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Begin a Lifelong Obsession with Television’s Empty Coffee Cups

Screenshot from the Slate Video.

Screenshot from the Slate Video.

If I see coffee cups on television, I’m typically looking for a logo or a color scheme I can recognize as belonging to a specific brand. Similarly, if I see characters walking around recognizable cities, I’m typically looking in the background for coffee shops I’ve heard about, read about or visited. Why? I don’t know.

Myles McNutt, an assistant professor of communications at Old Dominion University and a scholar on the subject of television, may suggest I’m in search of contextual clues that can break down the wall between fiction and reality. It all comes down to verisimilitude, the appearance of reality.

On his personal blog Cultural Learnings, McNutt writes that of all of television’s routine failings at verisimilitude — “the badly photoshopped family photos, the unconvincing car green screen, the improbably high quality video chat” — empty coffee cups are his kryptonite.

McNutt and Slate recently put together this highly entertaining, remarkably thorough video based around McNutt’s empty cup obsession, which spills over into actors flailing their coffee props around as if no laws of gravity applied to their scenes. It ends with a call to action based around the hashtag #EmptyCupAwards. Go ahead, use it. You’re not alone.


1 Comment


I’m glad to see I’m not alone. I’ve been watching and noting this phenomena for years and I have yet to see any coffee cups on a TV show that have anything in them at all… not even water. It’s especially entertaining to watch a actor drink a mouthful of air and pretend to swallow too. All they have to do is put water in the cup and much of the problem will fall away.
Now… about those fake calls on cell phones… every time the phone face stays lit when the actor puts the phone to the ear, you know it’s fake. The thing is, it’s so stinking obvious!

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