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A surprising number of scripted television shows are based on real people and true events, even if they don’t always stick strictly to history. Still, all of the following shows were great adaptations and at least true to the spirit of their source material, from day-to-day life in a women’s prison to working as a midwife in London, post-World War II. Read on for 11 hit shows based on real people or true events.
Call the Midwife – BBC’s hit program is based on the memoirs of a real midwife working in some of London’s poorest neighborhoods after World War II. The memoir changed the names of all the other midwifes and patients as well as the name of the convent, and the TV show stuck to those name changes and some of the events on the show are straight off of the pages of the book.
Orange is the New Black – Netflix’s critically acclaimed prison drama-comedy has strayed far from Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. The show maintains the original purpose of the book, though, which was to shine a light on America’s broken prison system.
Band of Brothers – HBO’s Band of Brothers is based on the 1992 book by the same name, and as part of the show’s authenticity, every episode except the finale opened with interviews of the real-life soldiers who survived. None of the real-life soldiers were named, so viewers did not know which soldiers survived and which soldiers died until the finale’s big reveal.
Necessary Roughness – The USA Network sports drama is based on real-life psychologist Dr. Donna Dannenfelser and her time working with the New York Jets. Dannenfelser served as an executive producer on the show and was credit for writing and story on two episodes.
Deadwood – Many characters from Deadwood are based on real-life characters, including Martha and Seth Bullock, Johnny Burns, Calamity Jane, Dan Doherty, Wyatt Earp, E.B. Farnum, Samuel Fields, Al Swearengen, and Lucretia Marchbanks, just to name a few.
The Tudors – The Tudors strayed from the truth of history many times in its four season run for the sake of soapy, entertaining television, but the show does follow the reign of King Henry XIII and his many affairs.
The Fall – Writer Alan Cubitt based The Fall on real-life serial killer Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK killer. Like the show’s killer Paul Spector, Rader had a wife, two children, and a seemingly respectable life. In reality, he murdered 10 people between 1974 and 1991, ranging from ages 9 to 62 years old.
Boardwalk Empire – Boardwalk Empire is based on real-life Atlantic City political figure Enoch Lewis Johnson and the non-fiction book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. Enoch Johnson’s name was changed to Nucky Thompson for the show, and not all of the events of the show are strictly according to history.
Garrow’s Law – BBC’s Garrow’s Law is a legal drama based on the life of William Garrow, a British barrister, judge, and politician. He changed how trials are conducted and introduced the idea of presumption of innocence, or innocent until proven guilty.
The Goldbergs – The ABC comedy is based on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s family. The show is so outlandish that during the closing credits, they show real-life home videos from the Goldberg family to show how the writers and actors aren’t exaggerating.
At the Paley Center, Adam Goldberg discussed the similarities between The Goldbergs and his real-life family.
Scrubs – The character of JD, or John Dorian, is based on show creator Bill Lawrence’s friend Jonathan Doris and stories that Doris told Lawrence during his residency. Doris even gave the 2004 commencement speech at Brown University titled “My Residency Is A Rerun.”