TV shows inspired by Real life People #AtoZChallenge - GODYEARS

TV shows inspired by Real life People #AtoZChallenge

April 21, 2016

Movies based on real life incidents make for good and often inspiring tales. They help us relive key moments of history in a short span of time. Making a TV show based on real life characters and events is a different cup of tea. Knowing that the comfort of a tight 2 hour time is replaced by larger, often undetermined period of story telling for a show of many years and seasons, it takes talent and often guts to attempt to recreate real life events. And yet, there are quite a few good shows that have chosen this path with huge success.

Inspired by events, eras and people and their life experiences, these are some of the best TV shows based on real life events.


Orange is the New Black

Based on a real-life memori, Orange is The New Back centers on Piper Chapman, following her years as a convict in a female federal prison for a crime (smuggling drugs) she had committed a long time ago. 

Bones

Surprise, surprise. The mysteries surrounding our dear Temperance Brennan are based on author (and producer of the show) Kathy Reich's novels based on her own real-life experiences and cases as an archeologist and forensic scientist.

Emily Deschanel & Kathy Reichs


Band of Brothers

Winner of both the Emmy & Golden Globe for best mini-series, this World War II epic was based on Stephen F Ambrose's non fiction book of the same name. 

The Tudors

While not a dutiful representation, the show did follow the rule of the notorious King Henry VIII and his various affairs.

Downton Abbey

Surprisingly, the historical drama that caught everyone's imagination was based off a non-fiction book "To Marry an English Lord" based on the post-Edwardian era.

The Fall

The BBC drama was based on the real-life BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, reliving real-life serial killer Dennis Radar's horrifying escapades even as he hid in plain sight, as a regular married man and father.


Scrubs

Yes. There is a real J.D! Dr Jonathan Doris was a friend of the show's creator, Bill Lawrence and used to regale him with tale of medical life and the lessons he had learned as a young resident. Those memories would go on to touch millions of hearts across the world.

Fawlty Towers

While the Monty Python crew were staying at the Gleneagles hotel during film for their own show, actor John Cleese  curiously observed the odd and frantic behavior of the owner, Donald Sinclair. The owner would mock his guests, taunt their eating habits and even threw an actor's briefcase out of the hotel, believing it had a bomb.
John Cleese described him as the rudest man he had ever seen in his life. He then dutifully went on to stay back after shooting for Monty Python was over, just so that he could study the owner's mannerisms.
His portrayal as the harried owner Basil of Fawlty Towers hotel is the stuff of British comedy legend today. 

Entourage

If you see actor Mark Wahlberg having a lot of cameos in this show, it is because the show is based on his life! The show based on daily events in the life of a rising movie star had Wahlberg as an executive producer too.

MASH

The iconic show based on the lives of surgeons and medical staff stuck in the Korean War is based on the book by Dr. H. Richard Hornberger, a military surgeon who served in Korea. Not only were the main characters in the show based on real life staff serving in the army hospital, the plotlines for most episodes were based on anecdotes revealed by real MASH surgeons during interviews.


Community

Yes, it is true! Creator Dan Harmon did attend an actual Greendale Community College and get into a study group with people he had nothing in common with, just as in the show! And while he was not a part of the real life study group, there really is a pop culture fanatic character called Abed in real life too, a friend of Dan's!

Scandal

The political thriller show about a woman regularly called in for her discreet trouble-shooting skills is based on real life crisis management specialist, Judy Smith who was also a press aide during the George W Bush administration. She is also a co-executive producer on this show.


Necessary Roughness

The sports drama was based on real life psychologist Dr. Donna Dannenfelser as she worked with the American football team, the New York Jets.

Narcos

The crime thriller based on the cocaine industry is unsurprisingly based on the life of the most infamous of drug smugglers, Pablo Escobar.

Boardwalk Empire

The political drama centers around the life of Enoch L. Johnson, a real-life Atlantic City politician. It is based on the non-fiction book 'Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City,' written by Nelson Johnson.

Show Me a Hero

Based on the 1999 nonfiction book of the same name, the show follows the struggles of real life Mayor Nick Wasicsko as he tries to bring together people of various races and social classes by desegregating housing colonies in Yonkers, New York; a conflict that affected an entire city.

The Goldbergs

While not quite as magical as The Wonder Years, The Goldbergs has its heart in the right place. The show is made by Adam Goldberg and is based on events from his own childhood growing up. A nice touch is when they show real home videos at the end of each episode, related to the theme of that episode.

Everybody hates Chris

You may have recognized comedian Chris Rock's voice as he narrated in the background during this comedy sitcom of a young African American kid growing up in Brooklyn. Well, guess what? It was his life story being portrayed!


A very surprising fact - even though the show was picked up for a fifth season, Chris ended the show at 4 because the character in the show playing him had reached 17 - the same age Chris was when he dropped out of high school - and for him, that was the end of Chris's journey.

