The Real World

Who remembers the Cosby episode when they took all of Theo’s stuff out of his room and made him have a day in the “Real World”. Ok, I know what you are saying, Cosby is the scum of the earth how could I even bring him up? I agree 100%. Cosby is sick and is long overdue to get what is coming to him. At the same time, you can’t deny that was a great episode, right? If you can put the person aside from the art, then read on, if not skip this post.

That episode in that show, unlike Family Ties, Growing Pains or any other sitcom at the time, took an honest look at what kids perceive as the “Real World” and made it real.

They showed how children of “privilege”, and I include myself in that category, can think that making and spending money once they are out on their own is easy. It showed children who assume that there is only one way to go on the social, economic ladder. It also showed that wits and charm alone would only get you so far.

I loved how they didn’t hold back. Here is a brief recap for those who didn’t see or don’t remember. Theo, Cosby’s son, is in debt with almost all the members of his family. When the family try to have an intervention to let him know this behaviour won’t fly in the real world, Theo confidently says he isn’t worried because he will earn a lot of money as a model when he is eighteen. To give him a dose of reality, the Cosby family, while Theo is out, take all his belongings out of his room, and turn their house into a mini “real world”. His room is a non-furnished apartment for rent; his belongings are for now sale in the dining room. The kitchen turns into a restaurant run by his mother and older sister, neither of who will feed him if he is not able to pay his tab. His dad is a landlord that won’t rent to him until he hands over first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and references of course. His younger sisters are banking officers, not willing to loan since he has no credit history. He is forced to live out 24 hours in the “real world” trying to get a job, a place to live, utilities and furniture all on a $2,000 loan from his parents. While he is cleaver and comes up with some workarounds, he has a hard time maneuvering the “real world”, and you have to assume that he ends his day realizing that making it will not be as easy as he thought it would be.

It was a fantastical bit of realism in a fictional setting. While I don’t want to promote Cosby in the least, it is still a great episode that hammers home the message that being an adult is hard, that financial discipline is required and that money is essential to all parts of independence. A message that most children don’t necessarily understand from their vantage point. And while I don’t want to scare kids, I do want them to have a realistic impression of what living, working and supporting oneself is really like. That episode does it hilariously.

If you are not turned off by watching Cosby, it is Season 2 Ep. 22. But in an effort not to support Cosby, can anyone suggest an equivalent episode of a sitcom that speaks to kids about the realities of living and managing money. I would love to see a show current or past that was not created by a sleaze? Let me know in your comments. Thanks


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