On Oct. 1, 2018, the new comedy series "Happy Together" premieres on CBS. Starring Damon Wayans Jr., Amber Stevens and Felix Mallard, the show is about a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when an up-and-coming musician moves into their spare bedroom. As wacky as it sounds, the show is actually inspired by a true story. Years earlier, former One Direction singer-turned-actor Harry Styles lived in the attic of TV producer Ben Winston's home for 18 months, preferring the comfort of a family unit to being alone in his mansion. The unusual arrangement led Harry and Ben to join forces as executive producers on the new series, which they claim is only loosely based on their experiences together. Join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at more TV shows that are based on real-life events…
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Comedian, actor, director, producer, screenwriter and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David's long-running comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," makes no secret of the fact that it's based on his life. Along with starring as himself on the show, Larry has gone on record saying the show is a fictionalized version of real experiences and people he's encountered throughout his career in Hollywood. Of his same-named character, however, Larry promises he's not as brash or rude in real life.
By now, most fans know that Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" starring Taylor Schilling is loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman. The show depicts her time spent in a federal penitentiary for drug trafficking and has been an outlet for Piper's humorous and raw observations inside the women's correctional facility.
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On Sept. 9, 2018, the new family comedy "Rel" starring Lil Rel Howery debuted on FOX. The series about a successful comedian whose life is thrown into chaos when he discovers his wife — the mother of his children — is having an affair is, sadly, based on Lil Rel's real-life experiences. However, instead of being downtrodden, the comedian says the show is a positive look at fatherhood, adding that it "was not built on tragedy."
Playing into our obsession with the British royal family, the Golden Globe-winning series "The Crown" offers a semi-fictionalized look at the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Spanning the decades starting in the 1940s, the series — which starred actress Claire Foy as the monarch during the first two seasons and will star Olivia Colman as the queen in middle age for Seasons 3 and 4 — explores what likely happened during real moments in Elizabeth's life, including her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip and her 1953 coronation (seen here).
Although not a biopic, Netflix's dramedy series "GLOW" starring Alison Brie is based on real women who rocked the wrestling ring in the mid-1980s. Series co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch came upon the idea for the show after watching the documentary "GLOW: The Stories of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling," which is about a group of women who donned glitzy costumes and hilarious nicknames on a popular Saturday-morning wrestling program. The characters on the Netflix version aren't named or styled after the real wrestlers but are an homage to all the ladies of the original series.
Even though "Master of None" star and series creator Aziz Ansari told the Los Angeles Times that his series is only mildly inspired by his life, we see too many similarities to think that's entirely true. From casting his real parents and cousin as his character Dev's parents and cousin to discussing issues faced by immigrant families to showcasing his character spending time in Italy learning to make pasta to getting a car stuck in a narrow Italian alley (all of these things happened to Aziz in real life), we think this Emmy-winning star's show is definitely more biography than it is fiction.
Another Netflix series based on true events is the gripping crime drama "Mindhunter" starring Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff. Inspired by the true crime story "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit" by former FBI special agent John E. Douglas and Washington, D.C.-based author Mark Olshaker, the series incorporates character versions of real serial killers like Charles Manson and Dennis Rader as well as the true psychological investigative practices employed by the FBI during the '70s that changed the scope of crime sleuthing.
The hilariously wacky comedy "The Goldbergs" is an entertainment gift derived from series producer Adam Goldberg's own home movies. The idea for the quirky show starring Hayley Orrantia, George Segal, Troy Gentile, Sean Giambrone, Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey as the Goldberg clan came to Adam while watching videos he'd shot of his own family in the '80s. Like the characters, the real Goldbergs lived in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, yelled all the time and had a dad who almost exclusively lived in his underwear around the house. The only major difference? Adam had two brothers in real life, not a brother and sister, but felt having a female sibling would allow for more interesting storylines on the show.
It turns out the character Olivia Pope from the wildly popular drama series "Scandal" was based on real-life crisis manager and fixer Judy Smith. Played by actress Kerry Washington, Olivia and her team worked in D.C. helping the nation's most elite handle PR crises, just as Judy and her firm, Smith and Company, have done in real life for decades. While Olivia's work focused on helping political leaders navigate scandals, Judy has also helped sports stars, TV personalities and actors repair their damaged images.
What if we told you that Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha weren't just our favorite single ladies living it up in New York City but that they were also based on real people? That's right, "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell revealed that her 1997 book, which led to an HBO series with the same name plus two films, was actually about her and her friends. In an interview with ELLE, Candace explained that she came up with the alter ego Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) to hide her experiences from her ultra-conservative parents. It turns out that even Carrie's on-again, off-again love, Mr. Big, was based on former Vogue and GQ publisher Ron Galotti, whom Candace dated in the 1990s.
While "The Tudors" starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormer wasn't historically accurate all the time, the show was at last based on the life of England's rebellious King Henry VIII. Like most period dramas, especially those depicting the lives of real people, the Showtime series toyed with the truth to keep viewers entertained. However, certain aspects of the series — like Henry's many wives (and hand in killing two of them) as well as his decision to part from the Roman Catholic Church — were absolutely true.
TV producers Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil (left) are known for their complex and entertaining shows that dive into the black experience, like "Girlfriends" and "Black Lightning," but the long-married couple took a different turn for their new OWN television series "Love Is__" starring Will Catlett and Michele Weaver (right). That's because the series, which first aired on June 19, 2018 (and already has a Season 2 in the works), is inspired by their own love story over the last 20-plus years. While the producers acknowledge some of the material for the show is purely fictional, Mara told the Los Angeles Times "It's 90 percent truthful and 70 percent factual… and as unique and wonderful as our story is, it could get boring if you go literal."
