The best fictional writers on tv

Writers like to write about writing. I do, as I’ve been posting about it here since 2014. So of course we do get fictional characters that are writers. Even though watching someone write isn’t exactly thrilling. I get why more stories are about athletes, politicians, space captains and ghost hunters. Watching them do their job is a lot more fun than watching me do my job.

And yet, some shining and relatable examples of writers on tv do exist. So today, I want to talk about my top ten favorite fictional writers. 

Diane Nguyen, BoJack Horseman

Diane is, like most of the characters on this show, a hot mess. But she’s a hot mess of a writer in Hollywoo, so she is clearly failing upward. Through the course of the show, she’s a biographer, a movie consultant and a magazine columnist. I would love those jobs!

More importantly, she struggles with actual writing problems. Remaining honest and relevant, and working in a field that claims to value creativity while forcing it to bow to focus groups.

Rick Castle, Castle

This isn’t the most realistic interpretation of a writer I’ve ever seen. But there were some really fun writerly moments in the first few seasons of Castle. Especially in the first few episodes, Castle plays a weekly game of cards with some real-life writers we might recognize, including James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and Stephen J. Cannell.

I also love that the series starts with a murder based on one of Castle’s books. I think a lot of horror and mystery writers worry that our work might inspire real-world pain. 

Another thing I loved was that the book Castle is working on isn’t done in an episode. That writing process is an entire season long. And the book isn’t released until partway through the next season! That is some realistic writing time.

Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle

Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

The insane workaholic main character of 30 Rock is loosely based on Tina Fey’s time working at SNL. And yes, writing for a weekly live show would be insane. Liz struggles to balance the wishes of corporate, the actors and her fellow writers, more often than not dropping all the balls she’s trying to keep in the air.

I love any time the characters are in the writing room, working together on scripts. I love the depiction of characters editing until the wee hours of the morning because that feels so relatable to me. And I love that Liz both loves and hates her entire creative team. 

Hannah, Reboot

Reboot was a recent show that only got one season on Hulu. From what I understand, the creators are looking for a new home for season two. I hope they find one.

Hannah is the main character. She wants to reboot a sitcom, making it more modern and relatable. Her father created the original show and has a certain amount of creative control. They battle constantly over hiring writers, managing actors, and crafting storylines. It’s old-school comedy writing blended with modern television sensibilities, finding the best and worst of each other. 

Of course, Hannah is also writing through her very real anger about her dad abandoning her as a child. We all write our demons. Even if we say we don’t, we all end up writing about what hurts us the most. Even if we have to turn it into a punchline. 

The cast of Newsroom

Newsroom was what I wish every news channel in real life could be. I wanted to narrow down just one writer on the show, but honestly, they’re all great. From their professionalism, dignity in reporting, and respect for the work, they are heroes. I honestly wish all news was reported by people like this. 

These writers were willing to go to any length to tell the truth. To tell the news. My favorite example of this is in the episode Amen. People’s lives are really on the line in this one, and everyone is aware. It’s a great example of what kind of danger journalists can find themselves in. 

Bart and Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons

Bart and Lisa have been writers in several episodes of The Simpsons. In an early episode, they start writing for Itchy and Scratchy but have to put Abe (Grandpa) Simpson’s name on their scripts because they’re too young. 

Lisa has also written essays that won awards. She’s a dedicated journal keeper. She is, I think, what we all aspire to be as writers, but can never quite reach. 

CW Longbottom and Ian Grimm, Mythic Quest

Video game writing is an ever-growing field. And much like tv writing, video game writing is a group effort. Being in a group of creatives is a hard thing when everyone thinks they’re smarter than everyone else in the room.

Ian and CW work together to create playable storylines. And CW is a little too proud of his Nebula award. He’s generally a little too proud of his writing, which comes up in a flashback episode that brought me to tears. 

Tina Belcher, Bob’s Burgers

Tina Belcher writes some cringy stuff, man. Uncomfortable sex scenes, wish fulfillment with her crush, weird scenarios involving zombies. And I am in awe of her for it. 

Tina is a writer who writes for the joy of it. She fills up notebooks frequently with her friend-Rodica series and is having the time of her life doing so. This is what every young writer should be doing. Writing what you want to write just for the fun of it.

Jessica Fletcher, Murder She Wrote

Who didn’t grow up admiring Jessica Fletcher and her prolific typewriter? She was funny, smart, and a bit of a workaholic. And she managed to take every bit of her life and use it in her cozy mystery series. It is truly a joy to hear her typewriter click. 

Angela Landsbury as Jessica Fletcher

Rob Petrie, The Dick Van Dyke Show

Rob was maybe the first tv character I ever saw who was a writer. And as a young person who was just starting to understand that someday she’d have to grow up and make money, he had a real influence on me. 

You could grow up and write stories. Well, I guess someone has to write them. Even better, there was a girl in the writing room, and she was just part of the team. 

So now I want to hear what you think. Who is your favorite fictional writer on tv? Let us know in the comments. 

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