In April 2022, North Riverside native Neal Fischer saw the release of his book, “Being Patrick Swayze” — a graphically guided book featuring stories and trivia about the late Hollywood icon in a quirky, easily-digestible format.
The book was the first foray into authorship for Fischer — a 30-something who, following years of music and theatrical performances in junior high, high school and college, was immersed in a career as creative jack of all trades — an actor, production assistant, videographer, film and commercial director, and podcast host.
Following the heels of success from his Swayze book, late last year, Fischer was approached by his publisher, Chronicle Books, about whether he would be interested in joining as a contributing author to a new pop culture book featuring floor plans and set designs of some of the biggest American television series ever created, sharing stories and trivia from behind the scenes.
For the guy whose life revolves around entertainment, plugging into the chance to create a second pop culture book was an obvious “yes.”
Fischer’s second book, “Behind the Screens: Illustrated Floor Plans and Scenes from the Greatest TV Shows of All Time,” hit the shelves yesterday.
A compendium of 35 famous American TV shows as told through 60 detailed floor plans and more than 250 illustrations by Spanish artist Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde, “Behind the Screens” will give TV fans the chance to delight in the interiors and exteriors from classic shows like “I Love Lucy,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls,” childhood favorites like “The Brady Bunch” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and other hits including “Seinfeld,” “The Office,” “Sex and the City” and “Breaking Bad.”
With Lizarralde’s expert renditions with an architect’s eye for detail and Fischer’s director sense of storytelling, “Behind the Screens” transports readers to shows across the decades, offering both nostalgia for memorable TV moments and Easter eggs for fans of all ages.
“This book is for fans of TV and TV history who love learning behind-the-scenes facts and trivia nuggets about some of the most famous TV shows of all time, and also architectural nerds who would love to see these sets come to life,” Fischer said.
Fischer said he loves how the book gives readers a peek behind the fourth wall, helping them imagine their favorite TV programs as real places.
“What Iñaki did was make the sets all real and something you could build if you wanted to,” he said.
Alongside Lizarralde’s illustrations, Fischer’s work entailed providing historical background and diehard-fan trivia for each show depicted.
Though the book includes some of the most predictable big hitters from the small screen, it was important to Fischer to suggest to Iñaki and publishers the importance of including nostalgic programs from across the spectrum.
“You have the influential shows, which are timeless, and a kids/educational section because they changed the way kids watch TV,” he explained. “I had to figure out a way to fit in shows about New York, family shows, and workplace comedies. Some people are big on family shows, and others more into office shows, so I worked to figure how someone could pick up this book and it would have enough difference to make it a coffee table book of many TV nuggets.”
With his Swayze book, Fischer had a couple of years to compose his thoughts and put drafts together before final publication. This time around, Fischer had three months to deliver a first draft of the whole book.
“When I wrote it, I was getting so into watching the TV shows and finding the trivia and history that no one talks about from these shows,” he said.
Afterward, he spent a few times a month copyediting and working alongside Iñaki to add new props or highlight features of the shows to accompany the storyline. He would pick one show and dedicate roughly one week toward research.
Downloading PDFs of original scripts, watching video interviews of crew and actors from the shows, and scanning through online message boards from fan sites, Fischer said he became a sort of “private investigator for pop culture.”
By exploring the book, readers will learn even more about how a show’s crew really plays a pivotal role in its success — something timely, considering the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and Writer’s Guild strikes.
“Behind the Screens” demonstrates how in entertainment, it takes a full community to develop the hit programs Americans have come to know and adore.
“Behind the Screens” is available for purchase through ChronicleBooks.com, Amazon and other retailers.
Fischer will be on a book tour this fall, with stops at the North Riverside Public Library (2400 S. Desplaines Ave.) from 12-2 p.m. Sunday Oct. 15 and the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Public Library (3541 Park Ave.) at 7 p.m. on Monday Nov. 6.