Like it or not, Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is among the most memorable on-screen writers of the past two decades. Her world is aspirational more than it is realistic, but it’s hard to deny that the series is entertaining.
Not all writers are super fans, though. Here are three other TV shows about writers that working writers fantasize about.
A comedy-drama created by Silvio Horta, Ugly Betty was actually adapted from a Colombian telenovela, Yo soy Betty, la fea. Betty Suarez is an aspiring writer and personal assistant to Daniel Meade, editor in chief at a high-fashion magazine called Mode. Although the two make an unlikely team, Betty helps Daniel work through his drug addictions, seedy reputation as a womanizer in the fashion industry and frayed familial relationships, while Daniel helps Betty expose her writing talents. In Season 2, she admits that at 23, she hasn’t really written anything since running the student newspaper at Queens College, but by Season 4 (the final season), she is promoted to features editor at Mode and later takes on another editorship in London.
Jo Threlfall, a freelance journalist and blogger, said that Ugly Betty was one of the first TV shows she could relate to professionally.
“I had a love for writing, like Betty, and came from a duo-nationality background,” she explained. Jo is French and Welsh, and Betty is Mexican-American.
Jo continued, “I felt like it gave people insight into having to be in with the crowd [when working at] a high-end publication. But at the same time, [I liked the] lesson at the end when [Betty] came out on top.”
For Jo and other fans, it was important to see someone who was different from what can seem like an industry norm be successful.
The teen drama created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage was actually based on a book series written by Cecily von Ziegesar. With each new plotline becoming more bizarre than the last, this series follows a group of Manhattan’s wealthiest and most elite teenagers through high school, onto college and out into the real world. That is, if the real world includes spontaneous trips to Paris on private jets and an all-knowing secret blogger voiced by Kristen Bell.
Austen Tosone, a freelance writer and fashion and beauty content creator, said, “I love all of the ways writing exists in the show, whether it’s through a text message to the anonymous blogger or [Penn Badgley’s character] Dan’s book coming out and shaking things up.”
It might seem like Gossip Girl is all about patterned headbands, masquerade balls and scandals, but it’s also very much about documenting the characters’ lives through written word. Tosone said that her favorite line of the series is one by Dan: “If I wasn’t born into this world, maybe I could write myself into it.” And that’s the power of a good story, really.
The Bold Type
Some might say The Bold Type, which premiered only two years ago, is a reinvented take on Sex and the City. The setting is similar if only to Carrie’s world—working at a big-name media company and magazine in New York—and a friend dynamic that feels familiar, too. The undeniably feminist series was created by Sarah Watson and inspired by real-life former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, Joanna Coles.
Three young women navigate friendship, relationships and major life changes all while working at one of the leading women’s magazines in the country, Scarlet. Jane Sloan (played by Katie Stevens) is the writer in the group who’s always after her next big, social impact story, and her editor Jacqueline Carlyle (played Melora Hardin) gives her honest and helpful feedback that many writers welcome.
Freelance writer and podcast host Gianluca Russo said, “Even though [the show] definitely over-glamorizes [the writing] industry, it touches on so many relevant issues that millennials are dealing with nowadays. And because this industry is so difficult, it allows me to hold on to that dream of working at a magazine that I’ve had since I was a child.”
It’s the same dream Jane had, too, and maybe that’s what makes her so relatable.
Sex and the City
Created by Darren Star and based on Candace Bushnell’s 1997 book, also called Sex and the City, the series has become something of a television icon. The four women—Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall), Charlotte York (played by Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbes (played by Cynthia Nixon)—get together to drink cosmos, talk about their careers and relationships and help each other through life’s biggest moments.
Glamorous and enticing, Carrie narrates each episode as she writes her weekly sex column for the fictional New York Star. In Season 3, Matthew McConaughey makes a cameo, optioning her column for a movie. In Season 4, she writes for legacy publication Vogue. And in Season 5, she publishes a book compilation of her columns.
Despite critics calling attention to the series’ issues (like lack of diversity, for one), many writers admit it’s still a fun watch.
Jen Flanagan, a multimedia journalist and public relations specialist, said, “I think it’s my favorite show [about a writer] because Carrie was so genuine in the way she got ideas for her content. She drew from her own life and the experiences she and her friends had.”
Plus, who doesn’t love the idea that their next book or article could come from something they “just couldn’t help but wonder,” as Carrie would say? Truth is, it’s never a bad idea to write what you know.