Seinfeld

You can't avoid it. Seinfeld is basically Jerry Seinfeld's life. The stand up bits are based on his own stand up comedy bits. And the storylines were based on either his or writer Larry David's real life experiences. I guess even Everybody Loves Raymond comes in this category, then.

Bates Motel

You all know Norman Bates, the movie character immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock via 'Psycho'. You know there is a television show too now based on his deeds - Bates Motel. But do you know that the character is based on Robert Bloch's book which is in turn based on real life killer, Edward Gein

P.S.. In a bizarre case of life imitating art, there really is a goatee sporting Walter White who became a notorious methamphetamine dealer just as in Breaking Bad.


To see all the shows  I have talked about till date, please CLICK HERE.

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39 comments

  1. We are watching Orange is the New Black right now on Colors Infinity.
    Interesting post!

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    1. Some of the names in this list surprised me too!

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  2. Most of them I have been aware of.. some watched like Mash. But need to see Fawlty towers.. it should be fun.

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    1. Fawlty towers is iconic British humour. John Cleese at his best.

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  3. The Fall sounds creepy and interesting at the same time! :D

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  4. I just discovered that OITNB was based on a real life Piper. I didn't know about Downton Abbey either! -googled Edward Gein- /xoxomake.com

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    1. Ed Gein is the real life 'Norman Bates'

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  5. I have not watched quite a few from your list. Like The Goldbergs and Scrubs :)Used to watch Mash when my kids were little, comedy shows always makes me happy :)Very informative and interesting post, how do you manage to do everything so well? Tips, Doc :)

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    1. Thanks.. this is a bit of an effort I admit but I wanna do it right...

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  6. So I was reading, and as I was scrolling down, I was waiting for Seinfeld to make its appearance. That and OITNB were the only ones I knew for sure were based on real life. But of course, as always, your detailed post impressed me! :)

    You know, I've read somewhere that HIMYM was partially inspired by the lives of its writers; incidents etc, if not the story as a whole.

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    1. Definitely parts of HIMYM would have found its origins from real life.. but as such, it isnt the singular events of one person.

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    2. Like how we add bits of ourselves in the stories we write ;)

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    3. exactly... many shows do that

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  7. While going through the list I wondered what if Supernatural too was real :P Except for Bones had no idea others were based on real life.

    A Whimsical Medley
    Twinkle Eyed Traveller

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    1. Oh man... imagine that. I'd honestly like to think its possible.. that we do have a dean and Sam protecting us :)

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  8. I've stopped saying that I watch sitcoms a lot, after reading your posts because I've barely seen any! :(
    But on the contrary, the list looks interesting and has given me further series to put in my to-watch-list :P

    Cheers
    Geets

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    Replies
    1. There's always time to start... if I can give you a few good shows that will make you smile, im happy :)

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  9. Doc, I am feeling terribly ill-informed now! I haven't watched most of the shows you mentioned except Seinfeld, Everbody Loves Raymond, Scrubs, Bones and Mash! A show based on Wahlberg...wow! Growing more knowledgeable with each of your posts!
    @KalaRavi16 from
    Relax-N-Rave

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    1. haha... hopefully, you can write a thesis after this

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  10. Great compilation ! I am a big time tv show buff and have thoroughly enjoyed your entire weird if posts ! Let's have another season of such posts in the Fall :).

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    1. haha... I wouldnt mind.. so many good shows just miss this list.

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  11. seriously after reading your posts i think i know nothing about sitcoms!!!

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    1. haha.. nothing like that.. I just do a little research for the posts... plus, i know some unwanted trivia and this was a good way to release it all

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  12. Quite a list but entertaining to read on shows about real life characters:)

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  13. Out of shows that you have listed, I haven't watched many but Downton Abbey is my favourite. Every thing about the show is perfect.
    You got a good post there!

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    Replies
    1. Was surprised by a few of them myself while researching. Including yes, Downton Abbey

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  14. Hi Roshan, though I haven't seen any of the shows you mentioned but a great collection and information about the shows. Thanks for sharing. :)

    @bloggerabhi1 from
    StyleBurp

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    1. Thanks Abhinav. Do check them out. Most of the ones seen here are quite good.

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  15. Bones? Scrubs? Scandal? Whoa! I never knew they were based on real-life! I love those shows! Thanks, this is enlightening!

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    1. Yes. There is a whole novel series of Temperance Brennar too for the bookworms if you don't wanna watch the Bones show

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  16. Lot of surprises in this list! Downton Abbey was a surprise! Watch it every time its aired... ;-)
    @yenforblue from
    Spice of Life!

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  17. You have a name for brilliance...........Its Godyears

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  18. Even though I have not watched a lot of these shows, I have my own list!! Just goes on to show how amazing American television is.

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    1. exactly... the key difference. Talent is identified here rather than what we do, just launching star kids.

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  19. Not only did I not know many of these were based on reality, but I lived in Wichita, Kansas during part of BTK's reign of terror. I'm not sure The Fall has reached American TV but I am going to look for it.

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So what do you think ?

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