Book gives behind-the-scenes glimpse of making a TV show
Ruth Saunders is 3 years old when a car crash takes the lives of her parents and severely disfigured part of her face and torso. Her grandmother comes out of retirement to take care of her and nurture her through years of surgeries.
Ruth is reminded every day by the scars on her face that she is not beautiful and she doesn’t fit into the Hollywood ideal. But she’s smart, creative and fueled by a dream to become a writer. So a few months after graduating from college, she packs up her grandmother and moves out to Hollywood, where her grandmother fits in as an elderly extra and she starts writing for a TV show, “The Girls Room.”
She’s a writer for “The Girls Room” for three years before she finally got the chance to write her own episode.
This also is around the time that she begins to have feelings for the show’s co-executive producer. But, in true Hollywood form, he doesn’t notice her as girlfriend material and eloped with the beautiful starlet of the show, whom Ruth despised.
Depressed, Ruth decides to quit the show and write her own show, “The Next Best Thing,” which is loosely based on her life. She writes about a plus-size Jewish girl and her grandmother moving to Hollywood from the East Coast. Surprisingly, Ruth gets “the call” that her show’s pilot will get made and Ruth believes this is her happily ever after.
But what she discovers when the show begins to take form is that Hollywood is never what it seems. She struggles with executives and actresses who constantly make changes – including the plus-size actress who loses so much weight from the time the pilot was shot to when it was picked up that the show no longer has Ruth’s organic and sincere touch to it.
Weiner’s Ruth is a flawed protagonist – physically and emotionally. She falls in love with the wrong guys and doesn’t believe in herself and her obvious talents. Ruth is so excited that her script is picked up that she gives away her power to other executives and cowers to their changes, which ultimately affect the success of her show. Her insecurities about herself allow the show’s message to divert from what she had intended – and forces her to work with people she doesn’t admire or respect.
This was Weiner’s first book after her brief stint in Hollywood, where she worked on her ABC Family show, “State of Georgia,” which was dropped after 11 episodes.
The plot clearly follows some of Weiner’s experiences on that show, and anyone who likes following celebrity gossip and pop culture will enjoy the inside view of Hollywood in a “30 Rock” way. It also made me wonder how much is changed from script to screen of the shows I do enjoy and if that was the intent of the creators or just my ineptitude as a viewer to just accept what I see.
This was my first Weiner book and I’m definitely interested in reading more, especially when I found out she will be the featured author at the James V. Brown Library’s annual Author Gala in October. I enjoyed the movie, “In Her Shoes,” which was based on Weiner’s second novel, so I’m curious to see how closely the movie followed the book.