Great TV Shows About Show Business - A Guide for Actors

Great TV Shows About Show Business: A Guide for Actors

As actors navigate the complexities of the entertainment industry, gaining insights from those who’ve tread similar paths can be invaluable. TV shows like “Entourage,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Barry” offer a blend of entertainment and education, providing a window into the industry’s multifaceted nature. These series not only reflect the actors’ shared experiences but also offer lessons on resilience, creativity, and the pursuit of success. Whether it’s the comedic trials of a stand-up comedian in the 60s or the dramatic life shifts of a hitman-turned-actor, these shows provide relatable narratives and valuable perspectives for actors at any stage of their career. Dive into these stories for a mix of inspiration, insight, and a deeper understanding of the entertainment world.

1. Entourage (2004–2011)

This HBO series follows the acting career of Vincent Chase, a young A-list movie star, and his childhood friends from Queens, New York City, as they navigate the unfamiliar terrain of Hollywood. “Entourage” explores the ups and downs of show business, fame, and the importance of friendship, offering a blend of humor, drama, and industry insights.

2. 30 Rock (2006–2013)

Created by and starring Tina Fey, this satirical sitcom is loosely based on her experiences as head writer for “Saturday Night Live.” Set behind the scenes of a fictional live sketch comedy show, the series offers a hilarious take on the intricacies of television production, the quirks of its cast and crew, and the corporate influences that drive the industry.

3. The Larry Sanders Show (1992–1998)

This groundbreaking HBO sitcom stars Garry Shandling as a fictional late-night talk show host. The show blends real-life celebrities playing themselves with the fictional world of Larry Sanders and his staff, providing a satirical, behind-the-scenes look at the pressures and absurdities of producing a late-night talk show.

4. BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)

An animated adult comedy-drama, “BoJack Horseman” follows a washed-up TV star from a 1990s sitcom as he struggles with addiction, self-destructive behavior, and the pursuit of relevance in contemporary Hollywood. The show is praised for its insightful and poignant exploration of fame, mental health, and the entertainment industry.

5. UnREAL (2015–2018)

Set behind the scenes of a fictional reality dating show, “UnREAL” provides a dark and cynical look at the manipulation and chaos involved in producing such a program. The series explores the ethical dilemmas faced by the show’s producers as they balance personal integrity with the demands of creating engaging television.

6. Extras (2005–2007)

Created by and starring Ricky Gervais, “Extras” follows a struggling actor who finds himself constantly overshadowed by his more successful counterparts. The series humorously explores the life of a background artist and offers satirical commentary on the entertainment industry, celebrity culture, and the quest for fame.

7. The Kominsky Method (2018–2021)

This Netflix series stars Michael Douglas as an aging actor who once enjoyed a brief stint of fame and now works as a revered acting coach. The show delves into the challenges and idiosyncrasies of life in Hollywood, exploring themes of aging, friendship, and the ongoing pursuit of respect and success in the entertainment world.

8. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006–2007)

Created by Aaron Sorkin, this series takes a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional live sketch comedy show, echoing elements of “Saturday Night Live.” The series explores the personal and professional lives of the show’s cast and crew, highlighting the challenges of producing a weekly live television show.

These TV series offer a range of perspectives on the entertainment industry, from the comedic to the dramatic, providing viewers with an insightful look into the complex, often glamorous, and sometimes gritty world of show business.

9. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017–present)

This Amazon Prime Video series, set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a New York City housewife who discovers her knack for stand-up comedy and pursues a career in it. The show provides a colorful and comedic look at the stand-up comedy scene of the era, exploring the challenges Midge faces in a male-dominated industry and her journey toward self-discovery and success.

10. Barry (2018–present)

An HBO series that blends dark comedy and drama, “Barry” stars Bill Hader as a hitman from the Midwest who travels to Los Angeles to execute a hit. He unexpectedly finds community and passion in a local acting class, deciding he wants to start a new life as an actor. However, leaving his old life behind is not as easy as he hopes. The show offers a unique twist on the pursuit of Hollywood dreams, juxtaposing the protagonist’s violent past with his desire for artistic expression and acceptance in the acting world.

11. GLOW (2017–2019)

Set in the 1980s, this Netflix series is inspired by the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) and follows a group of women who become part of a wrestling television show. The series explores their journey into the world of professional wrestling, spotlighting the challenges and triumphs they face as they develop their personas and perform in the ring, all while navigating the complexities of their personal lives.

12. Episodes (2011–2017)

This British-American sitcom stars Matt LeBlanc playing a fictionalized version of himself. It follows two British TV writers who move to Hollywood to remake their successful British TV series, only to find their show and its lead character dramatically altered. The series offers a humorous look at the differences between British and American television industries, the compromises in artistic vision, and the often absurd nature of Hollywood.

13. Doll & Em (2013–2015)

This British comedy series stars Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, who play fictionalized versions of themselves, exploring the complexities of their friendship when one hires the other as her personal assistant during a Hollywood film production. It’s a nuanced take on the dynamics of friendship against the backdrop of the entertainment industry.

14. Fame (1982–1987)

Based on the 1980 film of the same name, “Fame” is a musical drama series that follows the lives of students and faculty at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. While it focuses on various forms of art, there’s a strong emphasis on acting and dance, offering insights into the training, dedication, and challenges faced by young performers aspiring to make it big.

15. The Comeback (2005, 2014)

This mockumentary-style comedy series stars Lisa Kudrow as a washed-up TV actress who allows reality cameras to follow her as she attempts to revive her career. It’s a satirical look at the world of reality TV and the desperation that can come with seeking fame in Hollywood.

These additional shows provide a broader view of the entertainment industry, from the wrestling ring to the realities of show business, offering actors and industry enthusiasts alike a deeper understanding of the various narratives and characters that define this world.

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