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New Girls On The Block: Which of This Season’s Female-Lead Shows Are Here to Stay?

October 13th, 2011 by Naivasha D Associate Producer

As we know by now, TV this fall is all about the ladies. With the sheer number of shows are driven by the drama of the gentler sex driven, it’s time to start looking forward to a future dominated by Activia commercials.

The networks seem to be turning over a new leaf with a slew of new pilots that push women into the spotlight. But there’s a trend emerging among them that goes beyond gender lines. Many of these characters have something in common with their shows—whether it’s murder or motherhood, they are brand new at what they’re doing. These are women that are out of their comfort zones, out of their leagues, and occasionally out of their minds.

Let’s get past the heaving bosoms and questionable wardrobe choices to the bottom of this. Which of these characters are good enough for us to grow old with? Which shows will have as many seasons as Desperate Housewives, and which women should curtsy and shamefully duck out? (R.I.P., The Playboy Club.)

Pan Am

Kate is a Pan Am stewardess who has just been recruited into the CIA because she’s pretty and in a position to slip pieces of paper into passengers’ briefcases. Her sister, Laura, is new to Pan Am entirely, having run away from the altar and their oppressive mother for a chance at independence. Both must navigate their harrowing new positions while fending off the advances of attractive pilots and finding themselves immersed in famous historical events. Kate’s new undercover role seems thrilling at first, but she quickly finds that the risks involved are anything but glamorous.

Among other unmentionable fates, she could end up living in Kansas City.

“Pan Am” is a fun show that’s easy to follow, and you might just get to plug the holes in some of your historical knowledge while watching. Warning: It may make you nostalgic for the days when flying was actually fun, and stewardesses were forced to retire after they turned 30.

New Girl

Zooey Deschanel—the Manic Pixie Hipster Dream Girl of our time—plays Jess, a basket case of a 20-something who catches her boyfriend cheating and has to find roommates on the Internet. She winds up with three dudes who transition from wanting to throttle her to finding her endearing surprisingly quickly. Her character see-saws between caring, insightful, and kind to so cripplingly zany and hopeless that she has to be constantly babysat by her new friends. There are good moments, if you can suspend your disbelief that someone who looks as good as Deschanel is supposed to be a dork who can’t dress herself, let alone introduce herself to someone without detonating an atomic bomb of awkward over everyone involved.

Only Zooey, who has inexplicably burrowed into the hearts and minds of most of our generation like an adorable tapeworm, could pull this character off.

For a truly perceptive, spot on, and frankly badass look at New Girl, check out Gaby Dunn’s  no-nonsense review from earlier this week.


Amanda Clarke, AKA Emily Thorne, is embarking on her life’s mission of destroying everyone who ever wronged her father, and looking fabulous while doing it. Basically, The Hamptons are a pit of snakes and Emily has a long, sharp stick. This show is a guilty pleasure – everyone is rich and great-looking, and bad people get their come-uppance.

If you’re planning on following the show, jump on board quick. It’s getting convoluted very fast, and we’re hoping that the dialogue won’t always be this shamelessly expository:

Up All Night

Reagan, played by comedy veteran Christina Applegate, is a hip career woman who is thrown off track by a surprise pregnancy. She and her shell-shocked husband (Will Arnett) have to glue together their new identities on very little sleep. We haven’t enjoyed watching Applegate interact with an infant this much since her role as Rachel’s irresponsible sister in Friends, who pierces her baby niece’s ears without asking.

This show has been well-received, but balancing work and a baby is one of the oldest female conflicts in the book, and we’re curious to see how they manage to maintain the tension once the baby gets older and it’s no longer cute that it kind of seems like they’d rather not have her at all:

This is supposed to be all about the ladies, but we have to speculate – could this show break Arnett’s post-Arrested Development curse? Fans of GOB also have to ask: Where did he get all that hair?

Prime Suspect

Jane Timoney, played by bold Maria Bello, wears a rakish fedora and combats raging masochism as a detective in a new district populated mainly by fast-talking, shamelessly sexist men. This is another one of the most ancient female-driven storylines: a woman struggling to prove herself in a man’s world. That, combined with the familiar procedural structure of the show, make it pretty predictable. But it’s hard to not be impressed by Bello as an actress – Jane’s soft, womanly side oozes through the cracks of her tough-as-nails exterior better than any other character we’ve seen in these exact same predicaments:

Also, wow, this show is pretty violent. They are not kidding around. Bello mercilessly gets the crap beaten out of her right away. We’re guessing she’ll show those guys that it doesn’t take balls to hang with the big boys. And if you’re missing Helen Mirren from the original British version of the show, there’s always this:


Tessa is a sharp, sardonic teenager who is uprooted from the big city by her father and trapped in a Stepford-ian suburb where her combat boots instantly mark her as an outsider. She’s also a redhead, which is TV code for spunky, independent, and brave. The show’s got this absurdist, intelligent edge to it, and the dad-daughter dynamic is one that could use some more exploration. The whole thing seems to be entirely cast with actors that you can’t always name but always vaguely felt you wanted to see much more of – Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, and the always under-utilized Alan Tudyk are perfect:

This show walks a graceful line between sweetness and sarcasm – and oh boy, is there a lot of pink.

Last comment: May 5th 2016 1 Comment
  • Giovani says:

    I can so totally deal with an overload of estrogen on TV, just about now!

    It is so good to see Applegate on the screen, again. I think they can make the baby drama work for as long as they like. It’s not like kids ever stop handing you challenges. :O)