This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Have you ever, after a particularly difficult or exhausting day, sunk back against the sofa cushions and asked yourself “Why me? Why does all the crazy stuff always seem to happen to me?” Did you head out to a party dressed as Godzilla only to realise too late that it wasn’t fancy dress? Accidentally arrange two dates on the same night? Maybe your relaxing weekend was ruined by the unexpected arrival of your identical twin?
Perhaps it’s just your imagination – you know, the human brain seeking to find patterns in random events and trying to impose a narrative on what amounts to a chaotic and whimsical universe. Alternatively… it might be because you’re a character in a TV show.
That’s not a comfortable possibility to consider, granted, but luckily there are some simple things you can check to determine if you’re real, or if your life has simply been scripted for our entertainment out here in the real world. Here are a few of the basics…
1. Around the house
Let’s start by examining your home. Odds are good that, even if you’re part of a workplace drama or crime thriller, you’ll get to spend at least a bit of time struggling through the doorway with bags of shopping or, if the writers need to dole out some handy exposition, hunched over the answering machine listening to your voicemails. (Landlines! Oh, the nostalgia…)
Look around. Is there a dirty plate in the sink from when you left in a rush this morning, and a basket full of washing that really should have been folded away still languishing on the dining table? Did getting inside involve clambering over a small mountain of takeaway menus on the doormat? Does that bulb in the hallway light still need replacing? If this paints a reasonable picture of your house or flat, congratulations – you’re probably real.
If, on the other hand, your house is always immaculate – unless it’s the morning after a party, when some leftover crisps and a balloon are permitted – or an eternal rubbish heap that looks like H. R. Giger took a set design job on Withnail & I, it’s possible the whole place is a fiction. There are no shades of grey in TV land; a home is either festering or spotless, even at Christmas.
If you’re still unsure, there’s one more thing you can try: wait until night falls. Now turn off the lights. If that made your house go dark, you’re probably a flesh-and-blood human. If it just turned everything blue, on the other hand… That’s movie lighting, and it’s pretty much concrete proof you’re make-believe. Don’t feel too bad, though – at least you’ll be able to find your way to bed without tripping over the cat.
For our second experiment, you’ll need to grab the TV remote and get ready to do some impromptu channel surfing. Cycle through the stations in order and note down what’s on. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.
All done? If your hastily-scribbled list contains entries for shows like “auctioning your neighbour’s house while they’re on holiday”, “a topical panel show recorded in 2004” or “five back-to-back Seth MacFarlane cartoons”, you’re okay to relax – that’s almost certainly real telly. (EastEnders doesn’t count, though, since you could be part of a BBC original series.)
On the other hand, if all you saw was a black-and-white Western movie, some vintage cartoons and a generic 24-hour News network, you could be in real trouble. Don’t panic yet, though. Let’s think about music instead. Can you remember the last time you had the radio or Spotify on in the car? Are you able, out loud, to recite the full lyrics to your favourite song? Has anyone ever even sung you the full version of “Happy Birthday To You?”
If not, oh dear. It’s looking increasingly likely that you’re stuck in a public domain purgatory, doomed to see movies and shows only after they’ve fallen out of copyright so that the producers don’t have to pay for their usage rights. Still, you’ll probably get the newer stuff eventually. Best of luck avoiding Game Of Thrones spoilers for the next century or so.
3. Your friends
Friends are great, aren’t they? Everyone loves having a close-knit circle of like-minded individuals to hang out with, support one another and engage in witty banter and conversation. Whether you’re chilling at the coffee shop or relaxing in the pub, it’s important to make some time to spend with your pals.
But next time you’re out socialising… think carefully, and ask yourself if your buddies seem just a bit too good to be true. TV friends never interrupt one another or forget what they were going to say, for one thing. They never tell a boring story or share their holiday photos, they tend not to cancel at the last minute and, most importantly, they never accept the offer of a cup of tea and then forget to drink it. In the real world, that sort of behaviour has started wars.
If you’re having trouble gauging the verisimilitude of your social peers, don’t despair, because we have another easy way for you to check. All you need to do is announce that you’ve decided to move house next weekend, and that there’ll be free pizza for anyone who turns up to help.
If the room hasn’t completely cleared by the time you’ve finished speaking, it’s probably bad news. Anyone who’s still present and offering to assist you, rather than trying to squeeze themselves under the sofa to hide, is almost certainly a figment of some writer’s imagination. Most likely one who’s never tried to move a washing machine.
