10 Famous Authors’ Favorite TV Shows

In an era when it’s impossible to open a web browser without stumbling across another “Is television the new novel?” piece, we couldn’t help but wonder, Carrie Bradshaw-style, just what our favorite writers watch in their spare time. Now that TV is highbrow, novels from Super Sad True Love Story to The Leftovers are ripe for adaptation, and volumes of Knausgaard are showing up on You’re the Worst, are writers as on-board with the Golden Age as the masses? Here are the results of our search, from the predictable (who doesn’t love The Wire?) to the counterintuitive (*cough* Bret Easton Ellis *cough*).

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Zadie Smith

The novelist isn’t actually on record as saying Key & Peele is her favorite show around, but when someone writes the definitive New Yorker profile of a biracial comedy duo and the genius of their sketch show, it’s safe to guess said show is at least in the writer’s top five — especially when profile and subject share a talent for using humor to explore the complexity, and the absurdity, of racial identity. 

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S.E. Hinton

Instead of making a dumb Supernatural/superfan pun, we’ll simply point out that the Outsiders author has visited the set of the CW show over half a dozen times, made a cameo as a murder victim in Season 7, and even written fan-fiction about the brothers Winchester. Let no one say Hinton has lost touch with teen desires in the nearly four decades (!!!) since her breakout hit.

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Lorrie Moore

Moore has frequently written on television for the New York Review of Books, most recently on True Detective and the failure, albeit an interesting one, of its second season. So it’s only fitting that she delivered the New York Public Library’s Robert B. Silvers lecture, named for that publication’s long-running editor-in-chief, on “Watching Television.” Moore has singled out many shows for praise over the years, but two particular favorites are Friday Night Lights and The Wire. 

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Stephen King

Given that his work has been frequently adapted for television (RIP Under the Dome) and even appeared on it (he wrote an episode for The X-Files’ fifth-season), it’s not surprising that King is a more avid television viewer than the stereotypical novelist. He’s endorsed dozens of series over the years, often for Entertainment Weekly. Two of his strongest recommendations? FX’s The Americans and Danish political drama Borgen — now available on iTunes! (Some runners-up, for the curious: Justified, Revenge, Bates Motel, and The Walking Dead.)

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Bret Easton Ellis

Ever the contrarian.

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Salman Rushdie

Though his foray into American television — a sci-fi drama for Showtime — never quite panned out, Rushdie used the hype way back in 2011 to shout out some of his favorite series. Even though The Wire might be “in the end just a police series” and Game of Thrones “addictive garbage,” Rushdie can’t resist Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, or some quality Milch profanity (or, um, Dexter; all addictive garbage is apparently not created equal).

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Roxane Gay

One of the many reasons Gay’s Bad Feminist became a breakout hit last year was its vocal embrace of lowbrow guilty pleasures. Pop culture plays a big role in both Bad Feminist, which includes reviews of works like Girls and Django Unchained, and Gay’s public persona—like her Twitter account, where her 86,000 followers and counting are regularly treated to livetweets of Ina Garten’s cooking show/lifestyle porn. (Gay’s cover photo is a tweet from the Contessa herself.) See also: Gay’s unapologetic-thirst recaps of Starz’s Outlander. 

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Neil Gaiman

Another writer who’s no stranger to adaptation — Bryan Fuller’s American Gods has our vote for the most anticipated TV series without a release date — or even screenwriting, most of Gaiman’s favorites are on the older side: he considers ’70s-era Muppets “one of the comedic glories of the human race,” and The Twilight Zone proved about as influential as one would expect for a budding genre writer. He’s particularly fond of “The After Hours,” in which a young woman returns to a department store and finds out the mannequins are not what they seem. 

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Margaret Atwood

The author’s Guardian essay from earlier this year speaks for itself:

Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, we wish you well, even though we have trouble spelling your name. May the Force be with you! We think you will make a dandy Faerie Queene, once you’ve obliterated those cold Snow King Others thanks to the fire at your command. Unlike Elizabeth I, you may even get married and have some little Pendragons, though we hesitate to place bets on the identity of the groom. Odds on it won’t be Tyrion Lannister, though he does have a touch of nobility, as his Tyrian purple name suggests. We do hope he survives the bloodbath, or baths. After all he’s been through, we’d be sad to see his neck with a donkey’s head sewn on to it. Or something equally Shakespearean.

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Joyce Carol Oates

She may have hated the finale, but no one goes on a 27-tweet tear about anything, especially Mad Men‘s divisive ending, without secretly loving it. Besides, she came around eventually:

(For the record, JCO cites Breaking Bad as her favorite of the Difficult Men bunch, though her writing on the latter hasn’t been nearly as entertaining.)