some things private investigators do daily that are rarely shown on TV?
   “A lot of stuff we do is so boring they’d never show it on TV. In reality, to be a private investigator, all you really need is a computer and reliable software.
Most of the time I just verify facts about good, hardworking people so they can be employed by other good people out there. I verify Social Security numbers, do criminal and civil checks, and verify real property and character references. For example, you don’t want someone with multiple bankruptcies to be your financial adviser or accountant or, in the gaming industry, you don’t want someone with several criminal charges against them for cheating the system getting inside information.”

   Any other myths about private investigators to dispel?
   “People are always afraid to tell me things because they think I’m going to check them out. I never do that. I don’t have the time.”

Glynn O’Neill
Bar owner, Glynn’s Shamrock Pub

   What TV show or movie do you believe most people usually associate with your profession?

   Describe the qualities and traits of the main character from this show.
   “I think (Sam Malone) had to be a clown, businessman and policeman but he always liked to see people have a nice time and enjoy themselves. I’m the same way, I like to see people smile and laugh — there’s not enough of that in the world.”

   Because of this show, what do you believe most people assume being a barkeep is like?
   “Listening to a lot of people.”

   What qualities and characteristics do you believe real bar owners must possess?
   “As much as you joke around on the job, you have to be alert. You also have to care about the customers and the job.”

   Sam was known as a lady’s man. Do bartenders get a lot of dates because of their profession?
   “I don’t do a lot of things younger bartenders do. I’m missing a tooth, don’t have hair and am a bit over 22. However, there are certain customers you can joke with, and I have women come in who are 80 but I treat them like they’re in their 20s and make them laugh and feel good.”

   How did the show accurately portray daily life at a bar?
   “Our bar is pretty much like the show. We have a problem here — everybody seems to like everybody. And some of our customers are spitting images of the ones on the show. We have lawyers, people who clean houses and people who do oddball things. They all add to the atmosphere of the bar and make it a real cozy, friendly place.
   Customers at bars also tend to exaggerate. Anything you hear about that happened at a bar didn’t really happen that way. People blow things out of proportion. Sometimes it’s fun but people can get carried away.”

   Are there things that routinely happen at bars that aren’t seen on TV shows?
   “You talk to a lot of lonely people. Some older people, in all honesty, have lost their spouse or girlfriend and don’t have anyone to talk to anymore.
   There’s a lot of stress. Sometimes I’m running around like it’s my first day on the job and come two o’clock once I sit down it’s hard to get back up.
   I also have to work hard to gain customers. Once someone walks in the door, it’s my job to keep them here awhile and to spend some money and give them some good feelings so they’ll come back. We need new blood all the time. If the old people don’t die they quit drinking or can’t drive their cars here anymore so we need new customers.”

   Any other myths to dispel about the job?
   “I don’t think many bar owners get too involved with their customers’ lives outside the bar, because sooner or later they may have their hands out wanting something. As much as you’d love to, you can’t do that.”




Related Stories