If you’re starting to doubt the veracity of your own being at this point, you’re probably wondering if there are any upsides to a fictional existence – fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. Let’s consider your everyday well-being, for starters.
As a TV character, you’ll still get sick – but chances are it’ll only happen once or twice in your life. You’ll know when it happens because you’ll find yourself bundled up in bed with a thermometer in your mouth, a cold compress for your head and, likely as not, a big bowl of chicken soup nearby. What you’ll never suffer is the small stuff – the minor annoyance of a sore throat, pulled muscle or any of the other day-to-day discomforts real people have to put up with that aren’t worth taking a sick day for.
As an added bonus, you’ll also be completely immune to the threat of spots, paper cuts, bumps, bruises, shaving mishaps, bad hair days and accidentally getting ink on your own face from chewing a pen. You will be extremely susceptible to amnesia, but don’t worry – a second bonk on the head will soon have you back to normal if you lose your memory. That’s just basic medicine.
5. Using computers
Voice-activated assistants like Siri and Alexa may be tussling with smartphones for household dominance here in reality, but if you’re a character in a TV show you probably rely on a generic laptop or desktop PC of some kind. You’ll be handy with it, too, able to type at speeds normally reserved for professional writers and editors even though your day job is something like “secret agent” or “rebellious neurosurgeon” – and you’ll never, ever need to look at the keyboard.
After booting up the PC, which will happen instantly with no need to install any updates, you’ll next need to open a web browser. This will either take you automatically to Google or, more likely, some sort of knock-off search engine with a name like “Webseekr” or “NetSleuth” where you can find what it is you’re looking for. Don’t worry if you get several million search results, as whatever you’re hunting will always the second link you click. The top result is just there for you to frown at pensively so the task doesn’t seem too easy.
Once you’ve got the incriminating internet evidence you need, it’s time to go. (Don’t even think about a quick round of Minesweeper or checking the lottery numbers; computers on TV are only ever used to search the internet or hack things with a command prompt.) Close the browser, which will of course make your actions completely untraceable, and get ready to leave. Oh, and remember to shut the PC down when you’re done. As a TV character, you can somehow manage that by switching the monitor off. Happy computing!
6. Using the phone
Just like computers, phones are something of a double-edged sword for those of a fictional persuasion. On the plus side, you’ll never be bothered by wrong numbers, auto-diallers, cold callers or people who insist that you’re secretly an Indian restaurant. As a general rule of thumb, however, the more urgently you need to speak to someone, the less likely they are to be willing to talk to you over the phone.
Checking if someone’s still on for dinner tonight? They’ll answer immediately. Trying to warn them that their life is in terrible danger? Prepare to be afflicted by a low battery, weak signal or a train tunnel – possibly all at the same time. Your life is being scripted for maximum drama, after all.
Phones can also take incoming calls, of course, but the more urgent the situation the less forthcoming your caller is likely to be. If someone ever contacts you to tell you that “You’d better get over here, we’ve got a problem” without offering any further information, that’s a sure sign you’re someone’s story construct – in which case, don’t bother asking for clarification. They’ll only fob you off by insisting “This is something you’re going to want to see for yourself.” At least when you finally meet up in person, your phone will actually be useful – at the very least, you can hit them with it for being unnecessarily mysterious.
7. Work and promotions
In the real world, promotions and pay raises are fairly routine things. Chances are that once or twice a year you’ll get together with your line manager in a meeting room somewhere for a performance review, followed some slightly awkward small talk before you both get back to your desks. They may not exactly be the most fun you’ve ever had at work, but it’s all part of the job.
Woe unto thee, fictitious one, for whom the prospect of promotion is a daunting and harrowing gauntlet of personal strife. For one thing, you’ll feel the need to get on your boss’s good side via some sort of contrived scheme or elaborate lie rather than just, say, doing your job well. Given that you apparently report directly to the CEO for some reason, this might require pretending to be good at golf, inviting them over an elaborate home-cooked meal or perhaps nailing a difficult presentation to some easily-offended foreign investors.
As always, TV characters must be careful what they wish for. Even if you manage to score that promotion you were after, you’ll soon find it reduces you to a nervous, frazzled wreck who’s managed to alienate all of their colleagues and now has to stay in the office until 2am every night, which seems a high price for three more vacation days and a nicer parking space. Fictional employees would be well advised not to put too much faith in career advancement, and look for more sensible, reliable ways to make money – fixing up that old house everyone says is haunted, for example…