As a not-very-tall, often grumpy, short-sighted 30-something with wavy brown hair and a love of v-necked jumpers, I have always felt a certain kinship with Liz Lemon of 30 Rock. And although over the years the many jokes about Liz being single/greedy/tragic grew a bit tired, I’m sad that 30 Rock is no more.
When the last episode aired in the US on Thursday, the American media was full of stories about what a groundbreaking show it was, and rightly so. Because when Liz first appeared back in 2006, she was a breath of fresh air. She wasn’t the sitcom star’s wife or the token woman. Unlike lots of women in sitcoms, she doesn’t have to be the boring voice of reason all the time – she could be as dorky, as megalomaniacal, and as snarky as any of her demented peers.
Ever since I Love Lucy and the Mary Tyler Moore show, ladies have starred in sitcoms. But when you look back over the last few decades, the women have rarely been the central characters. Even in some of my favourite sitcoms, like Black Books and Seinfeld, there’s only one woman – and in many cases, such as Fawlty Towers, the hilarious female characters like Sybil are also horrible; you’re not meant to identify with their problems.
Things have been better in ensemble sitcoms – the women in Friends are as funny as the men. But a show that’s totally based on a female lead has been a rarity. There are signs that things may be looking up, on both sides of the Atlantic, even though Liz is saying goodbye. There have been a few female-centric sitcoms in recent years, and even though some of them are totally terrible (I’m looking at you, 2 Broke Girls, a show so awful that the first time I saw it, I thought it was a parody of a bad sitcom), there have been plenty of bright spots too.
People are watching these shows, proving everyone who claimed that audiences don’t like women being silly wrong – Miranda Hart’s eponymous sitcom has made the move from BBC2 to BBC1, and her Christmas special was one of the biggest hits of the season.
My favourite sitcom lady of all time has to be Leslie Knope, the heroine of the glorious Parks & Recreation. Whether she’s planning a memorial fountain for a miniature horse (RIP, Li’l Sebastian), driving around on a bin lorry or rapping Will Smith’s Parents Just Don’t Understand , the woman is a goddess. She’s goofy, but she’s not pathetic – she’s good at her job, people like her, and she gets things done. And she’s just one of several very funny women in the show – Tammy 2! Donna! And of course, my second favourite sitcom heroine, April Ludgate.
Basically, when it comes to awesome female characters (and indeed male ones), nothing beats Parks & Rec. So what fictional funny ladies do you love? And are you sad to say goodbye to Liz Lemon?