There's a reason the TV series "Peaky Blinders" starring Cillian Murphy has such a weird name. It's because the show, about an early 20th century gang in Birmingham, England, who called themselves Peaky Blinders was based on a real crime syndicate with the same name. And just where did that name originate? Rumor has it the criminals sewed safety razors into the peaks of their flat caps and during fights would swing their hats at their opponents, gashing open their foreheads, causing blood to pour down and "blind" them.
Most "Bones" fans already know the series and main character Temperence Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) was inspired by a series of novels (coined "The Viral Series") by forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. What some fans might not realize is that those novels were inspired by real-life cases Kathy worked on as a medical examiner over the years. Not only did Kathy's novels form the basis of the show, but she worked closely with producers to ensure the scripts, technology and terminology were all true to life.
The hypnotic supernatural crime series "Medium" made us bite our nails in suspense — and it was supposedly based on real-life psychic medium Allison Dubois. If anything, the show was only loosely based on Allison's life, as she's never actually worked with detectives to solve crimes. Although the psychic star alluded to working with Phoenix detectives on the 2006 "Baseline Killer" case in her book "Secrets of the Monarch," the lead detectives on the case shot down those claims, saying, "The only information she suggested was one statement that was totally incorrect, stating she thought the suspect was a transient and had left the state."
The delightful coming-of-age family comedy "Fresh Off the Boat" isn't just breaking barriers as one of the first TV shows with an all-Asian cast — it's also based on the childhood of acclaimed chef and restaurateur Eddie Huang. After Eddie's memoir of the same name was published in 2013, ABC promptly bought the rights, turning Eddie's early life in Washington, D.C., into a popular sitcom — much to the chef's dismay. In a scathing 2015 essay in New York Magazine, Eddie shared a contentious discussion with ABC network exec Melvin Mar, who reportedly said, "It's not your story anymore. Get over it…"
Another coming-of-age comedy based on real life is the former series "Everybody Hates Chris." Inspired by comedian Chris Rock's teenage years in Brooklyn, the TV adaptation also blended in a bit of fiction to make it more entertaining. According to Chris, who served as a co-creator and producer on the series, many of the comical situations featured on the show really happened, but other aspects of his life were changed, including how many siblings he had. On the show, Chris only had a brother and sister, but in real life, he actually had six brothers and one sister. The reason for the switch? Chris felt having that many kids in the family might make it hard to tell a story, so he made composite characters that included a little bit of all his siblings to make it as authentic as possible.
One of the most popular TV shows inspired by real life is the former HBO series-turned-film "Entourage" starring Jerry Ferrar, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon. The show was actually based on the early experiences of singer, actor and producer Mark Wahlberg after his move to Los Angeles in the '90s with his lifelong friends. While Adrian's character, Vincent Chase, was inspired by Mark, Vince's manager, Ari Gold, was based on Mark's real-life agent, Ari Emanuel.
Billed as a biographical crime drama, the Netflix original series "Narcos" starring Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook is indeed based on real life. The series about the rise of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and his criminal enterprise, which helped facilitate the spread of cocaine and drug cartels throughout the world, was so real, it almost got canceled in 2017 following the brutal murder of location scout Carlos Muñoz Portal in Mexico that year. After nearly a year spent focusing on the safety of the cast and crew, Netflix gave the green light for Season 4.
Two notorious serial killers were the inspiration behind the gruesome BBC crime drama "The Fall" starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. The show's creator, Allan Cubitt, took notes directly from the pages of Bind, Torture, Kill (BTK) strangler Dennis Rader and The Co-Ed Killer, Ed Kemper. Both murderers, Alan shared with The Times, were seemingly normal family men who lived in medium-sized towns, which, along with their apparent "arrogance" and belief they could get away with their crimes, fascinated him, leading him to create Jamie's rather conceited serial killer character, Paul Spector.
It is said that behind every great man is an even greater woman. That was the impetus behind the Amazon original series "Z: The Beginning of Everything" starring Christina Ricci and David Hoflin. The biographical drama was based on the life of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, fellow author Zelda Fitzgerald, encompassing her life before they met and throughout their notoriously troubled relationship. While the series relied heavily on the book "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald," which wove factual accounts with fiction, the show was considered by biographers and historians as largely true, thanks to the wealth of published stories about the couple during their heyday in the roaring 1920s. Sadly, the historical series was canceled by Amazon after two seasons.
The critically acclaimed and award-winning Prohibition-era series "Boardwalk Empire" starring Steve Buscemi wasn't just really good entertainment — it was also based on real-life criminals. From Steve's character, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, who was inspired by Atlantic City organized crime boss Enoch "Nucky" Johnson, to better known mobsters-turned-characters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, the HBO series used real-world criminals to tell a fictionalized account of true events that took place during one of the most dramatic periods in New Jersey's history.
On the PBS and BBC One historical drama "Call the Midwife," Jessica Raine starred as Jenny Lee, a young midwife beginning her career in London's East End in the late 1950s and early '60s. The captivating series is based on the memoir of the same name by late author Jennifer Worth (née Lee) who, like her television character, embarked on a career as a nurse-midwife while living in a convent of nuns in a poverty-stricken London community following WWII.
Proving doctors are just real people too, "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence told NPR's "Fresh Air" in 2004 that his comedy series starring Zach Braff and Donald Faison was actually based on his own college friendships. In fact, Zach's character, J.D., was named after Bill's future med-student friend by the same name and Donald's character was based on Bill's friend Dr. Jon Turk. Apparently, not only were the on-screen relationships inspired by real ones, but some of the storylines from the show were directly related to stories real-life Dr. Turk shared with Bill.