TV Shows and the Workplace

What is your favorite television show?

We all have one whether it is an intense drama like The Walking Dead, a creative fantasy like Game of Thrones, or a sweet comedy like The Big Bang Theory.  TV is an escape for many people.  A way to zone out of whatever stressful situations they are dealing with at work or home and think about someone else’s life for 21 or 42 minutes.

One of the most successful categories of TV shows is workplace comedies or workplace drama.  Why?

We suspect it has something to do with the 8+ hours a day that most people spend at work.  Workplace TV shows tap into an area of life that people can relate to.  Even if your job is very different than those you see on TV it takes the familiar banter and turns it on its head to make even more interesting situations.  The secret to a good TV show is good characters.  And the best workplace shows have some of the most memorable characters ever.

We did a poll in our office and asked our staff their favorite workplace comedies and dramas.

The Workplace Comedies

1) The Office

There is no way to talk about workplace comedies and not mention The Office.  It’s one of a kind (well not really since it was a copy of the same show in the UK) but you get what we mean.  Spanning the course of 9 seasons and 201 episodes The Office brought a myriad of memorable moments and characters that the world could never forget.  Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim and Pam, Angela, Oscar, Kevin, Meredith, Creed, Stanley, Ryan, Kelly, and even Toby made up one very fun, very weird office and people all over the country became obsessed with Dunder Mifflin.

Who knew a show about a small paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania would capture the hearts of millions?  The writing was on point, the characters were quirky and wonderful, and the laughter never stopped.  It took just about every awkward interaction you’ve had at work and magnified it.   It was a true ensemble show, you came to know and care about each of the characters.  And the frame narrative about a documentary (often referred to as a mockumentary) crew following them around gave a unique and intimate look into the lives of the characters.

2) Parks and Recreation

Very similar to The Office in its frame narrative and great character development, Parks and Recreation or Parks and Rec for short took what The Office started and went a few steps deeper into quirky.  The characters were weirder but still had the heart-warming moments that made us keep tuning in week after week.   Oh yeah and then there was the star power in the cast to back it up; Amy Pohler, Chris Pratt, Rob Lowe, etc.

Small town Indiana became a place where anything could happen and the everyday workings of local government allowed for a lot of laughter.  Even when the final series jumped ahead a few years in the final season and then decades ahead in the finale episode viewers were just as invested as before.  One of the more random, but awesome parts of the show was the huge political guest stars that they managed to have including: John McCain, Madeleine Albright, and even Vice President Joe Biden!

3) M*A*S*H*

Multiple people in our office nominated this show for the list, you would think that a show centering around a team of doctors and surgeons stationed in South Korea during the Korean War would be classified under the drama category, but almost everyone considers M*A*S*H*  a comedy.  There are some darker episodes and a lot of political conversation occurring, but overall it is remembered for being hilarious and is one of the highest rated TV shows in history.  It lasted 11 seasons and had 256 episodes.

Like all of the other shows on our list it was an ensemble show, some characters were more memorable than others.  The main 4 character appeared in at least 200 episodes each.  The show premiered in 1972 and ran until 1983 but is currently in syndication and continues to be extremely popular.

The Workplace Dramas

Now workplace comedies are one thing, in a way making people laugh about absurd work situations is easy, but then there are workplace dramas.  You have to make people care about the characters so much that they are on the edge of their seats no matter what is happening.

1) The West Wing

The West Wing does this perfectly.  Again it is a true ensemble show with a diverse cast of unique characters that the audience falls in love with.  The situations the characters get into have significantly higher stakes than those of workplace comedies, and with the higher stakes comes stress, tension, and intrigue.

Workplace dramas take us into unusual workplaces, ones that most people never experience, because it is the unknown that intrigues us, we get a glimpse into how the “other side” lives.  And specifically with The West Wing Aaron Sorkin’s writing just makes everyone want to keep coming back for more.

2) ER

The predecessor to today’s top medical drama’s, ER was one of the first and most memorable medical workplace dramas.  It lasted a whopping 15 seasons, aired 331 episodes, received 124 Emmy nominations, which made it the most nominated drama series in history, and it won 23 of them!  It took a host of doctors, nurses, and patients and made us fall in love with the nitty gritty of Chicago.  Most of us only go to a hospital when something bad happens, but with this show we got to see the good with the bad.

Not to mention it had regulars like George Clooney and John Stamos.

3) Madmen

Set in the 1960’s Madmen gives audiences a glimpse into the marketing and advertising world that was New York City. Over the top characters and a sense of nostalgia led to a committed fan base, and eventually to Jon Hamm who played the main character winning an Emmy award for best actor.

Most of the viewers didn’t remember what life was like in the 60’s so for some it acted more like a history lesson full of colorful clothing, foul language, the inner workings of an ad agency, and the bustling New York City.

Honorable Mentions


If you think about the context of 24 it is a workplace drama, it just so happens that Jack Bauer’s workplace happens to be everywhere.  Spanning 8 seasons, each season showed you the events of a single day in Jack’s life and at his job at the Counter Terrorism Unit.  This is also a work situation that only a few people experience firsthand, so it gives the audience a glimpse into a unique action packed world.


A different take on the typical medical drama, House follows the life of a brilliant, yet challenging, doctor who solves cases that no one else can.   Based off of the character of Sherlock Holmes every episode presented a new mystery illness for Dr. House to try and solve with the help of his team.


What are your favorite television shows?