We’ve all been there. Trying to live vicariously through the characters on the shows we watch as they have fun and experience things we only WISH we could. Whether it’s meeting the perfect guy or going on exotic adventures with friends, it evokes a MAJOR case of FOMO. Not to mention, all the unnecessary drama that shows use to sensationalize their experiences is one most people prefer to avoid entirely.
But let’s be real: they don’t exactly do a top-notch job of portraying life in your 20s, which is, at many times, paying off financial debt from college, trying to rise up to the top of one’s profession while doing boring grunt work, hanging out with your group of two pals every other weekend, avoiding your over-talkative roommate at all costs, and navigating life after college when you realize that you need to prove to people that you’re not a “typical millennial.” Whatever that means. We wouldn’t be surprised if people are still eating Ramen to save money. 2 Broke Girls, anyone? Here are all the shows that show us what we’re missing as twenty-year-olds.
15. Pretty Little Liars
Much of Pretty Little Liars takes place while Hanna, Spencer, Aria, and Emily are in high school. But when the show leaps five years in the future, we see the girls (plus Alison) well-settled into their jobs and finding love in every corner. Um, let’s not forget that it’s probably only been a year since they graduated college at that point so to see Aria, an editorial assistant at a publishing house, suddenly penning a book with her first love Ezra that becomes quite successful, is a bit much to see. We also see a married Ali teaching full-time at the high school she’d attended, Spencer working in politics in DC, and an engaged Hanna working for a designer and later making it out on her own. Not only that, but they stop what they’re doing and start investigating who AD is (again). Meanwhile, they have no regard for what has become of their jobs and seem to cruise through life without worrying about holding onto their WILDLY SUCCESSFUL careers at such a young age. Tsk tsk.
14. Gossip Girl
Don’t get us started on Gossip Girl, which is a walking and talking show of hyperbolic proportions. The characters on the show, for the most part, don’t really have to worry about getting jobs and paying rent in a place like NYC. ESPECIALLY not Chuck, who takes over his father’s company without any experience, skills or college degree. Nepotism at its finest. Some of the others, including Blair and Dan, do actually attend college, but it’s really just a joke. Blair doesn’t need a degree to run a fashion line when she’s the mother of a well-known fashion designer. And with her character embroiled in love triangles and romantic complications through MUCH of the series – including one with a prince from Monaco(?!), it’s honestly a wonder that she’s been able to have some kind of career at last. And get real, no one just jets to foreign countries on a whim. Not even some of Manhattan’s richest.
13. One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill is sweet and heartfelt, but if you take a look at everything the characters have gone through, it’s kind of a wonder that they’re all functioning adults at all. Nathan and Haley get married in high school and have a KID during their graduation, and actually end up having a pretty good life and successful marriage, even when Nathan gets drafted for the NBA… right out of high school. And let’s not forget the fact that everyone is pretty much settled when the seasons jumps four year into the future and the gang is about 22 years old. Have we forgotten that they’re still in their early 20s? How is it that Brooke has a multi-million-dollar company already? Sigh. Teach us your ways, B. Davis.
We could understand faking your age to get a job or maintain a relationship. But the younger characters, especially Kelsey, played by Hilary Duff, and her best friend Lauren, tend to go on a tangent about how their 20s are the best years of their life. We guess that would be the case if getting a job in your dream field with plenty of room for movement was that easy. And if we had unlimited funds to spend on wild nights out. And if we were getting hit on at every single bar we visited. (Not bitter.) Kelsey has already spearheaded her own millennial imprint at her publishing house by the age of 26. My goodness. When you boil it down: the show itself is basically about how life is better in your 20s. And even if life can be pretty good at this age, the lives these women lead are pretty far-fetched.
11. New Girl
Jess, Schmidt, Nick, Winston, and Cece may be a little older, but the premise of the show falls in line with the rest of the shows on this list. They’re loft mates who actually all really get along (let’s face it, most of us are living with randos out of convenience), and most of them are super well-established with their jobs. Sure, for most of the show they’re in their 30s, but they must have set themselves up pretty damn well in their 20s to make the way they’re living their lives a possibility. None of them are super concerned about money (HOW?!), even Nick – who works as a bartender. Their lives are pretty glamorous when you think about it, even when the group is acting like their lives aren’t glamorous at all.
10. Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23
To be fair, we don’t think Don’t Trust the B- is trying to be realistic. At all. June Colburn moves to NYC with a sweet new job, just for the company to go under in scandal. She needs to find an apartment ASAP – and gets one with Chloe, a semi-sociopath who uses her roommates to swindle people out of their money so she doesn’t have to work. Oh, and she’s friends with James Van der Beek. Chloe’s schemes have allegedly gotten her into serious problems with law enforcement before – not that we’d know it from her care-free lifestyle and zero consequences. It’s a fun show, but don’t expect to get any applicable life advice from it.
9. Melrose Place
As expected, there’s a lot of drama and blackmail infused this glamorous TV drama. Everyone wants to hook up with each other, and jealousy runs amok among the characters living in the Melrose Place apartment complex. (If ONLY we living in a building with that many hotties.) When one student doctor turns to sex work to put herself through medical school and doesn’t really face any repercussions, it becomes pretty obvious that life in this CW show is one of invincibility and power. Sorry, but we’re too busy paying off our credit card loans to have the bandwidth to cause rifts between couples, solve a murder, and blackmail people.
