I am what a friend long-ago cringely referred to as “TV-watching people.”
I grew up on sitcoms and Disney’s One Saturday Morning; now binge rewatches are my go-to comfort activity (sorry, books) and my favorite podcast is about a TV show. Even in my contrarian “Oh, I don’t have a television” early 20s, I had dozens of episodes of The Simpsons downloaded from KaZaA to fall asleep to 🤓
As I grew up in rural central Wisconsin, TV taught me about the world. It had the conversations with me that my teachers and parents weren’t having. The simplicity of sitcoms, in particular, helped me understand adult challenges and solutions at an age when I couldn’t recognize them in the real world.
Inevitably, TV taught me a few things about money — and one episode has stood out to me for years.
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In Season 6, Episode 9 of Frasier, the main character, Frasier Crane, lends $1,500 to his friend and radio producer, Roz Doyle, who’s recently had a baby and is strapped for cash. Throughout the episode, Frasier learns Roz has been enjoying an expensive lunch, a spa day, pricy shoes and fancy perfume — and he worries she’s been using his money irresponsibly.
Unwisely, Frasier confronts Roz about her spending toward the end of the episode. He says he’s concerned about her “spending spree” (oh, dear).
Roz is obviously angry and offers to pay the money back, and she adds, “And not that it's any of your business, but Carol took me out to La Gallou [for lunch], and my mother gave me a day at the spa, and those shoes were a store credit. Oh, and I bought the perfume. That was just for me, because I wanted it.”
This episode originally aired in 1998, and the scene has stuck with me since (Frasier isn’t on my incessant-rewatch list; it’s just a long-lasting memory). I was 12 years old, and ripe for one of those basic epiphanies that help you understand a little bit about the adult world.
I walked away from Must-See TV that night with this lesson: You never have the whole story.
Especially around money, you never know what you don’t know about a person’s experience. So don’t waste time judging them based on what you think you know. Help if someone asks for help, and let them use the help in whatever way makes sense for them.
There’s even more that’s striking about this scene now that I look at it with fresh eyes. Note the female-coded things that stand in as self-indulgence for Roz, a single mom: eating out, rest, shoes (giant eye roll) and fancy perfume (probably more of a ‘90s thing?). Also note that she doesn’t have an explanation for every purchase! She bought the perfume because she wanted to, end of story. I love that detail! The writers created a great mic-drop moment for her by letting her own spending money to care for herself regardless of her financial situation.
This is such a weird memory to carry all these years, but TV does that for me! It makes me want to connect with other TV nerds and learn your stories.
Where have you encountered storylines about money on TV shows? What did you take from them (good or bad)? What has stuck with you long after you watched it, and why? If you’re not a big TV watcher, what kind of media has helped shaped your relationship with money?
Share your experiences, lessons and memories in the comments!
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Image by Rene Asmussen via Pexels
Writers who write one (1) book never have to do marketing, speaking events, teaching, or anything else to afford their fancy apartment in the city. They are set for life! Well, according to every movie ever.
I also grew up in central WI lol! I think the most influential show for me was Martha Stewart, I was just a huge fan of hers. Where I grew up, everyone was very frugal, proud to have spent the least amount on whatever it was. But what I took from Martha was to focus on quality, craftsmanship, and investing in “nicer” things which could cost more up front but be more sustainable in the long run. Her show also featured local farms, seasonal gardening etc and that really planted in me an ethos of eating local before it became more mainstream.
It's so interesting that you bring up this episode because it's one that really grates my nerves. I love the show Frasier and watch in constantly on Paramount Plus (the reboot leaves A LOT to be desired, won't be circling back for season two). We know Frasier Crane is a pompous elitist and the way Roz rags on him about it make the show hysterical. But when he decided to confront Roz about the money he obviously didn't give in good faith, it actually turned me off from the show a bit. If you're going to help someone, leave your judgements and expectations at the door, because like you stated, "you never have the whole story". And at the time that episode aired I was also a single mother and the judgement that single mothers often get was definitely highlighted in that scene. I didn't appreciate it and I'm glad Roz didn't make any excuses but stood her ground regarding help she thought she was getting in good faith.
I think about The Price is Rice and Plinko. This is the feeling of getting rich: a moment of sudden, random chance where your luck turns and lights flash and the crowd goes wild 😆
I love this question because I have talked to MANY people over the years about the episode of "Rocko's Modern Life" where Rocko accumulates a high amount of credit card debt.
Rocko gets a credit card to pay for a new dog bowl for his dog (because his friend Heffer melted the old one in the microwave). But he also looks around his house and notices a lot of his things are shabby and he and Heffer can only watch the "All Scottish Show" because Rocko doesn't have cable. So, the two friends go to the mall and Rocko buys all new stuff on his credit card. He also sees a painting of a sad, crying clown in an iron lung and is like, "I've always wanted one!" Credit card to the rescue.
When Rocko gets home and he and Heffer take stock of the new purchases, Rocko is like, "Wow I really bought the whole mall." The credit card company calls almost immediately, ready to collect the payments due. Ultimately, Rocko can't afford any of it, and all of his stuff gets repossessed, including the painting of the clown and the dog bowl. At the end of the episode, Heffer gives Rocko a new dog bowl, saying he sold an organ via the "All Scottish Show" organ exchange program to be able to pay for it.
Subconsciously I can imagine the sad clown in the iron lung and the repo truck with the slogan "Don't charge a dime if you can't pay on time!" emblazoned on the side, so this episode buried deep into my psyche and has probably influenced my money habits more than anything else (I've never carried a balance on my credit cards, for better or worse, and have a pretty ~complicated~ relationship with debt in general). Those 90's Nickelodeon cartoons...one imagines the writers were really trying to work through some stuff.
I remember an episode of Punky Brewster where Henry, the foster dad, loses his photography studio in a fire, and Punky is taken back into foster care. He attempts to get a loan to open a new studio and is laughed away at the bank because he (proudly!) has no credit. The loan officer tells him to get a credit card, buy a giant TV and some other stuff, and then come back to re-apply for the loan. I was very quick to share that tale with friends who were afraid of credit cards in college. I don't think anyone was trying to get a loan but people were struggling to rent apartments after college because they had no credit.
On an episode of “Love is Blind” after Amber married whatshisname guy, they were in his house talking about money, her income, student debt and he said how much money do you owe and she said I don’t know. I cringed. He probably thought what did I get myself into. For added context, he was very financially responsible, owned a one bedroom home because that’s all he needed. Fortunately, it seems their marriage is working out. Hopefully they are dealing with their financial challenges.