My Top Three Prime Time, Career Themed TV Shows

I shared in my previous post a bit of my TV viewing habits; my opinion that TV programs, especially the ones on the cable channels, can help people in their career planning and development; and a list of the better, career informing TV shows based on particular industries.

Sticking with the topic of TV shows and career planning, in this post I’ll share three of my favorite television shows currently playing on prime time among the Big Four television networks (e.g., Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC) that have strong themes of career planning and development.

Glee on Fox

Rachel Berry PicNothing screams louder on Glee than Rachel Berry’s career ambitions of becoming a famous musical star. Is it a good thing for a high school student to be so single-mindedly focused on a career goal, or does there need to be a better balance?

There’s also a high school guidance counselor, Emma Pillsbury, whose main counseling tool seems to be handing out informational brochures instead of actually “counseling” students. She’s a great example of how not to be in a particular occupation.

This show, currently airing episodes from its second season, is pure entertainment for me. And I love taking note of the various career planning themes that periodically pop up in between the awesome musical numbers.

Parenthood on NBC

Parenthood PicI also greatly enjoy the career-related dynamics of Parenthood, also currently airing its second season episodes. All of the main characters are at varying career stages, and career planning and decision making play a big part in this series.

In fact, in this season’s first episode, I spotted the seminal career planning book What Color Is Your Parachute? on the nightstand of one of the main protagonists, Lorelai Gilmore, <oops!>, I mean Sarah Braverman.

And I really loved the dialogue in last week’s episode where Sarah shares some career angst with her brother, Adam.

Sarah: Hello?

Adam: Hey, it’s Adam. How are things going over there?

Sarah: Oh God, I don’t know. I’m sitting here making a list of what my skills are. What I’m gonna do next with my life. And what was my dream? What did I always want to do? And I believe it is too late to become an Olympic figure skater, so I have to figure something else out.

Adam: Yeah, I meant how are things going with Haddie [e.g., Adam’s daughter]?

Sarah: Oh, oh yeah, I know…

This show is also pure entertainment for me. And I love that the show writers seem to really know some of the main principles to career planning.

Undercover Boss on CBS

Undercover Boss PicUndercover Boss is also currently showing its second season episodes, and even though I know the answer, I still wonder if an episode is going to deliver the goods. Gotta love the introduction that kick starts each episode:

“America is struggling to shake off the recession. Public distrust of wealthy CEOs remains high. But more and more bosses are looking for radical ways to reconnect with their workforce in order to find out what’s really going on in their companies. Each week, we follow the boss of a major corporation as they go undercover in their own company.”

A recent episode really struck a nerve. This time going undercover was CEO Sheldon Yellen of Belfor, the world’s largest property restoration company that provides post-disaster relief and reconstruction services after fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

I’ve seen all of the episodes this season, and he does several things that I haven’t seen previously: He gets really angry with his inability to do some construction work well and takes out his frustrations on an employee. He also reveals his identity to another employee, and then follows that up with offering her a pay raise right on the spot. He breaks both the written and unwritten rules of this show. Furthermore, compared to the other companies from previous episodes, Shelden Yellen and his company offer their featured employees the most amount of money at the end of the show.

And at the end of the episode, I loved what he said and how he said it.

First up, this is what he said on stage to the employees about the whole experience:

“This experience will change me forever going forward. It woke me up and made me realize, that as I started out on my journey, just how wrong I was. I really believed that sitting in Birmingham, Michigan, at a desk, I had the right to stand up and say, “We take care of our people.” And I’ve learned first hand that the people take care of this company. I may not have lived up to your expectations, but I promise you I’ll do better going forward. I’ve got to thank my mom for holding it all together with no money, raising four boys alone. Thank you.”

Finally, his closing words about what it was like on stage addressing his employees:

“I wound up getting very emotional, and I don’t regret any of it. In fact, I hope that my boys today were able to see their dad standing up there, showing his emotions, and I hope they know that’s life. Not the material things. Take down the walls. Don’t live in a cocoon. And just be out there and enjoy it. Some of us weren’t smart enough to learn that earlier on.”

After watching this episode, I remember thinking, “Man, I want to work for that guy!” Then I wondered, “Did this guy ever take acting lessons?” Ah yes, info-tainment at its finest.

Through watching Undercover Boss, I get to be thoroughly entertained. I also get to learn more about various companies and see various leadership styles on display.

I mainly watch TV shows to be entertained, but it’s cool whenever I can learn from, and get inspired by, what I’m watching on TV. There are other current, prime time TV shows on The Big Four networks that I watch religiously that have much less going on in terms of career planning themes, like Fox’s Raising Hope, NBC’s The Office and Community, and ABC’s No Ordinary Family. These shows simply and thoroughly entertain me. And my list of favorite TV shows is even longer if including programs on cable television, so I won’t even get started with those shows.


What are your favorite TV shows on either Fox, NBC, CBS, or ABC, and do they incorporate any interesting career planning themes?


4 comments for “My Top Three Prime Time, Career Themed TV Shows

  1. Ashley Nguyen
    November 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    The thumbnail of the show Glee instantly caught my attention. I’m a fellow Gleek as well and was really excited to read this blog about it!
    I love the episode where New Directions goes to New York where Rachel and Kurt bond over their fantasies of performing on broadway. Watching how certain they were of where they wanted to go in life actually made me a bit jealous. I wish I was as passionate about something as they are about singing.
    Also, I was surprised to read what you wrote about Emma. I always loved her character and found her extremely helpful on the show. But then again, what do I know about career counseling? Haha. What are the things she should be doing instead of handing out brochures?

  2. Ali
    June 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I am very glad that you’ve listed Undercover Boss, as we know by now (especially with the current financial situation/meltdown etc.) how CEO’s are totally disconnected with their own employees. These CEO’s are making some examples and they efforts should be encouraged.

    Without satisfied employees, a company would cease to exist.

  3. Adam K.
    March 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I don’t watch tv anywhere as much as I used to; occasionally I may watch the news. I do agree though that tv shows can have a lot of real underlining content that we don’t always notice unless we are aware of that information. I personally would watch scifi shows such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactic, and Heroes so probably not much to pull from a career planning them. Though I did watch House for awhile, I guess it shows that being eccentric can be really useful.

    • Andy
      March 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

      Seems like many eccentric folks are geniuses, at least on TV. 🙂

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