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How realistic are the writers on TV?

Alex Casey rounds up all the characters on Lightbox who are glamorous writers and examines just how accurate their portrayals of the profession are.

Like many, I was led to believe that being a writer would mostly consist of calmly sitting down at my desk next to an ornate antique lamp, cranking open my laptop and tapping out a word-perfect advice column while narrating it aloud in my head, before going out for Cosmopolitans with the gals; Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. You do that once a month or so and somehow have enough money to live alone in an apartment in New York and own $40,000 worth of shoes. Easy. 

When I actually became a writer, that whole vision soon fell apart and television is entirely to blame. Well, television and the housing market. Recently, while recovering from wisdom teeth surgery in front of The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, I was left questioning yet again. Despite her life falling apart at the seams, self-help writer Abby McCarthy still manages to wear clean white tops, marble floors and churn out a book every quarter. Me? I prefer a dressing gown and am exhausted after writing three words.

So, are there actually any accurate depictions of writers on TV? Let us navel-gaze into the navel-gazers navel and find out.

Abby McCarthy, The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce

Similarities: Abby McCarthy is a self-help author who pours every inch of her experiences into her book series The Girlfriend’s Guide, which makes things tricky when she and her husband attempt to hide their pending separation from the public. Putting yourself in your work is extremely common via I am doing it right now, as is trying to hide your despair beneath a smiley author photo.

Differences: Abby doesn’t seem to do a hell of a lot of actual writing, and spends a lot of time eating yummy brunch and shopping. Look at that champagne! She also works for Carrie Fisher, which is more difficult now than it has ever been. I prefer Lindauer anyway.

Hank Moody, Californication

Similarities: Hank Moody, author of fake novels such as South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss, and God Hates Us All, basically thinks he’s Ernest Hemingway because he likes to drink heavily. Ironically, Moody gets intensely moody about deadlines and often suffers from chronic writer’s block. Too real.

Differences: Hank loves owning his success and reckons the sweetest four words in the English language are “I love your writing.” This feels wildly at odds with the rampant self-loathing and deflection of praise that seems to be the norm IRL.

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

Similarities: Liz Lemon – the head writer for live comedy sketch show TGS – stress eats a lot, wears promotional hoodies and spends a lot of time groaning, which is possibly the closest incarnation of being a writer ever committed to the small screen.

Differences: Liz is smart enough to rock this terrifying severed shirt for maximum air circulation under her hoodie. None of us here in real life have reached that level of expertise yet.

George Turner, 800 Words

Similarities: George Turner is a columnist for a big Sydney newspaper who moves to New Zealand and continues to write about his life journey from the small town of Weld. As we found out last year, when we sent real-life editors some samples of his work, George Turner’s writing isn’t always the greatest. “Superficial” said one editor, “waffly” said another. Same.

Differences: George is yet another TV writer who narrates every single moment of his column in his head, and somehow doesn’t swear or scream or make any mistakes. “Logically, the best place to start the story of the new beginning, is at the beginning,” he coos. “But where is the beginning?” Makes you think. 


Click below to watch all these writers tapping away in The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, 30 Rock, Californication, and 800 Words on Lightbox today:

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