I love television. I know, I'm not supposed to because I like to be all "look at me, I'm a pseudo-intellectual who writes think pieces about feminism", but as a living, breathing human person I also watch a LOT of TV.
Television is a magical place, but let's think about the bigger picture for a second: television signals have been pumped out into space since they started to exist. It is, according to a thing I read once a long time ago, the most likely thing that an alien species will encounter as messaging from us.
So now we need to ask ourselves, what will they think of us? I mean, besides thinking we are all super attractive, suddenly went from being all black and white to technicolour, and that we became very into swearing and sex in the course of about 20 years. What will they think of how we live our lives, in general? Because the magicland of TV is a land where people do all sorts of things they would never do in real life, and I'm not just talking about Jessica Jones' super strength.
If I were an alien, what would I think of human society based on what I saw on TV that is completely wrong?
I would think that every town in the world had one amazing club that everyone - teenagers and adults - attend constantly and show up to by themselves, because they know they'll run into a friend.
Does any town actually have this club? You know the one I'm talking about, the one in every teen show, ever. The club that has alcohol and bands and people dancing as well as food and lets minors in with just a stamp on their hand that could so easily be washed off.
Maybe this is such an anomaly to me because of the strictness of liquor licences here in BC, but this is a phantom establishment that does not exist, and if it did no self-respecting adult would go there because it would be full of teenagers.
I would think that, for most people, money was some kind of toy everyone just passed among themselves for fun.
Most of the time on TV, money is a weird not-real thing that only comes up when one friend sticks another friend with a bill for something - joke's on you, buddy! Otherwise, everyone lives as if money is no object: they drink copious amounts of alcohol (expensive), go to clubs that would allegedly have (expensive) cover charges, take surprise trips (expensive), go shopping and come home with arms full of bags (expensive), wear different (expensive) coats all the time instead of buying a couple that last for years like a normal person, and of course, live in their insanely spacious and well-designed apartments in major cities (ludicrously expensive).
The only time anyone isn't spending money like it's not real is if they are the "flat-broke friend" who can't afford to ever pay for anything, and then their other friends pay for all their stuff with all their magic money.
The exception that proves the rule is that Friends episode where Phoebe, Rachel, and Joey confront Monica, Chandler, and Ross about the fact that they can't afford all the fancy things.
I would think that everyone has a tight-knit group of 4-6 friends that they hang out with constantly.
The only time any of them spend time with anyone else is when they start dating someone, and that person never has friends of their own and integrates perfectly into the group (unless they don't, but then the relationship is doomed).
Except when they have parties. Then suddenly they can easily fill an apartment with friends. Who are these people that they never, ever talk to or about during the whole rest of their lives???
I would think that people often sleep with, date, or even marry, people from this super close friendship circle, and that when they break up it will all be okay once they share a meaningful look across the room.
Of course, before they share a meaningful look that says "we're cool now" and everything goes back to normal, there will be some really overblown fights where they yell and throw things and prank each other and maybe their friends listen from a bedroom or something.
Good thing for that problem-solving meaningful look, otherwise this kind of thing could really throw off the dynamic of a tight-knit group of friends who never hang out with anyone else.
The exception that proves the rule: towards the end of How I Met Your Mother when Ted is married to what's-her-name and Robyn and Barney are divorced, and Robyn stops hanging out with those friends because it's too heartbreak-y.
I would think that people are constantly pranking each other.
People pull so many pranks on TV shows! Sometimes they pull really mean pranks on their friends and you really have to wonder why they stay friends. But then you remember that they all only ever hang out with each other, so if they ever gave up on a friendship just because they got trapped on a roof all day in the hot sun, they would have nobody. Not even an ex to look at meaningfully across a room.
I would think that entire communities will easily band together to "teach someone a lesson."
This one mostly refers to Saved by the Bell and other teen shows of that era, when, for example, all the girls in the high school pretend that they are madly in love with Zack Morris to teach him a lesson about using subliminal messages to make Kelly fall in love with him.
The level of buy-in they get from the wider community on that is pretty impressive.
I would think that people only share important news by showing up at their friend's door in the middle of the night.
The level of "popping by" in TV shows is already a bit off the hook. I mean, sure, when you live in a suburban cul de sac with neighbours who are all your age, you'll knock on your neighbour's door to say hi and see if they'll come out to play. These TV shows, however, are almost always about working adults in major cities, often who live in apartment buildings that should have buzzer systems, and they are just showing up, teary-eyed, at each others' doors at 3am. How did they even get into the building? Why don't they text first? What if they weren't even home?