Millennials on TV: ‘The Great Indoors’ Is Full of Clichés…and a Few Truths


Are you watching the new CBS show “The Great Indoors?” Get your Millennial Cliché Bingo card ready because the sitcom is chock full of them!

  • Everyone gets a trophy: Check.
  • Pingpong tables and beanbag chairs as office furniture: Check.
  • A helicopter mom complaining about her son’s performance review: Check.
  • Older people who can’t effectively use dating sites: Check.
  • Jokes about a physical map: Check.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the basic premise of the show: Jack (played by Joel McHale) is a Gen Xer and a former adventure reporter for an outdoor magazine. He’s been brought back from the field to supervise the now-digital publication, which has a staff of millennials.

When I first heard about “The Great Indoors,” the fact that a major network was tackling the generational divide in the workplace piqued my interest. (Shows like HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and “Girls” and TVLAND’s “Younger” have certainly tackled this subject matter, but they reach a smaller audience.)

I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that the first few episodes have leaned so heavily on stereotypes; however, there have been a handful of heartening takeaways over the past few weeks.

Here are three small moments the show’s creators got right about millennials.

Millennials will find “grunt work” more appealing if you M.I.C.

In a “millennial sensitivity workshop,” the trainer discusses the importance of M.I.C., or “making it cool,” as in taking “menial” tasks and injecting them with some fun. The example they gave was creating a virtual video out of brewing a fresh pot of coffee. Over the top, of course, but actually they’re onto something. No one (of any generation) enjoys drudgery, yet these less-scintillating projects have to get done for a company to run smoothly. I always suggest that managers explain the purpose behind any assignment to make it at least a bit more palatable.

For example, if you ask your assistant to create 40 presentation books, try to spend five minutes explaining who you’re pitching with those books and the overall sales strategy they fit into. You might even invite your assistant to join the meeting – he would learn a lot and would probably even make that fresh pot of coffee willingly, knowing he’d be sipping it, too.

Millennials can find new solutions that might not have occurred to you

The whole idea of an “outdoors” magazine being written from the confines of an office is silly, and yet these millennials are making it work. They are constantly coming up with clever story ideas and building engagement through adding elements that use technology for good – like raising money for endangered animals, for example.

Millennials can create tech success.

From helping Jack spruce up his personal website and social media profiles, to giving him insight into how his identity had been stolen, the office millennials solve tech problems he didn’t even know he had. I’ve long been a proponent of “reverse mentoring,” and The Great Indoors shows why it works.

It’s probably too much to assume that a network sitcom will home in on the more subtle nuances of working in a multi-generational office; broad stroke comedy is often considered better TV. But I love finding the helpful moments and real-life lessons in shows like this one.

What TV shows get it right when it comes to multi-generational workplaces? Which shows go beyond the stereotypes? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments below.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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