Where would you be happiest working?
For high adrenaline types, M*A*S*H (1972-1983) is ideal. The stakes are always high at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4077 in the Korean War. Everything is life or death in a war zone that makes no sense. The docs and nurses do meatball surgery on soldier boys—and they are boys—so the troops can go back to the battle lines and get shot again. The cut-ups, Hawkeye and B.J., get away with their hijinks because they’re so good at their work, which they both love and hate. The boss, Colonel Potter, is benign but tough when he needs to be, and always wise. (Colonel Potter, more than anyone real or imaginary, got me through the horrors of 2020. The Frank Burns years can’t hold a scalpel to Harry Morgan’s Sherman T. Potter.) There was little diversity, which was true in the Korean War, and of course the only main female character, Major Houlihan, had to be a knockout—but she’s no dumb blonde. M*A*S*H indeed often “touched the edges of art,” as series star and co-creator Alan Alda later said. For one reason, the creators and writers drew on the real details of Korean War life, doing oral histories with vets. M*A*S*H may be our #1 show ever. For sure it makes my top 5.
For deadline Debbies and Daves, follow the Wayback Machine into “Murphy Brown” (1988-1998) and be part of the gang that got “FYI” on the air every week. Murphy, the quintessential high-achieving career woman, was the host of that fictional newsmagazine. The sitcom family included FYI paterfamilias Jim Dial, nervous behind the scenes but jut-jawed on camera, as well as producer Miles. This short, anxious, frantic wunderkind was put in charge by the network, but the older, wiser, sharper Murphy put him in his place. Two more blondes pitched in, Corky and Frank, who (like Major Houlihan) weren’t so dumb. When CBS revived the show back a few years ago, it didn’t age well, though all the plastic surgery on the lead actors did.
For quirky individualists, the fictional Stars Hollow, Connecticut, epicenter of “Gilmore Girls” (2000-2007 with Netflix follow-up specials in 2016), is the place to punch the clock. I would have happily slung hash at Luke’s Diner (no franchises for him) or run the front desk at Lorelei’s charming Dragonfly Inn, where a young Melissa McCarthy turned out gorgeous pastries in the back kitchen. No chain stores in sight in this town! All very New England. In some ways I’m glad I missed this series first time around, because streaming “Gilmore Girls” got me through 2017. Fun fact: Now that travel restriction have loosened, the Connecticut tourism bureau invites you to do a Gilmore Girls tour.
For creative divas whose lives are one big soap opera, I submit for your consideration “Mad Men” (2007-2015). Not a fan. The people I knew who worked in the glory days of advertising adored their jobs and dissed the despair that “Mad Men” wallows in. Legendary creative director George Lois, admittedly an egomaniac, called it “nothing more than a soap opera set in a glamorous office … oblivious to the inspiring civil rights movement, the burgeoning women’s lib movement, the evil Vietnam war, and other seismic events of the turbulent, roller-coaster 1960s that altered America forever. The heroic movers and shakers of the Creative Revolution…bear no resemblance to the cast of characters.” It was great to see Elisabeth Moss’s career take off, though, and to witness the rebirth of Broadway character actors such as Robert Morse and John Slattery.
For coders and nerds who just happen to be great singers and dancers, I hear SPRQPoint in San Francisco is recruiting. That’s the Google-like organization in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” where young employees break into song at every opportunity. Obviously I’m not the only Boomer who adores this Millennial/Gen Z fantasy, since NBC has given the Bernadette Peters character a bigger role as best pal to Zoey’s recently widowed mom, played by the ever-wonderful Mary Steenburgen. (Very on-brand, NBC–thank you.) If all workplaces were secret Broadway shows, I’d almost be tempted to go back on staff. 5-6-7-8, cue the dance break! Rock on, Zoey and friends.