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From The Monkees to Empire: TV shows that give us a look inside the music industry
By
Melody Lau

Published

October 8, 2015

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To those on the outside, the music industry can evoke glitz and glamor. Aspects are often glorified into a mythology that clouds the reality of it all. This, of course, creates the perfect premise for a TV show or movie. Whether plots are based on true stories or entirely made up, there have been a number of people who have brought stories about the music industry to the big and small screen.

With HBO's new drama series Vinyl (created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter) arriving next year, we're taking a look back at some of the best television series that have taken us behind the scenes of the music industry.


The Monkees (1966-1968)

The '60s band the Monkees started off as fictional stars of their own TV series, which ran from 1966 to 1968, but quickly developed into a real band. The TV show followed the wacky adventures of the Monkees as they searched for their big break, but in real life, the band went on to sell more than 75 million records worldwide and the show won two Emmy Awards, one for outstanding comedy series and another for outstanding directorial achievement in comedy.

 

The Partridge Family (1970-1974)

ABC's The Partridge Family ran from 1970 to 1974 and told the story of a widowed mother and her five children who embark on a musical career. The show was loosely based on the career of '70s family band the Cowsills and featured guest appearances by Johnny Cash, Richard Pryor, Bobby Sherman and Dick Clark. The group even earned a Grammy nomination in 1971 for best new artist.

 

Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)

While other shows strive to show off the allure of the big spotlight, Flight of the Conchords found humour in the struggle to find a spotlight at all. The short-lived HBO series only lasted two seasons, and followed New Zealand exports Bret and Jemaine as they attempted to find success in New York City. Being the fourth most popular folk duo in New Zealand didn't translate on the other side of the world though, as their manager failed to book then real gigs and they consistently drew an audience of one: die-hard fan Mel (played by Kristen Schaal).

 

The L.A. Complex (2012)

Canadian drama The L.A. Complex may be known for debuting on the CW with the worst TV ratings ever, but one of the show's best story lines was about a gay rapper dealing with the pressures of the music industry. Andra Fuller played a successful rapper named Kaldrick King who upheld a tough persona but was secretly hiding his sexual orientation from the press and his family. Kaldrick's narrative, which ran alongside a number of other struggling entertainers living in Los Angeles, is a genuine look at the homophobia that's still present in hip-hop and rap music today.

 

Smash (2012-2013)

Broadway is a cutthroat business, a known fact that spawned the NBC series Smash. The show featured numerous characters within New York City's bustling Broadway scene with rising stars Lynn Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) fighting it out for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a musical called Bombshell. The show only ran for two seasons, but in its run it received one Grammy and six Emmy nominations.

 

Glee (2009-2015)

While the first three seasons of Fox's hit show Glee focused on a small-town glee club making it against the odds of a high-school hierarchy and a conniving gym teacher, the show's last three seasons followed a number of McKinley High's graduates as they attempted to find success on Broadway in New York City.

 

Nashville (2012-present)

Even if country is not your genre of choice, you'll enjoy the ABC drama Nashville. The show, now in its fourth season, focuses on the rivalry between "Queen of Country" Rayna Jaymes and country-pop crossover star Juliette Barnes. As Jaymes's star fades and her latest album struggles on the charts, her record label suggests she open for Barnes, which is just the beginning of the conflicts that we come up this captivating show.

 

Empire (2015-present)

Fox's hit series Empire is part soap opera, part musical and completely absurd, but there is something incredibly addictive about this show. Following patriarch Lucious Lyon as he has to choose one of his three sons to take over his musical empire, the show was deemed "King Lear' in a Hip-Hop Realm" by the New York Times and is currently on its second season. Lucious's ex-wife, Cookie, is flawlessly played by Taraji P. Henson, who received an Emmy nomination this year for outstanding lead actress in a drama series.