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.
‘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.