THE 10 GREATEST FICTIONAL COMPANIES ON TELEVISION
Dunder Mifflin, “The Office”
Trying with all its might to shine under the giant shadow of competitors like Staples and Office Depot, Dunder Mifflin, the paper and office supply company, has a secret weapon at its Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch — manager Michael Scott. Unfortunately, due to his ineptitude and starvation for attention and acceptance, that weapon is usually pointed directly at itself. Though the collected demeanor of the NYC corporate headquarters may belie the lunacy going on at regional offices, even some of Scranton’s behaviors make for interesting debate among the organizational development set. Among them: How do you handle sexism in the office? Is it bullying if one coworker puts the other’s possessions in a vending machine? How does a manager best apologize when they hit a subordinate with their car?
In the limited space provided here, though, perhaps finding answers to these questions may be too hard to grapple with. At least that’s what she said.
Life in Rancho Cucamonga might be just as unappealing as its six syllables suggest, so it would only make sense that the same could be said of its workplaces. High on that list shines TelAmeriCorp, the telemarketing company that has trapped the drones of “Workaholics” within its trench-like system of cubicles. Thankfully, the boisterous spirits of the Comedy Central sitcom’s three obnoxious heroes are impervious to the effects of this soul-crushing environment. As a matter of fact, TelAmeriCorp might just be the perfect place for their unmeritorious work ethics. Selling one product over the phone after the next like a passionless QVC might seem like rock bottom for a TelAmeriCorp employee, but there is way further to fall here as any corpse mistaken for a slumbering slack could tell you (after its coworkers have defiled its head with food and genitals as the ultimate office prank gone wrong, of course).
Vandelay Industries, “Seinfeld”
Fictional squared is a great way to describe Vandelay Industries, a company so controversial it only exists inside the head and occasional tall tale of television’s most lovable sociopathic loser and former hand model George Costanza. Whether they import snack chips or long matches, export diapers or simply manufacture latex, it’s clearly all up for a dizzying debate. Lies come second nature to George as he rolls on through life, but when those lies feature Vandelay Industries — or just its CEO Art Vandelay — they take on truly monopolistic proportions.
Acme, “Looney Tunes”
Speaking of monopolies, when it comes to product manufacturing, in Looney Tunes cartoons, Acme is the only game in town. Though we’ve never actually seen the company’s catalog firsthand, it seems a significant portion of their business is used to hunt road runners. Acme Jet-Propelled Pogo Sticks, Acme Dehydrated Boulders and Acme Earthquake pills only scratch the surface of what is available for purchase, sometimes with same minute delivery (a feature even Amazon.com, with an armada of drones, couldn’t dream of accomplishing). Yet somehow, even though Acme is derived from the Greek word for “prime,” one product after another leads to some sort of elaborate failure. We imagine their PR would chalk these up to user failure, particularly if that user is a coyote.
Yakonomo Corporation, “True Blood”
We’re not sure what other products are in their portfolio, but when it comes to synthetic blood, the Yakonomo Corporation has made a killing. TruBlood, consumed by vampires the world over, is the company’s crowning achievement and enabled this maligned group of the undead to “come out of the coffin” and walk among the living — at least once the sun has gone down. The thirst for human blood can now be quenched by this miracle bottled drink, best served warm. And though the flavor is nothing compared to the real thing, it must taste better than a Heineken or Bud Light ever could.
Fisher & Sons, “Six Feet Under”
What becomes of daily living when it is constantly surrounded by death? That is the question posed throughout five incredible seasons of the acclaimed series “Six Feet Under.” And at the heart of that question stands Fisher & Sons, a funeral home that saw its inhabitants — living and dead — ponder the meaning of life and their place in it under its somber roof. The things often discovered there were both blinding darkness or light, depending on one’s personal point of view. While those discoveries might be as claustrophobic as a casket or as vast as the great beyond, they would always be equally thrilling.
Ewing Oil, “Dallas”
Before the phrase ever became popular, late ’70s television bore its own version of “Don’t Mess With Texas” encapsulated in just one word: “Dallas.” Up until then, Hollywood’s version of the oil baron ran the gamut between a corruptible blue collar who happened to strike it rich to a sinister ghoul sporting a thin twistable mustache. And then there came J.R. Ewing, a small-screen invention the likes of which audiences had never seen before. The power struggles he ruthlessly engaged in with his father, mother, brothers and other assorted relations were as bewilderingly compelling as “Game of Thrones” is today. At the center of this groundbreaking nighttime soap was Ewing Oil, a maker and breaker of fortunes, and the setting, to this very day, of TV’s greatest cliffhanger of all time.
Bluth Company, “Arrested Development”
Family conflicts also abounded at Bluth Company, perhaps with even the same degree of “Dallas” malice. If the Ewing clan could be seen as sharks, the Bluths were more like tipsy jellyfish. Like J.R. Ewing, George Bluth Sr. also had some questionable dealings with Iraq, yet the latter’s clumsier approaches to lawbreaking — which once even included “light treason” — got him sent to prison in the premiere episode. J.R., on the other hand, was always a step ahead of the authorities. In “Arrested Development,” the real estate business supplied the same amount of intrigue as the oil game, though while you definitely can’t move the family into a derrick when times get tough, you can move them into the model home of a disreputable future residential community. Greed was the motivator for the heads of both clans — and many in their brood — and each would see their success grow from failure’s ashes just like a destruction-prone banana stand.
Known best to audiences for their research project, the Dharma Initiative, this clandestine operation is an equal source of revelation and perplexity when trying to make sense of what actually happened during the six foggy seasons of “Lost.” Both savior and executioner, practitioner of science and mysticism, DHARMA is the first and last thing any castaway would want to see while on a once-perceived deserted island. As FedEx systems engineer Chuck Nolan had his Wilson, survivors of the crash of Flight 815 had DHARMA. And as a whole, Nolan seemed to fare much better. For when a group of research scientists are more frightening than a homicidal smoke monster, you know you’ve got trouble a few poor Yelp reviews couldn’t possibly rectify.
Pied Piper, “Silicon Valley”
Good versus evil is taken to disruptive levels on the HBO series “Silicon Valley.” The good here is represented by Pied Piper, a small startup touting a revolutionary compression algorithm only slightly sexier than a mortician. The bad are the billionaire tech gurus and capitalists who want to cannibalize this innovation. The ups and downs that follow are as fast and frenetic as we’ve seen from any of the other companies on this list. The action here may involve a uniquely 21st-century landscape, but the struggles of Pied Piper are similar to any David and Goliath tale, with us as their cheerleader no matter how hideous the official company jacket is.