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Netflix’s ‘Girlboss’ is proof biographical TV series is a rising trend

The history of biography is like the history of man. It’s always evolving. While the concept of biographies and autobiographies hasn’t changed over time, the medium through which their makers share them have.

Biographical books are becoming less popular, unless published in hardback with glossy, quirky covers and lots of pictures inside. Movies based on real people are thriving and gave us gems like “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Erin Brockovich” and “The King’s Speech.” But, you lose a lot when you try to pack in a person’s lifetime into two hours.

Then we have documentaries, which are to the point, informative and non-time consuming, but I can’t help but associate them to lazy days in middle school when my teacher didn’t want to teach.

But the last two decades saw the rise of biographical TV shows, and for a good reason too. TV shows are the perfect medium to share a person’s story. Unlike books, there is a visual depiction that employs your imagination. Episodes don’t run for more than an hour, catering to our generation’s short attention span.

Netflix, the prime authority in satisfying our generation’s visual needs, partook in this concept with “Orange Is The New Black” based on Piper Kerman’s memoir “Orange Is the New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison.” Pretty much everyone is familiar with this. Now, Netflix is giving another memoir a similar treatment.

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s memoir “#Girlboss” is being adapted into a series aptly named “Girlboss”. The show will premiere on Netflix on April 21. Netflix had a similar concept with “Narcos,” where the first to two seasons depicted the life of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, with the following seasons shifting focus on the Cali cartel.

But, Netflix is not the kingpin of biographical TV shows. Bill Lawrence’s “Scrubs” was probably one of the first mainstream fiction series to be based on an actual person. The series was created on stories told to Lawrence by his friend Dr. Jonathan Doris about his experience as a medical intern at Alpert Medical School at Brown University. So, I guess I have Doris to thank for the creation of the greatest TV show of all time. Don’t argue with me on this because I will fight to the death to protect “Scrubs”.

Since the early 2000s, many shows inspired by the lives of interesting people have followed. Some of have been self-produced by the subject of the story, like “The Goldbergs”, based on show creator Adam F. Goldberg’s own family.

Many have been historically inspired such as HBO’s “Band of Brothers” and “Boardwalk Empire,” or the BBC’s “Call the Midwife.” In the constant duel for TV supremacy, HBO is slowly creeping up to fight Netflix. But BBC is clearly the winner.

Similar to “The Goldbergs,” shows based on families are also on the rise. ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” faced controversy when food personality and celebrity chef Eddie Huang, whose life the show is supposed to be based on, claimed that the show had been fictionalizing a number of the events that happen throughout it. If you were to check the “Fresh Off the Boat” Wikipedia page, it now says ‘loosely inspired by’ instead of ‘based on.’

While some may argue that altering a pre-existent memoir on-screen is a horrible thing to do, it clearly hasn’t harmed shows like “Fresh Off the Boat.” “Orange Is the New Black” has been doing it too, and the show will remain an audience favorite. It’ll be interesting to see what “Girlboss” does.

“Girlboss” might be a hit or miss. It might even become the show I rave about until Netflix releases another original series. But “Scrubs” still stays number one in my heart.

Malvika Randive is a freshman Writing & Rhetorics major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can contact her at mnrandiv@syr.edu.

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