9 TV Dramas That Will Make You Smarter About Business

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By Shana Lebowitz

A lot of people feel guilty when they spend a weekend binge-watching a favorite TV show instead of, say, reading a novel or watching TED talks.

But one of the great things about modern television is that it can be simultaneously entertaining and instructive, especially about business.

We picked out nine television series that could make you a better businessperson, whether you're interested in learning more about effective leadership, integrating your work and home lives, or managing office politics.

Best of all, you'll be so enthralled by the crime, love affairs, and fantasy warfare that you won't even realize you're getting educated.
9 TV dramas that will make you smarter about business
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9 TV Dramas That Will Make You Smarter About Business

This Showtime series is based on a book by the same name, written by a former consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. The show features a group of corrupt management consultants who will do seemingly anything to close a deal.

While the episodes aren't perfect reflections of reality, real-life consultants say they do highlight some important truths of modern consulting, such as the relationship between the CEO and his "number two," who is usually a smart individual the CEO doesn't really listen to. The fifth season begins in 2016.

> Find a consulting job

Based on George R.R. Martin's book series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," this HBO fantasy television series features multiple plotlines, one of which involves a fierce battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.

Management experts say the show teaches some important lessons about leadership and power dynamics, such as the idea that being different (which in the show means being a dwarf or an illegitimate child) can make you a stronger leader. The sixth season begins in 2016.

> Find a management job

Frank Underwood is one of the more Machiavellian characters on television today, or in this case, on Netflix. He starts out as a Democratic congressman from South Carolina and spends the series trying to weasel his way into positions of greater political power.

Underwood's dealings are instructive for any current or aspiring business leader, as they show the importance of treating your subordinates with respect (which Frank doesn't) and bouncing back from setbacks (which Frank does).

It's also a lesson in how to manipulate people and trade favors to get what you want. As writer and creator Beau Willimon told US News: "To be effective leaders, you often have to do things that are morally abhorrent to the rest of us."

The fourth season begins in 2016.

> Find a government job

This AMC series is set six years before "Breaking Bad," when Saul was "Jimmy McGill," a criminal lawyer struggling to build his practice.

In a way, Jimmy's experience is the story of any entrepreneur who won't quit until he succeeds. In this case, he wants success so badly that he resorts to criminal activity.

The second season begins in 2016.

> Find a legal job

After her husband is imprisoned for his involvement in a political sex scandal, Alicia Florrick returns to work as a litigator at a law firm so that she can support her two teenage kids. The CBS show follows Alicia as she reinvents herself from a stay-at-home mom to a high-powered attorney.

While the plotline is admittedly more dramatic than most of our lives, it's a good example of the way our personal and professional selves blur together to create our ultimate identity. The seventh season begins this fall.

> Find a job as an attorney

Set in Texas' Silicon Prairie in 1983, this AMC series is a fictional account of the personal-computer revolution. Former IBM employee Joe MacMillan has launched his own PC company and wants to reverse-engineer the PC he helped create.

Viewers learn about technology for sure, but they also learn about the toll professional ambition can take on your personal life. Interestingly, the story bears close resemblance to the rise of Compaq Computers, which did in fact reverse-engineer IBM's patented code. 

The series is now in its second season.

> Find a tech job

Set in 1960s New York City, the series focuses on a team of advertising executives at the fictional firm Sterling Cooper. The firm's actual business shares the spotlight with office politics and the characters' personal scandals.

Sexism and gender dynamics are major themes, and one of the most interesting plotlines is Peggy's rise from secretary to copywriter by not taking "no" for an answer.

After seven seasons, the series ended in 2015. You can watch it on Netflix.

> Find an advertising job

The series gives viewers a glimpse into the daily lives of fictional US president Josiah Bartlett and his staff. It's a good example of how an effective leader knows when to defer to his subordinates, who may be smarter or more skilled in certain areas than he is.

After seven seasons, the NBC series ended in 2006. You can watch it on Netflix.

> Find a job in politics

Tony Soprano is a husband, a dad, a sufferer of panic attacks, and the head of a New Jersey-based criminal organization. Each episode of the HBO series spotlights different interpersonal conflicts in his home and work lives.

No joke: There's a book out there called "Leadership Sopranos Style," which posits that Tony is an effective and empathetic boss who can teach viewers valuable lessons about management strategy.

After six seasons, the series ended in 2007. You can download it on iTunes.

> Find a job in the mafia

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