8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Just to recap, Kimmy Schmidt was a survivor of an apocalyptic cult and after years of being underground, she travels to NYC, finds a small room with a roommate lickety-split, becomes BFFs with said roommate and landlady, and happens to get a paid gig, all the while getting a chance to take her GED so she can make something of herself. Not to mention, she suddenly gets a scholarship to Columbia University because she’s a good rower. Sorry, Kimmy, but that’s not how this works. Even the best of the best couldn’t achieve any of that, let alone someone who had to basically relearn everything and adapt to the modern age.
7. Master of None
Not everyone can be an actor in New York and actually not have to struggle financially. Dev Shah, played by Aziz Ansari, apparently has a lot of dough from a Go-Gurt commercial because he seems to have the wherewithal to travel to Nashville for a date or Italy after a breakup so he can get a change of scenery AND learn to make pasta from scratch… just because. Did we mention that he has a pretty sweet apartment in Manhattan and has a neat wardrobe? Master of None, overall, delves into issues that millennials experience daily, but its lead character seems to have moved past the “struggling artist” phase REAL quick.
6. The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory tries to explain that even nerds are hot and can get the good-looking girls. Not only is Penny a “dumb blonde” archetype who falls for the nerd, but the group can be downright elitist at times. In fact, pretty much every character on the show fits a specific archetype, making their lives pretty impossible to apply to the real world. Penny’s life as an aspiring actress/waitress should theoretically exclude her from a lot of the events she takes part in. Also, are you really trying to tell me that social butterfly Penny wouldn’t get a little bored hanging out with a bunch of so-called geniuses who make her feel stupid all the time? She’d for sure want to have more gal pals, and they’d probably just be her neighbors who she hangs out with occasionally IRL.
For someone who was financially cut of by her parents, Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, has it pretty good. Her writing career takes off, she gets a book contract, and even without completing her Master’s Degree, she got a teaching job at a university. WHAT?! It’s also a bit ludicrous that almost everyone on the show has gotten married at some point… and keep doing so… before they turn 30. The show gives off a subtle message that being in your 20s is all about making mistakes (which is true), but all of their issues regarding alcohol, drugs, relationships, friendships, and sex, never really seem to bite them in the ass in any major way. Trust, sometimes that happens. Also, how is dating your BFFs ex ever not a supreme violation of girl code? Apparently, in this friend group, it’s NBD.
4. Modern Family
Modern Family is about a multi-generational family, yes, but let’s talk about the kids of the family for a sec. Haley, who gets kicked out of her first college, ends up staying at home and getting her associate’s degree. She’s in between jobs for much of her 20s that we’ve seen so far and struggles to gain her footing. But as long as she stays with her parents, she doesn’t really have to worry. She essentially comes and goes as she pleases, partying with her friends, dating, and eventually getting a job at a golf club where she does nothing but read magazines and people-watch all day. Who knew Luke, the youngest of the Dunphy kids, would actually be the most responsible?
3. The Bold Type
Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE The Bold Type. It’s empowering and just the kind of female-centric show we need right now. But it’s hard making a living as a starting journalist/writer in New York… especially in your early 20s. Jane, Sutton, and Kat all work for Scarlet Magazine, which is inspired by Cosmopolitan, so basically it’s a DREAM job. Not only is their boss kickass and supportive, but their love lives are pretty fantastic, and one by one, their dreams of making it big in journalism and fashion are coming true. They have very few major setbacks and never really reach a lull when it comes to dating, despite working all the time. Honestly, though, the way Kat just takes a vacation on a whim to be with her new girlfriend is something NO employer would accept. But all is good in Freeform-land! And the fact that Sutton not only gets to date a handsome man in her company who works above her but also manages to get a lot of professional responsibility in such a short period of time is nothing short of incredulous. Oh well, it’s still great TV.
2. Sex and the City
Okay, so maybe the ladies on Sex and the City are older than their 20s, but the message remains the same. Carrie Bradshaw, for instance, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is a fashionista and writer, living in a brownstone in New York City, and exploring sex, relationships, and love with her wise(ish) friends by her side. They try to take the city by storm, exuding a sense of confidence and poise that’s enviable. And hello? Things can’t be about sex ALL the time. Even if we wish it could be, getting laid regularly enough in your 20s isn’t as easy as some of these shows would like us to believe.
Ross, Rachel, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, and Chandler are the best of friends, living life in the big city together and cracking jokes at Central Perk. They go to each others’ apartments, spend an enormous amount of time together, and all have pretty great jobs. It honestly doesn’t get better than this. Except, this isn’t really how things work IRL. How are they able to go the cafe during their lunch breaks – do they all work in close proximity to it? Monica just so happens to live in her grandmother’s rent-controlled apartment, which is gigantic by New York City standards – and is able to house Rachel while she gets back on her feet. And Joey’s lucky that Chandler basically funds his struggling actor career by paying for his headshots and also taking care of all the bills while they were roommates. Honestly, one of the few, if not the only, times there’s remotely an issue with money is when the gang goes to eat at a rather pricey restaurant and Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey can’t afford it because they have low-paying jobs.