Do TV Jobs Seem Real? We Asked a Doctor, Chef, Priest and Therapist


My favorite part in 13 Going on 30 is when the character is picked up for her magazine job in a stretch limo. Yup, that’s exactly what it’s like to work at a magazine, you definitely don’t have to take the crowded subway or ride your bike through midtown! Curious about what other TV jobs seem realistic (or not), we asked four professionals to share their thoughts…

“They’re just clocking in and clocking out.”
Lina Perl, clinical therapist, NYC

Never Have I Ever: “I liked Dr. Ryan because she has a real authenticity — her overall vibe is warm and direct. That’s the kind of therapist I personally like and think that I am. Devi is a tough kid and a pain, but the therapist liked her and wants good things for her. At the end, there’s a scene where they tell each other how much they care about each other. And Devi feels loved, and that is something that actually happens in therapy. You have authentic affection for your clients, and it’s incredibly powerful.”

Shrinking: “Most of the therapists seem very cold and formulaic and detached in a way I find odd. They’re just clocking in and clocking out. Then the main character decides, ‘I’m going to tell it like it is!’ There’s this idea that therapists don’t say what they want to, but that’s not really true — therapists understand that they’re only seeing an edited slice of your life, so they don’t know what you should do. That’s NOT their job. Instead of a therapist saying, ‘You should break up with him!’, a much better outcome is their saying, ‘I think part of you is not loving how you feel after you see this guy but another part of you keeps wanting to see him.’ A therapist wants a patient to face all their thoughts and opinions. Celebrate the ambivalence!”

Dr. Katz: “This was my favorite therapy show. Each patient was played by a real-life comedian. Music would play when the time was up. People would be saying the absolute wildest things, and Dr. Katz would be like, ‘Uh, you know what the music means,’ and then the episode would be over. When I started as a therapist, one of the hardest things was to keep to the time, especially if people were having a tough day. Now I can wrap things up in a way that makes sense. But in the beginning, I’d consistently let people run 15-20 minutes over.”

“I liked that he cussed and was funny.”
Leah Wise, Episcopal priest, Houston

Fleabag: “Reactions to the hot priest were divided among clergy, because he breached the pastoral relationship and there was sexual misconduct. But what I liked was that he was a fully fleshed out character who had interests and cussed sometimes and was funny. So often you see priests and pastors portrayed as naive or removed. I liked that the hot priest was pastorally approachable — he asked interesting questions, listened deeply, and authentically believed he was doing what God had called him to. Which is a big part of what we talk about as clergy but might sound weird to people who aren’t religious.

That kind of well-rounded priest character also helps make church feel more like part of the world, not a separate thing. For the same reason, I often wear my collar when I’m doing normal things — it’s powerful for people to see that I’m a person who needs groceries and goes to the movies, I’m not set apart. But on the other hand, it makes everything more intense. Like, I can’t have road rage with my collar on!”

“As for Jeremy Allen White, I’m a married woman, I can’t comment!”
Hannah Cheng, owner of Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, NYC

The Bear: “The stress of the show is very realistic! A restaurant has so many moving parts — you’re dealing with distribution and traffic and weather and multiple customers. And Carmy runs a family restaurant, so there’s that extra emotional piece of not wanting to let your family down. The characters also have intense relationships with their co-workers, which rings true. In a kitchen, you’re standing and chatting and working together for hours each day, without really seeing anyone outside your team, so you inevitably become close. And the food world overall has so much camaraderie — whether you’re a family-owned counter service, or a white-tablecloth restaurant with a sommelier, there’s a special bond because, at the end of the day, you all really love food.”

“It gets the intense hierarchy so right.”
Lucy Kalanithi, physician, San Francisco Bay Area

Scrubs: “During residency, I watched Scrubs all the time, over and over, because it gets the intense hierarchy so right. It felt funny and validating, like these hard things — like, maybe a mean attending — happen for everyone in medical training, not just me. Your supervisors have so much control over you, and their personalities have such an outsized impact on your day. It also nails the cast of characters in medical culture — a classic one is a doctor how can’t feel his or her feelings so they come out in every other way, or an attending doctor who’s really nice to patients but really mean to residents. And the residents’ friendships are very sweet, and the way it shows their vulnerabilities while they’re trying to do a good job — something about it is in perfect tune with how it really is.”

The Big Sick: “My group chats were like, Why is no one wearing Dansko clogs? Or maaaaybe Tieks? Everyone in a hospital wears them!”

Mindy Project: “I like that Mindy’s character was flighty but also a great doctor. She was technically excellent, and she was a boss — those were an important part of her character. There’s no one way to be smart — she can absolutely be a chatty gossipy rom-com-loving person who isn’t super serious all the time. She’s not the stereotype of a doctor and she’s a fabulous doctor. This representation is important because, in regular life, women often don’t get recognized as doctors. The other day, I was wearing scrubs after work and people kept asking if I was a nurse; and on planes if they call for a doctor, and you’re a woman, they’ll check your license before letting you help, and Black women sometimes aren’t even allowed to help, even if they’re surgeons or whatever. Mindy’s character was important; there’s a feminism in there.”

Thoughts? Has your job been portrayed in TV and movies? What shows got it right or wrong? Says CoJ reader Lauren O: “My dad, a retired trial attorney, has almost no taste for movies with lawyers. The one notable exception: MY COUSIN VINNY, which is patently (and knowingly) ridiculous.”

P.S. Nine couples with the best on-screen chemistry, and a Q&A with Fleabag’s costume designer.

(Leah Wise interview by Kaitlyn Teer.)


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