As a true lover of television, there’s nothing I crave more than a little behind-the-scenes info. Which is why I love shows that give us a glimpse of what it’s really like backstage: the fame, the fights, the romances and the daily grind of producing a television show. There’s a surprising number of shows that dive into the ins-and-outs of putting on a television program—and I can’t get enough of them. If you need some behind-the-scenes action as much as I do, here are three shows and one book that more than deliver on the backstage drama.
Aaron Sorkin is the king of behind-the-scenes television, showing us the inner-workings of live sketch comedy shows (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and even the White House (The West Wing). But it all started with Sports Night, a half-sitcom/half-drama that dives into the world of sports news. It stars Peter Krause and Josh Charles as the co-anchors Casey and Dan; Felicity Huffman as executive producer Dana, and an amazing cast that included Joshua Malina, Robert Guillaume and Sabrina Lloyd. The show explores the relationships between all of the staff and the tensions that arise under constant pressure from the network. The political and ethical issues around a sports show are immediately compelling, but it also doesn’t hurt that there’s insane sexual chemistry between Casey and Dana. Paired with Sorkin’s signature fast-paced and quick-witted dialogue, this show is definitely worth a binge or two. Or maybe five.
You’d have to live under, well, a rock to not have heard of Tina Fey’s award-winning comedy. I recently rewatched all seven seasons, and I have to say: it’s even better than I remember. From Fey’s hilariously lame Liz Lemon to Alec Baldwin’s corporate Jack Donaghy, the characters are all memorable and the storylines are laugh-out-loud funny. The show takes place at NBC on the set of a fake sketch show called The Girlie Show with Tracy Jordan. The mechanics of running an SNL-style live show are never delved into much, not unless you count the crazy backstage antics of stars Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski). But 30 Rock isn’t known for its realism, and who cares? Do yourself a favor and binge this deeply hilarious show within a show.
Full disclosure: I have not yet seen this critically acclaimed HBO show. But I only hear good things about the behind-the-scenes drama, which focuses on a cable network news channel called ACN. This is another Aaron Sorkin show (clearly), and it’s a guarantee that he brings his witty charm to each script. Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, a Republican news anchor who’s not easy to work with. When his ex-girlfriend accepts a job as his new executive producer, things get especially tricky. Apparently the show uses real current events as its news stories, all while highlighting the daily struggles and tensions involved with delivering the news. I’m ready to binge this thoughtful drama ASAP, and you should definitely join me. (Editors’ Note: Some of the BookTrib editors have seen The Newsroom, and let us tell you, GOLD. Pure. Gold. Trust us.)
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, Leah Remini (Ballantine Books; November 3, 2015)
Is there anything better than a truly tell-all Hollywood memoir? Clearly the answer is no, especially when that memoir includes a scathing account of Scientology. In her new book, television star Remini (best known for King of Queens) dives into her past, from joining the church as a child to moving to Hollywood and rubbing elbows with Scientology elite (like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). But when the outspoken actress starts to question her faith, the church turns its back on her, forcing her and her family to make some truly tough decisions. This book is a definite must-read for anyone who’s curious about Hollywood and the secretive world of Scientology.