With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on transportation and supply chains worldwide, over 100 million of us in the United States are stuck at home. In the midst of all the upheaval, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that March is Women’s History Month. But with television viewing estimated to increase by a whopping 60% during coronavirus lockdown, there is an easy way both to honor the spirit of the month and give yourself a break from the news: by becoming acquainted with women-centered TV shows, both past and present. Here are six of our favorites, and why we love them.
A riveting spy thriller based on the Israeli spy thriller Prisoners of War, the series showcases Claire Danes as a brilliant, bipolar CIA officer trying, in season one, to determine if Marine Corps sniper Brody (Damian Lewis) was “turned” by Al Qaeda while in captivity. Danes’ portrayal of a driven officer battling with personal demons makes this one of the strongest and most complex female leads on television – and overturns the stereotype of secret agents as men-only.
Written by and starring Issa Rae, Insecure follows the stories of two Black female twenty-somethings, Issa and Molly (Yvonne Orji), as they grapple with careers and relationships in Los Angeles. The series also includes a strong supporting cast including Natasha Rothwell (who writes for the show) as Kelli, comedian and DJ Amanda Seales as Tiffany, and Lisa Joyce as Frieda. Last season, only 17% of all female characters on television were Black, making Rae’s fun, funny series an important milestone for on-screen representation.
Killing Eve (BBC America)
In this British thriller that has won large followings on both sides of the pond, women are both the “good guy” (Sandra Oh as intelligence officer Eve Polastri) and the “bad guy” (Jodie Comer as the chillingly psychopathic Villanelle). As the cat-and-mouse series progresses, the two become more and more obsessed with each other in a “twisted pas-de-deux.” In addition, each season has been headed by a different female showrunner – Phoebe Waller-Bridge in season one, Emerald Fennell in season two, and Suzanne Heathcote in season three – big news in an industry where only 24% of showrunners are women.
This fictionalized historical drama has a little bit of everything – time travel, action packed battle senes, medical mysteries, and a romance that spans 200 years. The series follows the adventures of Catriona Balfe’s Claire Randall Fraser, a WWII combat nurse turned doctor who falls back in time to the heart of the Scottish Jacobite rebellion. Claire is a strong, determined female lead, who proves to be ahead of her times in more ways than one. She finds romance in the Scottish Jamie Fraser, but that doesn’t stop her from participating in dangerous Jacobite espionage or using her knowledge of future medicine to save lives. The TV series is based on books from female author and international bestseller, Diana Gabaldon.
The critically-acclaimed modern twist on an old Western has no shortage of fierce female characters, human and Host. It’s clear that the women of Westworld are writing their own stories, from the Hosts, Dolores and Maeve, who step-out of their traditional roles to lead their own agendas, to Charlotte Hale, who schemes and outmaneuvers her way to the top. In a genre traditionally dominated by men, the women of Westworld bring a whole new meaning to female leadership and empowerment.
A musical drama of hip-hop and family intrigue, Empire follows the struggle for control of Empire Entertainment following the imminent death of CEO Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). Actress Taraji Henson is masterful as tough-as-nails ex-wife Cookie Lyon, who has even admitted that the character scared her at first. This show is the must-watch that reminds us how much women’s roles have evolved from the meek sidekick of yesteryear.
With these women-centered shows, the boredom of social distancing can turn into the joy of celebrating female talent, from writing to acting to producing. And if you run the gamut on these, check out our list of TV shows that broke racial barriers in entertainment. Pass the popcorn!