Upcoming Cable TV Shows Spotlight Women in Unique Ways
Women's History Month marks a time to honor those women who fought against gender inequality and opened news paths forward for women. But it is also a time to recognize and celebrate the projects currently underway that continue to challenge gender roles and stereotypes in unique ways, and that highlight real women paving the way for other women around them. TV and media can be huge drivers in this arena, and cable TV networks are busy producing programs and shows that feature strong female characters and that focus on female empowerment. At the Television Critics Association press tour last month, showrunners and producers unveiled a string of TV productions in the works that focus on women's perspectives, struggles and achievements. While there are many that came before them and more to come after them, here are a couple of shows to look forward to this spring and summer that are creatively spotlighting the inner lives of women, and in some cases, defying conventional norms.
National Geographic's documentary, "Impact," produced by Gal Gadot, premieres in April and takes viewers on a journey to different parts of the world to observe women who are leading change in the communities where they live. From a figure skating coach in Detroit who dedicates her life to mentoring young girls of color to a dance instructor in one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous favelas, these are women who are taking underprivileged kids and breaking them away from the cycle of poverty and violence.
Gal Gadot remarked that after she filmed, "Wonder Woman," she wanted to use her "reach and my platforms to get to as many people and shed light on these amazing, incredible women's stories. To maybe ignite something in them and create a movement of people that just want to do good in the world." She added, "All of these women are just incredible, and they are the real heroes. I keep on calling them my Women of Wonder, because they are the true heroes. I go to set and I get dressed and I get my costume and sword and everything, and I fight but it's make believe. They are actually there on the ground, you know, sweating and doing all they can to really make the world a better place."
In HBO's upcoming dark comedy starring Jean Smart, which remains untitled and due in late spring, Smart plays a female comedian who is forced to pair up with a much younger female comedian. Smart takes her on as a mentee, and is taken by surprise when she discovers that her "act" needs a revitalization and that her much younger colleague might have a few things to teach her. While the two strong-willed and entitled comedians clash throughout the series, the story is really about the bonds between women and what they can learn from one another despite their generational differences. The show also touches on the unique struggles for women in Hollywood and the road to fame.
"Unfortunately, our business is a very subjective business, so you can't really put some of the same rules and expectations on it as other parts of society where I think fairness in the workplace to women has come a long way and has still got some ways to go. But it's very hard to put those same expectations on a business that is, as I said, so completely subjective," said Smart. These challenges for women are highlighted in the storyline through the pairing of the mentor and mentee, and how in many ways, the two women have more in common than they think as they face Hollywood and the world.
Then there is AMC's new genre-busting dark comedy series, "Kevin Can F**k Himself," due this summer. Starring Annie Murphy, the series "deconstructs the trope of the passive, agreeable sitcom wife," as AMC President of Original Programming Dan McDermott described. The dramedy alternates between single camera realism and multi-camera comedy scenes to give audiences an up close and personal view of the "sitcom wife" who is actually going through emotional turmoil and who battles with deep-seeded frustration. The series is essentially a social commentary on how traditional sitcoms many times set up female characters to serve as the butt of jokes and as props for the male characters to shine. The concept for the show started back in 2017 and remains an important issue as the "Me Too" movement has taken off since then and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many women either having to exit the workforce to care for family at home or to feeling trapped and unheard at home while in quarantine.
"I think stories about women being overlooked are sadly going to be relevant for a while, and it's going to connect deeply with people for a long time ... So many women are fed up and not going to take it anymore, and I am so excited to have those people feel heard," said Creator and Executive Producer Valerie Armstrong. Murphy added about her character, "I have seen Allison in so many women in my life ... I think that Allison is a character that people are going to be able to really identify with because she has just absorbed so much frustration and so much anger and pushed it down, because that's what you're supposed to do as a woman. She has put up with so much of the world around her and just kind of smiled through it."
Women are no longer just smiling through it, as Murphy remarked, and TV programming is reflecting this more and more. Audiences have a whole new slate of shows to look forward to that give viewers a much more modern take on women and that open up dialogue on where society needs to go to achieve gender parity and equality.
Header Image: Annie Murphy from AMC's upcoming dramedy, "Kevin Can F**k Himself"