What Happens When Fictional TV Mixes with Reality?

The OfficeIt’s no secret: TV shows can become consuming, especially when cliffhangers are involved. But sometimes there’s more to watching cable TV than just being into a show for an hour and wondering what will happen next week.

Many psychologists and other mental health professionals have discovered that people are drawn to television shows because of the “fairytale factor” that allows them to live vicariously through a fictional characters experiences instead of your own for a short time. But what happens when the world on the small screen branches out into reality and no longer remains just a fairytale?

I’m not talking about “reality TV” or star tours in New York City and LA. The effect of reality TV on our culture is a different story. There are ways television characters are entering into a whole new level and bringing you even deeper into the fictional world, in reality. Did you catch that? Fiction is reality? For some shows, yes, it is becoming that way. They are merging components of the television world and the real one, the one you and I live in. There are elements from the shows being readily available for you to physically own, outside of fan t-shirts. For example, Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother” wrote books on the show, and now all three – “The Bro Code,” “Bro on the Go,” and “The Playbook: Suit Up. Score Chicks. Be Awesome” – are available in bookstores worldwide. This also happened with Roger Sterling of “Mad Men” and his book “Sterling’s Gold.”

While these books are fairly popular amongst fans, upon the release of Sterling’s book, the “Today” show referred to these types of books as a publishing gimmick. But it even goes further than books or owning a piece of the show. There are situations where the shows can become a real-life experience. For LOST enthusiasts, you can enter into the world of Jack, Kate, Hurley and the rest of the gang inside Bharma, a bar in Barcelona. Granted, the cast members aren’t really there, but the setting brings you into a world filled with familiar scenes from the series, including a hatch and the crashed Oceanic airplane. CheersAnd who wouldn’t want to go somewhere where everybody knows your name? That’s right – there really is a Cheers bar in Boston.

While the show was not actually filmed in the bar, it was the inspiration for the one that the series was based in. The exterior is identical but the inside has subtle differences due to the changes made by directors for filming conveniences. Fans of “The Office” can also attend the Office Convention in the exciting city of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The tour is offered once a week and it goes to various locations in the area that surrounds the Dunder Mifflin headquarters. This further turns the imaginary into reality, drawing the fan in deeper to the “fantasy.” I’m not denying that these places wouldn’t be fun to visit, but only if you remember that what you see on TV is still a façade and these places are based off of something that was false to begin with. However, if someone is more a fanatic than just a fan, problems can actually arise. Some people begin to prefer the fake reality to real reality and lose themselves in a fictional world. If it gets extreme, it can hinder their day-to-day lives and cause problems in relationships and the workplace. Not everything that comes into the real world out of television is like these examples, though.

In June, a San Diego company offered a $10 million payout to anyone who would be able to create a real version of a medical device that appeared on “Star Trek.” This tool, referred to as a “tricorder,” used to scan people and detect any medical problems. Inventors are working on it, but so far no one has come up with anything. Have you seen any other elements from TV shows come to life? What do you think about blurring reality and fiction together?

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