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TV’s home truths: Does student living on TV reflect reality?

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We don’t just invite our favourite TV shows into our homes every night – we also become familiar with their living spaces.

While we may have grown out of styling our bedrooms to imitate our teenage TV obsessions, some argue that our shows shouldn’t be a million miles away from our reality. But why should shows do this or, for some, continue to do so?

We’re not critiquing Game of Thrones or Desperate Housewives, but the homes of normal young people like us. Friends, Gossip Girl, Sex and the City…places like Monica’s apartment definitely require the viewer to suspend disbelief, even if Monica had the explanation of subletting from her grandmother.

“Today’s housing crisis in New York, London and other cities is no joke and for current students, the situation is even grimmer”

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Carrie’s brownstone in ‘Sex and the City’. Image: Naoko Kawachi / Flickr

This may have just been an amusing detail to shrug off while the show was still running, but today’s housing crisis in New York, London and other cities is no joke and for current students, the situation is even grimmer. In addition to sky-high tuition fees, students are facing ever-increasing rents for ever-shabbier housing, and this has led to the ‘largest student rent strike in British history’ by students at several London universities. In short, Carrie Bradshaw whining about her hard life languishing in an Upper-East Side brownstone isn’t the most enjoyable scene to watch with your new tenant, Mr Mould, making himself comfortable on the wall behind you.

Television may serve as a form of escapism, but it does help to occasionally have characters with relatable struggles. While HBO’s Girls may not reflect the diversity of New York, it is spot-on with just how uncomfortably intimate living situations can be in reality.

Elsewhere, Abbi’s apartment from Broad City is a masterclass in decorating on a budget and the power of using a throw to hide a stained couch – or in my case, a giant rip in the cheap fabric. In fact, Abbi’s apartment hunt from hell feels laughably familiar to me – you might not have entered a stark white apartment with blood splatters and “super thick” walls, but the awkward attempt to quickly escape is just the same.

“For shows that present themselves as a reflection of millennials today, it’s clear that they should stay grounded in reality”

The first episode of Fresh Meat is on the cusp of being eerie in its familiarity. Accommodation woes, the slabbed over “back garden” and the complete absence of light in the house bring back memories of my second year house.

The world of gangsters can stay the same on Boardwalk Empire or Peaky Blinders, but for shows that present themselves as a reflection of millennials today, it’s clear that they should stay grounded in reality.

After all, this doesn’t mean they have to be boring, for web shows like High Maintenance or The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl have won the attention of viewers and networks by exploring the everyday. In fact, they may show us how to find the beauty in our own lives.

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