Pop Culture Pet Peeve: Why do teen TV shows love an unrealistic morning meetup?
There simply are not enough hours in the day for all these coffee shop hangouts before school.
Listen, it's been a long time since I've been in high school. But even though I'm more than a decade removed from my own teenage years, I'll never forget the absolutely chaotic experience of trying to get to class on time every single morning before school started. However, when I watch my favorite genre of television — teen TV shows — it's as if I'm watching a fantasy as these high school kids wake up, get fully glam, and still meet up with their friends at a coffee shop or diner for intense conversations, all before getting their butts in their chairs for first period on time. I barely had enough time to squeeze in a shower before school every morning, and I woke up before the sun rose!
I've had this pop culture pet peeve for as long as I can remember, because teen TV shows love an unrealistic morning meetup despite American high schools having ridiculously early start times. But it was in 2010 when Pretty Little Liars premiered that my irritation skyrocketed to a whole new level.
Not only did the core four girls — Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Shay Mitchell) — look dressed to kill every day at school with full hair, makeup, fashionable outfits, and accessories as if the locker-filled halls were a runway, but they also always seemed to have time to hang out at a coffee shop before making their way over to homeroom. They'd sit down and talk about their latest texts from "A" for an extended amount of time without any worries in the world that they'd be late to class. I know this is fiction, but we've got to draw the line somewhere.
It's not like the Pretty Little Liars teens were waking up at 4 a.m. to make sure they had enough time to accomplish everything before school, because we always saw their alarms going off when the sun was already fully up. And with the amount of stress they were under from "A" stalking them in addition to all of their late night adventures, they needed as much sleep as they could get. Every minute of shut-eye counts, especially at that age.
So did time work differently in the mornings in Rosewood, Pa.? Or did school just not start until 10 a.m.? There's no way they were constantly late to class, because after a while they'd get some serious detention time. But they somehow always had time to hit up The Brew and enjoy their lattes on the couches together. They didn't even take them to go!
This is such a small detail within the larger stories that teen TV shows tell, but it's something I can't stop myself from fixating on because I'm still scarred by how rushed I always felt in the mornings before high school — and I was really good about always waking up on time. It was a minor miracle that I didn't get pneumonia from all the times I'd show up to class with soaking wet hair in the dead of winter — and I went to high school in Chicago, where I'd usually get icicles in my hair just from the walk through the parking lot (true story!). But even though I could have just used a blow-dryer on my hair after showering to avoid that icy 'do, I never did. That's how pressed for time I always was. And don't even get me started on the days when I had early morning club meetings — asking high school kids to be somewhere at 7 a.m., before a full day of school, should be illegal.
You know who agrees with me on that? Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai hated early morning wake-ups more than most characters I've ever seen on TV, and yet this mother-daughter duo rarely missed their breakfasts (with unlimited amounts of coffee refills) at Luke's Diner during the week. Even though Rory then had to take a half-hour bus ride to get to her fancy prep school Chilton in another town. How is it she always made it to class on time? If Lorelai and Rory were truly as terrible of morning people as they claimed to be, they'd never be able to fit in any kind of diner stop in their mad rush to make it to school/work on time.
It's something I notice time and time again while watching teen TV shows as characters constantly meet up before school starts. I understand why these scenes happen so often, as creators need an excuse to bring non-related characters together to move the plot of an episode along. But what's wrong with setting those conversations outside the front doors of the school, or at a character's locker? That's much more realistic than watching teenagers hit up their local coffee shop or diner before the first bell rings. It's such a simple fix for an irritating problem.
As much as I would have loved to hit up Beverly Hills, 90210's Peach Pit or Riverdale's Pop's before first period, I knew it was hard enough choking down a couple bites of oatmeal my mom made me before racing off to get to school on time. (I honestly would have rather left the house without eating anything most days, but my mom wouldn't stand for me missing "the most important meal of the day.") There simply are not enough hours in the day for all these coffee shop/diner hangouts before school, so I'm going to need teen TV show writers to come up with something different and more believable if they need characters to have conversations before class.
No matter how old you get, you'll always remember what your high school experience was like. And unlike what I see on TV, mine didn't have any room for socializing at a coffee shop before class — even though that's when I needed the caffeine boost the most.
Read more from I Want My Teen TV, EW's summerlong celebration of teen shows past and present.