In the first Bridgerton spinoff series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, there are plenty of real-life connections to pick from thanks to the brilliant storytelling of Shonda Rhimes. Mainly the very real relationship between Queen Charlotte and King George III is depicted as it occurred. The two wed on the very same night Charlotte arrived in England after leaving Germany with her brother.
Elements of the psychological thriller, Yellowjackets, are inextricably linked with the real-life story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. In 1972, a flight carrying members of the Old Christians Club rugby union crashed in the Andes mountains, leaving survivors stranded for 72 days. Facing starvation, the 16 survivors resorted to cannibalism. The show depicts a soccer team in a similar situation, and the series raises the same question as the 1972 event: Would you eat your friends to survive?
There was a very real women’s wrestling promotional show, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, in the ’80s and ’90s that served as inspiration for the Netflix show GLOW. Some of the characters are even loosely based on the wrestlers involved. “We were so moved by the way that these women were talking about how this crazy experience transformed them and changed their lives, how it took them down these paths they would have never walked down if not for this totally weird opportunity that they all came together,” the show’s co-creator Liz Flahive told Variety.
In a chilling portrayal of a real-life suburban housewife turned axe murderer, Elizabeth Olsen plays Candy Montgomery in Love & Death. Montgomery gained infamy for committing a brutal murder in 1980. She killed her friend Betty Gore with a literal axe in their small Texas town. The case, known as the “Wylie Axe Murder,” garnered significant media attention at the time and is the subject of two Texas Monthly articles published in 1984, which first detailed the full scope of the relationships surrounding the murder.
Inspired by a real-life whirlwind romance between a Sicilian chef and an American student studying abroad, From Scratch is a Netflix series based on the memoir From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke. The show is full of details taken straight from Locke’s life. For example, in an interview with theToday show, Locke explained that the apartment where Amy (played by Zoe Saldaña) lives is the one next to where she actually lived. “It’s literally the exact piazza I lived in,” she said. “The place where Lino stands in the rain is the exact place where Saro stood.”
Inventing Anna depicts the real-life story of the now-infamous con artist, Anna Sorokin. Sorokin posed as a wealthy heiress named Anna Delvey and infiltrated elite social circles, using her fake identity to scam multiple individuals and businesses out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, eventually going to prison after being convicted of grand larceny. The actual story itself is wild, and Netflix did what they do best, highlighting major atrocities, conflict, and drama throughout the series.
Another TV show based on a real-life woman who does time for her crimes is Orange Is the New Black. The show is based on a memoir by the same name written by Piper Kerman, who detailed her experience in a women’s prison after being found guilty of money laundering. In an interview with NPR, Kerman explained that many moments in the show accurately depict her life, though Netflix took “tremendous liberties” with some scenes.
In The Bold Type, you may have noticed some similarities between the fictional glossy magazine Scarlett, and the very real Cosmopolitan magazine. That’s because the show is based on the life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles. Coles helped executive produce the show in order to ensure the writing aligned closely with her real lived experience.
Continuing with the Netflix trend of true crime hits, The Watcher is based on a real unsolved crime involving the Broaddus family. After moving into their Westfield, New Jersey home, the family of five started receiving mysterious letters with outright stalker vibes and creepy details. Originally reported by the Cut in 2014, the letters included mysterious lines that got creepier over time. “My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s, and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time,” the first note reportedly read.
ABC’s The Goldbergs is based on creator Adam Goldberg’s lived childhood experience in the 1980s. That’s right, the characters have actual real-life counterparts. Even some of the names of the Goldberg family remain unchanged in the show, and as Collider reported, a number of actual people from Goldberg’s childhood make cameo appearances throughout the series.
There is really no shortage of TV and film adaptations portraying Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and egregious acts, but Netflix’s Dahmer — Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story is the latest iteration of this true story. Dahmer’s killing spree from 1978 to 1991 is portrayed, highlighting the disturbing fact that Dahmer was able to evade capture for an extended period while targeting predominantly Black victims. The series includes a standout performance by Niecy Nash who depicts a composite of two of Dahmer’s real-life neighbors, Glenda Cleveland and Pamela Bass, IndieWire reported.
Another TV show based on a book is the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere. Though the plot itself is mainly fictional, writer Celeste Ng says she drew details from her experience growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, to set the story against a backdrop of very real themes of class, identity, and power struggles within the community at the time. “I set the book in the ’90s because that was the era of Shaker Heights that I lived in. It made sense to set the story there because in my memory, It was a time where we thought we kind of had it all together as a country,” Ng told the Hollywood Reporter. “We thought we were post-racial. Although, in retrospect, I’m not totally sure why.”
Entourage was inspired by the actual life of one particularly famous actor. When you’re watching Vinnie Chase and Ari Gold duke it out during Vinnie’s rise to stardom, you’re seeing a story based on the relationship between Mark Wahlberg and his real-life agent Ari Emanuel.
Now in its 12th season, BBC’s riveting period drama Call the Midwife is based on Jennifer Worth’s bestselling trilogy of memoirs that depict her experience as a nurse in the 1950s and 1960s in London. Some of the characters in the show are based on real people from Worth’s life, like the nun Sister Julienne, played by Jenny Agutter. In an interview with Bustle, Agutter says she corresponded with the real Sister Julienne’s niece while filming Season 1. “She was fastidious in her notes about her aunt,” Agutter said.
If you haven’t seen the hilarious Andrea Savage sitcom I’m Sorry, the half-hour scripted comedy is 20 episodes of pure tomfoolery rooted in everyday experiences. The true brilliance of Savage’s comedy is that the show is based on her actual life — albeit loosely — as a mom, wife, and comedy writer. “I’m trying to come at it from what people deal with in their 30s and 40s that I’ve dealt with,” Savage said in an interview with IndieWire when the show premiered in 2017.
Of course, if you know anything about the Royal Family, you also know that The Crown is based on actual events — both personal and political — that occurred throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Particularly noteworthy are the storylines throughout Seasons 4 and 5 involving the relationships of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Camilla Parker Bowles. In the show, Elizabeth Debicki even dons a replica of the famous “revenge dress” worn by Diana to an event on the evening that Prince Charles made his notorious adultery admission on television.
The story of a single mom doing the best she can to make a better life for her child is not uncommon, but in Netflix’s Maid, the particulars are drawn from the real-life experience of author Stephanie Land. Many elements of the show are pulled directly from Land’s 2019 memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, which details her escape from an abusive relationship and living in poverty while raising her daughter. “Throughout this whole process of giving my story to the hands of strangers, I had to force myself to trust they’ll do it justice. They have,” Land wrote in an Instagram post about the process of creating the Netflix series.
Knightfall is based on true events that focus on the leader of the Knights of Templar in the 14th century. “We take the key events and characters and weave our story into them,” showrunner Dominic Minghella told Bustle in a 2017 interview. “Much of our content is true to the historical record, and while we take some liberties for the purposes of drama and intrigue, history gives us at least the framework. And — since the Templar story is so rich — often much more!”
And finally, Lenny Bruce from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is based on the real stand-up comedian from the time. The comedian and social satirist rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was known for his provocative, controversial style of comedy, often tackling taboo subjects such as politics, religion, and sex, while on stage. Many of the controversies depicted in the show draw from real events that occurred during Bruce’s life in the spotlight.