Funny Girl: Female-Led TV Shows that are Lighting Up the Small Screen

By Beautie | July 8 2014 | 17 Comments

While some might say it’s still a man’s world, one area where things have certainly become an even playing field is that of TV. The last few years has seen a rise in the general standard of what we watch on the box, and while we are by no means saying that men had nowt to do with this (Vince Gilligan, we’ll be forever in your debt) women have been responsible for a rake load of quality TV that’s enjoyed by both sexes, and won countless awards.

The likes of ‘Sex and the City’ in the late nineties may have been the first strong female led cast that reached an international audience but there are many more that have matched and outdone the bar set by these New York ladies.


Lena Dunham wrote and starred in ‘Girls’ at just twenty-four (a fact which puts all of us to shame) and delivered a Emmy award winning show that is still thriving after its third season. And while  these shows may be aimed at the fairer sexes, there are plenty more which go beyond the ‘love/friendship’ themes of these shows (and pass the Bechdel test with flying colours).

‘Orange is the New Black’ is one of the most recent examples of this – Jenji Kohan had already earned her stripes in the TV world with Weeds and her latest series could be her best work yet. OITNB features a cast of strong female characters with diverse backgrounds and ethnicity, all of which go against the typical preened female leads we usually see on TV. Not to use an over-stated adjective, but these women are real in every sense, and other than good old Larry and a few of the prison guards, it really is a woman’s world.

Meanwhile, whoever is running around the place saying women aren’t funny (they’re out there) really need to take a look at just one episode of ’30 Rock’ or ‘Parks and Recreation’. The former may have a majority male cast but the show was created by its star Tina Fey and based on her experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live, while her mate and Golden Globe-hosting buddy Amy Poehler stars in ‘Parks and Recreation’ and as anyone will tell you, she is pretty much the glue that hold that hilarious show together.

Image via Twitter

Image via Twitter

‘The Good Wife’, starring Julianna Margulies as lawyer Alica Florrick, was created by Michelle King and her husband Robert King and is hugely popular with both men and women since it first aired in 2009. It’s story lines are consistently topical and to the point, and Alicia serves as a refreshing alternative female lead to the man-mad Ally McBeal of the nineties (we loved Ally, but come on, her man hunt and obsession with her former flame got a tad excessive).

We’ve only scratched the surface, have you been watching ‘The Mindy Project’? The show which was created and stars Mindy Kaling (formerly of ‘The Office’) has won over critics with her own unique brand of comedy and fantastic cast. The hugely successful American version of ‘The Killing’ was written and produced by the great Veena Sud, while Zooey Deschanel’s ‘New Girl’ is produced by the star herself and written by the talented Elizabeth Meriwether.

And why stop there? Two out of the three writers on Edie Falco’s Nurse Jackie are female,as well as Falco herself winning multiple awards for the role. Veep, starring Seinfeld’s Julie’s Louis Dreyfuss, is another example of a hilarious female leading the cast of a popular show, and where would Homeland be it it wasn’t for the star power and talents of actress Clare Danes (and that cry face is pretty legendary too)?


There are so many that’s been left out, of course the nod should have been given to ‘Desperate Housewives’ somewhere in this but will just have to be done now. As well as Laura Linney in ‘The Big C’, while ‘2 Broke Girls’ also deserves a mention.

While we know women have been working and acting in television for quite some time before all these shows (‘Roseanne’, ‘Ellen’ etc), the fact is that more and more over this last decade or so, women have been putting their creative talents at the forefront of many TV shows.

Let’s celebrate the ladies who are lighting up the small screen – what is your favourite female-led show of the moment? Who is your tip for breaking talent to watch? And have you ever practised Carrie Mathison’s crying face in the mirror? Oh, ok, just us then.

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17 Replies to "Funny Girl: Female-Led TV Shows that are Lighting Up the Small Screen"

  • Lynniedoll says:

    Scandal, Olivia Pope ( Kerry Washington)Missed it when it was run on TV, how I don’t know….but downloaded the box set on sky demand and watched 2 series in a week, loved it…can’t wait for series 3.

    • Andrea says:

      I saw an ad for this and it looked really good – it might be my new show…..

      • aoife says:

        Scandal is amazing, I was devastated when More4 announced they weren’t showing season 3 and I cant wait for it to start on Living!

  • Zara says:

    Scandal is AMAZING

  • Donna says:

    OMG Scandal is beyond fabulous.

    Can’t wait for season three to start shortly.

  • Joanna says:

    Scandal is great, the female leads in Suits are wonderful. I really like Once Upon a Time for great females characters as well. And check out Banshee for strong women.

    And because I have a small (read ginormous) Aaron Sorkin fetish – The Newsroom for great female characters.

  • Sharon says:

    Orange is the New Black is absolutely fantastic, and I’m a massive fan of Mindy Kaling in general (her autobiography is HILARIOUS). Orphan Black with the amazing Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles is another one of my favourites, love it.

  • Andrea says:

    How could we forget the amaaahzingness that was Buffy?!

  • Emma says:

    Orphan Black!! AMAZING female characters, all played by the same amazing actress.
    Everyone needs to check that show out, especially if you’ve enjoyed Homeland. Seriously, go watch it now!

  • tcup says:

    eh girls won a Grammy?

  • mwah says:

    Borgen. It is hands down the BEST tv show and is 100% grrrrl power. To be honest, I hate Girls and think Carrie Bradshaw gave women a bad name.

  • Kittykat says:

    I used to love Damage with Glenn Close and Rose Byrne.
    And the one with Christina Applegate in where she’d lost her memory.
    Haven’t seen Orange is the new black or Scandal, but will definitely check them out.
    I adore Tina Fey. And Queen Latifah always makes me laugh in anything I’ve seen her in.
    No ones mentioned Desperate Housewives ! I wonder why lol.

  • Miss Golightly says:

    For me it’s got to be Sofie Gråbøl of The Killing (Forbrydelsen), Sofia Helin of The Bridge (Bron/Broen) & Caroline Proust & Audrey Fleurot from the excellent French drama Spiral (Engrenages) – all strong female lead characters (yes, they’re flawed but very few of us aren’t!). I haven’t got into Orange is the New Black as yet but it’s next on my to watch list.

  • Julia says:

    Haven’t seen Veep yet – has anyone?

  • Megan C says:

    The Mindy Project is hilarious! I can’t wait for Season 3 to come out, need to find out what happened after the season 2 finale! It’s worth watching for Mindy Kaling’s outfits, she has such an amazing sense of style!

    I just finished Orange is the New Black after months of hearing my friends raving about it, and wow- it is absolutely incredible. I love how multi-faceted the characters are.

    Amy Poehler is in a film with Paul Rudd soon, can’t wait to see it- she’s such a funny lady!

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