When the fall TV season kicked off, there were plenty of lady-centric shows to choose from. Today, Charlie's Angels was canceled. At the beginning of the month, The Playboy Club gave its bunnies the boot. Whitney is terrible. Some of the shows that remain are good, but not great. And to steal a line from Bono, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
After watching a few weeks of 2 Broke Girls and New Girl, I've added them to my DVR list. While not perfect, they each have their charms, and even though 2 Broke Girls should really be filmed in Brooklyn — seeing as how the borough is practically a character on the show — I kinda like its surreal, weird, throwback sensibility. Waitresses! Incredibly fake subway set! Horse in the backyard! It's like someone threw a bunch of old, vaguely racist, politically incorrect sitcoms — Alice, Mr. Ed, Green Acres, It's A Living — in a blender and hit purée. The race stuff is handled really poorly — the cook and the Asian guy and their accents are shameful — but the dynamic between the snippy working-class gal and the fiery rich chick is interesting in our current We Are The 99% atmosphere. If they were smart, the creators of the show would have made the rich chick black. A spoiled but optimistic Hilary Banks type, fallen from her pedestal and without a cushion of cash, interacting with a white hardscrabble pessimistic service industry lady — that is a fascinating show, and could reflect life under the Obama administration the way Good Times, The Jeffersons and All In The Family reflected America in the '70s. New Girl may have a manic pixie dream girl issue, but since it shows men and women being friends, and often involves a three-dimensional woman teaching dudes how to be less assholic, I keep tuning in.
I haven't seen everything new and lady-oriented. I've heard good things about Revenge, but haven't tried it. I only watched one episode of Prime Suspect, but those kind of police procedurals are generally not my cup of tea. I saw one episode of Charlie's Angels, which I found confusing, soulless and boring, so good-riddance. I've seen three or four episodes of Ringer, and tried my Scoobiest to like it, but I just don't feel attached. I'm looking forward to the return of 30 Rock, and until then, my attentions are devoted to non-new programming, as varied as Parks and Recreation, America's Next Top Model: All Stars, the Vampire Diaries, and my true love, House Hunters International.
Since there were so many shows actively trying to recruit me, as a woman, and so few shows I'm actually excited about, I wonder: What I am I really looking for in a TV show? Here's what I can come up with:
- Great writing. That's what kept me on the edge of my seat while watching The Wire and Veronica Mars.
- An unexpected, non-cliché sense of humor. If I have to watch one more "joke" in which a thin, conventionally attractive brunette lady tries to be "sexy" and somehow fails (?!), I will set myself on fire. Looking at you, Whitney. And Jess on New Girl. And, to some extent, Liz Lemon. But April on Parks and Recreation and Jenna on 30 Rock have the kind of dry, brutal, unapologetic quips that work for me.
- Ethnic diversity. Lost had it. The Office, 30 Rock, Community, Parks And Recreation have it. We need more of it. But I shudder to think of what happens when it falls in the wrong hands and just gets racist instead. (See: Outsourced, 2 Broke Girls).
- A kick-ass female lead. The ladies of Charlie's Angels bounced around, beat up bad guys, then put on heels and earrings and went for Cosmos. But the female characters I like best use their wits. Sure, a character is more realistic when she has flaws. But Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars never had to endure an episode revolving around how their ass looks in jeans, like Liz Lemon did.
- A message. Guys, not to be corny, but I love it when a show Teaches Us Something. Maybe it's about love, maybe it's about inner strength, maybe it's about the rich vs. the poor, maybe it involves a bad guy having some good in him and a good girl having some bad in her. Maybe it's a statement about what Hamilton Nolan calls The Way We Live Now. But I need revelations beyond "people are dumb." (Which is why I don't watch the Housewives, or Jersey Shore.) I want quality TV, and I don't think that is too much to ask. There have been shows — Rome, The Wire, The Cosby Show, Moonlighting, Sesame Street, Twin Peaks — that elevated the very medium of television. Where are those types of prgrams now?
- No more sassy cops, doctors, nurses judges or lawyers. It's tired. Even when you hire Kathy Bates. These professions are worn the fuck out.
Of course, this is just what I'd like to see, maybe not what all women want. And these are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. But if you've got ideas, by all means, weigh in below.