Okay, so maybe these aren’t as true-to-life, but they still might get you interested in a career in publishing!
Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) is a suddenly single 40-year-old mom to a daughter who’s on an exchange program in India. After separating from her husband and being forced to sell their house, she is desperately seeking a job.
Before she got married and had a baby, she was working at Random House, working her way up from assistant level to the youngest marketing VP at 25. Fifteen years later, she’s trying to get back on the saddle. The only problem is, nobody will hire a 40-year-old with almost no experience in the past 15 years aside from raising a child and surviving a broken marriage.
So, when hot twenty-something tattoo artist Josh (Nico Tortorella) mistakes her for a younger woman and hits on her at a bar, her best friend Maggie Amato (Debi Mazar) has a brilliant idea. She suggests that she pretend she’s a 26-year-old applying to be an assistant to get her foot in the door. It seems like the only logical choice.
She finds herself working for big-time marketing girlboss Diana Trout (Miriam Shor). They work at Empirical, a publishing house run by the handsome Charles (Peter Hermann), where she meets Kelsey Peters (Hilary Duff), a feisty millennial who instantly becomes her work wife. Still with us? That’s just the pilot!
Five seasons in and this show has gone through twists and turns just to keep Liza’s secret. Will it help her or ruin everything when everyone finds out the truth? Watch it for the fun ensemble cast and see if you can spot the characters inspired by real-life people in publishing.
The Bold Type (2017-present)
There’s nothing like getting your very first promotion. Twenty-five-year-old Jane Sloane (Katie Stevens) is starting her first day as a newly promoted staff writer at Scarlet, a women’s magazine that feels strangely like Cosmopolitan. She excitedly walks into their office building as if for the first time. But she’s been doing this for the past four years, her friend and co-worker Kat Edison (Aisha Dee) points out. “Yeah, but as an assistant. This is different,” Jane insists. In true millennial fashion, she takes a selfie with friends and colleagues Kat and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy), never mind that they’re holding up the queue leading into the building. This moment has to be documented…on Snapchat.
Of course, what would a magazine be without an editor in chief? Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin) is supposedly based off Joanna Coles, once editor and chief content officer at Hearst and now executive producer of The Bold Type. The show is also said to be loosely inspired by her own experiences in publishing. It follows the lives of these three millennials trying to make it through the arduous task of pitching stories, masterminding a huge social media blitz, and color-coordinating macaroons for events. That and navigating through messy relationships and break-ups, a clandestine office romance, and figuring out their newly-discovered queer attraction.
The Freeform show is only two seasons young (production has already started for their third), but it has been lauded for tackling important issues in the workplace today. They touch on race, feminism, sexuality, and ethics in media in a way that doesn’t feel contrived. This is still a TV fantasy, though, so expect a lot of heightened drama and possibly a hefty serving of blackmail thrown in there. The show is about twentysomethings trying to live their lives in today’s world.
The Carrie Diaries (2013-2014)
The short-lived CW show starring AnnaSophia Robb as young Carrie Bradshaw is a reimagining of the Sex and the City heroine’s life as a high school teen in Connecticut. In ‘80s suburbia, Carrie is dealing with the grief of losing her mother and trying to find her identity.
She gets the opportunity of a lifetime when her dad scores her an internship at a Manhattan law firm. Getting lost in the glitz and glamour of the big city, she meets Larissa Loughlin (Freema Agyeman), a style editor at Interview. Larissa is immediately taken by Carrie’s DIY bag and wants her to work for her. She takes Carrie under her wing and takes her to all the big parties and introduces her to all the important fashion people. Carrie soon finds herself juggling a double life: fulfilling her duties at the law firm and taking on a job at the magazine, too. As she tries to navigate through high school and life in the Big Apple, she discovers that New York is where her heart is and where she is meant to be. In the second season of the show, she meets Samantha Jones (Lindsey Gort) who becomes her roommate and close friend.
The show received mixed reviews and was canceled after only two seasons. Had it been renewed for a third, it would’ve followed Carrie to college, where she would have possibly met Miranda Hobbes.
Jane by Design (2012)
High schooler Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher) is obsessed with fashion. Rocking band jackets and moto jackets on the regular, she dreams of getting into Parsons one day. But when her unemployed brother becomes her guardian after their father’s death and looming rent debts, it seems close to impossible. P.S. Did we mention their mom walked out on them when they were young?
When Jane sees an online ad for a possible internship at Donovan Decker, she jumps at the chance to get experience and money for college. She walks into the office and gets thrown into a room, where she’s supposed to be fielding an interview with world-famous designer Gray Chandler Murray (Andie MacDowell). But Gray mistakes her for someone applying to be her executive assistant and Jane gets the job. Who is she to say no to a dream job, a starting salary of $34,000, and an expense account?
Now she has to juggle her demanding duties as assistant to a famous designer and also manage to get through high school. She gets her best friend Billy (Nick Roux) to help her forge her way into employment and to keep her secret.The show almost feels like if Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada had a baby, this would be it. Jane goes through the harrowing pitfalls of office politics and equally stressful dilemmas of high school drama. Keep an eye out for fashion designers like Betsey Johnson, Nanette Lepore, Christian Siriano, Tamara Mellon, among many others who make a cameo as themselves.
Ugly Betty (2006-2010)
The series that was adapted from Mexican telenovela Yo soy Betty, La fea. It follows the journey of Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) while working at high fashion magazine Mode in Manhattan.
Despite her lack of fashion sense, she lands the job when Meade Publication’s Bradford Meade (Alan Dale) hires her as his son Daniel’s (Eric Mabius) assistant in an effort to curb his habit of sleeping with his assistants.
She finds herself in the crossfire between her boss and Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams), who is trying to steal Daniel’s job. Wilhelmina’s assistant Marc St. James (Michael Urie) and receptionist Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton) give Betty a hard time for not quite fitting in at Mode. Thankfully, she finds friendship in Scottish seamstress Christina McKinney (Ashley Jensen) and the geeky accountant Henry Grubstick (Chris Gorham). Spoiler alert: Marc and Amanda actually warm up to her later on.
Then there’s her lovable family who keep her life just as interesting, too. Watch Betty go through the good and the bad with her full fringe, shiny braces, and sometimes questionable style choices to see how it all ends.