Art Imitating Life: Public Employees on Television

February 26, 2013

Dare to turn on talk radio or the nightly news, and you’ll likely hear or see public employees getting a bad rap.  Put aside a few rogues and bad actors in recent pet and wildlife shootings who put a harsh spotlight on hardworking people doing thankless and dangerous jobs.

News reports leave government employees shell-shocked and the public disappointed. Despite what the reports say, government employees -- teachers, highway snowplow drivers, utility workers, state troopers, judges, corrections officers, just to name a few -- are hard workers.

Among 18-49 year olds, research has shown that watching government or civic-themed television programs has changed viewers thinking about socio-political issues, government, and its workers.

Perhaps this is one reason why three of the ten most popular career fields are criminal justice, education, and political science. Shows like Cops and Lockup, which give us a window into the gritty world of a beat cop, state trooper or correctional officer, influence interest in investigative and forensic science work.

The buzz I hear about current TV programs showcases crime busters, doctors in public teaching hospitals, etc.  As a matter of fact, eleven of the most popular twenty TV.com shows feature public employees.

Here's a list of those shows and where they ranked in the top 20.

1. Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Grey's Anatomy is a medical drama about a group of surgeons working at Seattle Grace Hospital.

2. NCIS (CBS)
NCIS is a show about the inner workings of the government agency that investigates crimes involving Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

3. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
How I Met Your Mother is a comedy about Ted and how he fell in love. It all starts when Ted's best friend, Marshall decides to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Lily, a kindergarten teacher.

5. Fringe (FOX)
This sci-fi drama follows the exploits of FBI agent Olivia Dunham.

6. Criminal Minds (CBS)
The Behavioral Analysis Unit consists of an elite team of FBI profilers who analyze the country's most twisted criminal minds

7. The Mentalist (CBS)
The Mentalist tells the tale of Patrick Jane, who is employed as an independent consultant working with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to solve crimes.

10. Bones (FOX)
A darkly amusing drama inspired by a real-life forensic anthropologist and novelist who is called upon by law enforcement to assist with murder investigations.

14. Person of Interest (CBS)
An ex-CIA hitman partners with an enigmatic software designer who uses the name Harold Finch, to prevent crimes before they occur.

15. Arrow (The CW)
A multi-millionaire playboy presumed dead after a shipwreck is found five years later becomes a vigilante to fight corruption and crime.

17. Castle (ABC)
A successful murder-mystery writer joins forces with Detective Kate Beckett and begins working together to solve other murders in New York City along with other detectives and the medical examiner.

19. Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)
After McGarrett returns home to Oahu to catch his father’s killer, the governor offers the opportunity to run a new task force where he is able to call the shots.

What's your favorite show featuring public employees? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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