There are some television shows that blow up in modern culture and nearly everyone knows about. Shows like “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “That ‘70s Show,” all become well known, even to people who don’t watch them. They are instantly integrated into modern culture when they air. Audiences aren’t they only ones to notice this however.

Advertisers have taken full notice of the fact that people watch shows like this regularly and have worked their products subtly into the shows. This isn’t lost on viewers, but instead of being an annoyance or bad thing, it increases the level of immersion and realness of the characters. It serves to make the shows and characters more realistic to the viewer, by establishing common grounds with the characters. People are able to relate and a joke is always funnier when a situation happens to a character that you have experienced personally, or know that a similar thing happened to somebody you know.


One show which fully embraces realism in its characters with references to modern popular culture, is “The Office.” Through the various seasons you can see the show making changes that reflect what is common and popular in society. There is an episode where a big part was centered around the characters getting Blackberry phones. At the time the episode aired, around 2007, the new Blackberry phone had come out and everyone was really excited about it. Seeing it on the episode helped people form a connection with the characters and made them seem more relatable.

Some of the gripes and challenges the characters have with the phones are even funnier because they are problems real people actually have with the devices. A few seasons later, if one pays attention to the phones the characters have, you will notice that the characters all have iPhones. While this change wasn’t a theme in any episode, it is a subtle change reflecting the changing of times in the real world.

Another clear example of references to what is presently popular is “That ‘70s Show.” What is cool about how it is done is that it is about what was popular in the ‘70s. There are constant references to the “Star Wars” movies, the first of which came out in the late ‘70s. In one episode one of the characters talks about how he wants to get a huge TV set, and then says “Maybe even as big as 20 inches!” While today, 20 inches is a fairly small television set, at the time that would have been an excellent set to get your hands on. The show originally ran in the early 2000’s and gave an excellent example of the immersion factor. The characters all talk about things from the ‘70s which anyone from the ‘70s would be able to relate to and look back on, because to them it was real life.

These kinds of references are easy to spot especially nowadays with the introductions of streaming sites and services such as Hulu and Netflix. These sites allow you to watch old seasons of television shows. Looking back and watching episodes of shows from 2000-2005,  gives you a certain sense of nostalgia when the characters mention something that used to be a big deal at the time.

For me, I didn’t watch much television before I had Netflix, so I missed a lot of the original airtimes of shows that were hugely popular. Going back and watching them now, I always get a little laugh out of seeing any show reference something that I remember from when I was younger. I don’t know if it’s just for me, but I find it slightly off putting when a show has to use a knockoff brand or item for something in their show, such a instead of having an “Apple iPhone,” the characters have a “Strawberry tPhone” or something similar. Understandably not every show is going to be able to gain permission from companies to use their products, but for the shows that do, they are able to make all their jokes and situations that much more funny and relatable, which is great for any audience.


David Padrazo can be contacted at




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