TV ushers out a Year of the Women -- and ushers in more of the same
by Ed Bark on December 22nd 2011 at 6:15 pm
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Has this been the Year of the Women on TV screens near and far?
Even a ratings-challenged series such as HBO's Enlightened is being invited back for a second season in light of critical acclaim for star Laura Dern. The Golden Globes may not be the gold standard of awards shows, but recent nominations for both Dern and her series came just a day before HBO announced the renewal of Enlightened and the cancellations of three male-centric series --Hung, Bored to Death and How to Make It in America.
As noted in an earlier locatetv.com post, ABC's overall prime-time approach calls for a heavy investment in series with women in the drivers' seats. That didn't work so well this past fall with the network's re-do of the since canceled Charlie's Angels. But ABC has budding new hits in the female-propelled Revenge and Once Upon A Time.
The CW remains intent on pleasing its principal younger target audience of 18-to-34-year-old females. The past fall's three new dramas -- Ringer, Hart of Dixie and The Secret Circle -- are all powered by young women stars. They've also all received full season pickups.
Fox's surprise breakaway hit of the season, New Girl, stars Zooey Deschanel as the "adorkable" new roommate of three set-in-their-ways dudes. And Whitney Cummings has scored on two fronts, as both the star of NBC's new sitcom Whitney and the co-executive producer of CBS' biggest new comedy breakthrough, 2 Broke Girls.
In the cable universe, Enlightened is joined by Showtime's Homeland, which was paced by a bravura performance from Claire Danes during a spine-tingling first season that ended last Sunday. Renewed for a second go-around, it also made the Golden Globes cut with nominations for the series, Danes and co-star Damian Lewis.
All of ABC's announced mid-season dramas -- Good Christian Belles, The River, Missing and Scandal -- have women as the principal protagonists. And the network's earliest arriving mid-season sitcom, Work It on Jan. 3rd, stars two unemployed men who dress as women to beat an ongoing "mancession."
NBC soon will be launching two new series that will rise or fail on the strength of their female leads. Are You There, Chelsea? premieres on Jan. 11th with Laura Prepon in the title role and Chelsea Handler doing double duty as both co-executive producer and in the recurring role of Chelsea's older sister, Sloan.
The Peacock's Smash, a drama about the making of a Broadway musical, has former American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee and co-star Megan Hilty vying for the role of Marilyn Monroe. It's due on Feb. 6th.
Both Fox and CBS are still daring to bank on new midseason series with males in the lead. CBS' only announced newcomer is the sitcom Rob!, fronted by Rob Schneider. Three of Fox's four announced newcomers -- The Finder, Touch and an animated version of Napoleon Dynamite -- will be primarily manly. But the haunting new J.J. Abrams series, Alcatraz, has Sarah Jones in the lead as a snippy, strong-willed San Francisco detective surrounded by supporting male characters.
Letting men take the lead can be a risky bet these days. Women don't hold all of the prime-time cards. But in the current way of thinking, The King of Queens might well be re-titled Queen of Kings.