It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Using social media data to assess how accurately five popular TV shows depict the cities in which they’re set

Do tech CEOs keep rotating roster of animals? Do tech founders use SWOT analysis for decision-making, even about whether to let a stuntman die? When Silicon Valley premiered in 2014, people were wondering how accurately the television show depicted life in the largest technology hub of the U.S. Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in, saying that the show “missed the mark in some ways.” However, with the show’s depiction of the technology industry’s pervasive self-aggrandizement and the scrappiness it takes to build a company from a software, Silicon Valley earned the nod of approval from many of those living and working there.

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To see which shows people consider accurate portrayals of cities, we compared the discussion volume of accurate depiction to inaccurate depiction. Veep, the Washington, D.C. show about petty White House staff politics, has the highest percentage of people deeming its portrayal inaccurate. Given the show’s hyperbolic portrayal of power-hungry politicians and eager-to-please staffers, it isn’t entirely surprising that some people find Veep a bit out-of-touch with reality. Others, however, fear that Veep is inching closer toward the current political climate.

Compared to Veep, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the sitcom about friends who own a bar, has a higher percentage of people discussing its accurate portrayal of life in the city. Those discussing the show’s inaccuracy noted its ability to add humor to life’s unpleasantries and sardonically pointed to the fact that the weather is not literally always sunny in Philadelphia.

Silicon Valley, which may seem like an exaggeration of the technology scene to those not working in it,elicits a high number of posts saying that it accurately portrays life in Silicon Valley.

While not as industry-specific as Silicon Valley, Portlandia, a sketch comedy series about life in Portland, is lauded for capturing the character of the eclectic city.

Broad City, a show about two 20-something best friends navigating New York City, receives the highest percentage of posts saying that it accurately depicts life in the city in which it’s set. People praised the show for being culturally relevant.

Where are people talking about each show?

When we looked at the geographic distribution for the people discussing the city-based TV shows, people from the cities the shows take place in are more interested in the shows than people residing outside those cities. Naturally, people are interested in their hometowns.

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There are distinct age differences for those discussing the five TV shows. Older people (35 and above) discuss Veep and Silicon Valley the most. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Broad City have the highest percentage of people below the age of 25 discussing those shows. While the central characters in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are in their thirties, the nature of the show, a sitcom like Friends, may appeal to a younger crowd. Broad City revolves around two females in their twenties, which may attract viewers who fall in the same age range. Broad City also employs marketing tactics to appeal to millennials.

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The gender demographics also vary for each TV show. Those who discuss Silicon Valley are mostly male, at 76 percent. The gender demographics of who discusses Silicon Valley reflect the male-dominated industry on the show and in real life. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show that stars overgrown frat bros, also attracts a largely male audience, at 64 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, women empowerment-themed Broad City attracts 55 percent females discussing the show.

By looking at the discussion of TV shows on social media, we were able to discover whether locals thought that the TV shows’ portrayal of their hometown hit the spot or missed the mark.

For more information about trends in TV, download the US Consumer Trends in Media and Entertainment report below.

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