New research finds television gossip can help you win at work, writes Judith Woods
If you're wondering whether you can afford to splash out on a new 55-inch plasma 3D television this Christmas, dither no more and whip out your credit card. The kids are worth it.
A new study has revealed that the key to career success doesn't lie in a degree from a top college, but an A+ in slow-burn Danish thrillers, business reality shows and compelling American dramas.
It appears that mentioning certain television programmes at work will not just win friends, but also influence people, resulting in a fast-tracked promotion. So much so, that one-in-five of us is prepared to fake our knowledge of these shows to create a good impression.
When chatting to the boss, dropping catchphrases from The Apprentice into conversation will make you appear 110pc savvy, even if you've never watched it. A shared passion for the Hobbitty attractions of Game of Thrones or the "is he, isn't he?" enigma of Homeland is guaranteed to create the sort of deep connection that no amount of coffee-fetching could achieve.
Television isn't just the idle stuff of water-cooler encounters. The medium famously dismissed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright as "chewing gum for the eyes" has evolved into the social glue that binds us together – as long as you don't mention de trop shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and I'm a Celebrity . . .
It could be said that old-boy network nepotism is being supplanted by TV tribalism, which would mean that sitting at home sofa-surfing is the 21st-Century equivalent of working late every night.
But currency is crucial and you have to keep up to speak up – not easy when schedules collide. So, to fill any gaps in your knowledge, and to save you shelling out on expensive box sets, here's our cut-out-and-keep guide to help you bluff in the office with confidence.
Homeland: Damian Lewis stars as US Marine Sergeant Brody, once held captive by al-Qa'ida as a prisoner of war then released – but was he turned by terrorist Abu Nazir? As well as being a decorated war hero and a potential threat to national security, he is also busy as a congressman, husband, father, lover of his bipolar CIA handler Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) and a broken man.
Do say: It's Barack Obama's favourite TV show, you know.
Don't say: What's with all the jazz music?
Borgen: Unfeasibly gripping Danish political drama following the fortunes of Birgitte Nyborg, who becomes the first female prime minister of Denmark, and whose seat of government is Christiansborg Palace, nicknamed Borgen ("The Castle"). Unfortunately, the first major casualty of her political triumph is her marriage, when her dishy househusband tires of always coming second and leaves.
Do say: It's pronounced "Born", actually.
Don't say: I couldn't even find Denmark on a map.
The Bridge: Cop show featuring Saga Norén, lead homicide detective in Malmö, who is investigating a murder-with-a-twist when the body turns out to comprise the top half of a Swedish politician and the bottom half of a Danish prostitute. Norén is devoid of empathy but, as she's blonde, beautiful and leather-clad, nobody minds.
Do say: Of course the real star is the Oresund Bridge over the strait between Sweden and Denmark. So atmospheric.
Don't say: I'm afraid I just think she's a bit weird.
The Killing: Called Forbrydelsen in Danish, if you want to impress (and you do, or you wouldn't be reading this). Sarah Lund is the original Scandi-crime pin-up in Fair Isle knits. Given to introspection, while chewing nicotine gum, she has a troubled hinterland that is only just emerging in this third series. Gunmetal skies, isolated farmhouses, horizons stretching almost as far as the silences. Nobody does it better.
Do say: I prefer the jumper from the first series. See, I've knitted one for myself.
Don't say: I wish they'd bring back Bergerac.
The Hour: Stylish pre-Leveson drama about dashing current affairs journalists courageously pursuing the truth (and each other). The first series was set against the backdrop of the Suez Crisis. The current second takes us up to 1957 and stars Dominic West and Romola Garai, she who has bemoaned the fact that, as a size 10, she was considered too fat for Hollywood.
Do say: The Hour could show today's TV newsrooms a thing or two about integrity and feminine tailoring.
Don't say: That Romola Garai could do with losing a bit of weight.
Game of Thrones: American medieval fantasy series set in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos that prides itself on its intelligent and complex depiction of timeless moral and philosophical issues. It features violent dynastic struggles, mythical creatures and a sprawling cast of more than 200 characters dressed in fish skins (to resemble dragon scales), furs, "bone" armour and towering wigs.
Sean Bean presides as Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark, head of the family on which much of the action centres.
Do say: It's a bit like The Sopranos transposed to Middle Earth.
Don't say: What a load of dungeons-and-dragons tosh.
The Apprentice: Now that Bill Cullen is no longer on our screens, we have to make do with his equivalent across the water. Lord Sugar sets bloodthirsty entrepreneurs against one another in a series of cut-throat Hunger Games tasks.
Young Apprentice is not dissimilar, but has more pimples and less swearing.
Do say: I'm just a barrow boy with a few quid in the bank.
Don't say: Are the French very fond of their children? (Remember Crazy Susan and her analysis of France?)