Q. I have an idea for a scripted TV show based on real life experiences I had. My characters are based on real people with some added characteristics, but I'm not using their real names. If the script made it to an actual tv show, would the 'real' people be able to sue me?
1. I am not a lawyer. I am especially not your lawyer. This is not legal advice.
2. As I understand it, it depends on how similar the characters are to the real people. If the characters are recognizably those people, then you could have a problem.
On the other hand, writers base characters on real people all the time. For example, Dr. Evil is based on SNL producer Lorne Michaels, complete with mannerisms and catchphrases. ("Throw me a bone, people.") Lots of people write thinly disguised autobiographies with negative portraits of the people they don't like. On the other hand, there have been lawsuits about just that, and even if you win a lawsuit, it can take a chunk of your life.
I think you can steal the essence of someone you know, so long as you don't steal the details of their lives. They probably don't see themselves the same way you do, so they may not recognize themselves, unless your character also went to Pomona College and majored in Archeology and had an unfortunate affair with the hot dog stand lady.