Last summer, we had some great television to watch. We had Political Animals, a USA Network mini-series about a former first lady who became Secretary of State and then decided to run for President (I wonder who that could be based on?), Lena Dunham’s tour de force Girls, and VEEP starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as the vice president of the United States. In stark contrast to the strong, female-led shows of last summer, this season’s options for women are few and far between. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s much-anticipated followup to Gilmore Girls, Bunheads, arrived last year with an incredible cast that breathed life into fully formed characters – none of whom were perfect but all of whom were fascinating in their ways.
Summertime is always a tricky season for TV lovers. All our favorite regular shows go on hiatus, leaving us with nothing to watch during those long summer nights. Game of Thrones just ended and Mad Men is finishing up its final season. Get ready to experience some awkward silences come Monday mornings in the office!
Sometimes, lesser-known networks have the chance to produce great content during summertime. For example, Mad Men premiered on AMC on July 19, 2007. Before Mad Men, no one watched anything on AMC except old movies and the cast was full of unknown actors (very handsome unknowns, but still unknowns). Now in its sixth season, Mad Men is a critically praised hit with a cult-like following.
But I do not think we are going to get a Mad Men this summer. Not with shows like Devious Maids, Mistresses, and Princesses: Long Island on the air. Rather than maids, mistresses, and princesses who feel trapped in some outdated notions of womanhood give me vampires, lawyers slaying the patriarch, and doctors with emotional problems!
After conducting some research, I have concluded that Devious Maids (Lifetime) may be worth watching. The show is produced by Eva Longoria and features an all-Latina cast, which is something seldom seen on television. However, the promos and marketing for the series are being harshly criticized for perpetuating stereotypes. The show itself may be good, but the poor marketing campaign may ruin its chance of success. Watch the trailer below:
Another show that was not marketed well is Mistresses (ABC). The creators were trying to sell the idea of a sexy affair, but the women in the show are struggling with their decisions. The show features four intelligent women, yet we constantly see them making careless decisions that affect not just their marriages and families, but also their careers. There’s nothing sexy about watching someone make bad choices again and again. I had hoped this show would fill the Desperate Housewives void, but Mistresses is failing to live up to my expectations.
Lastly, we have the reality show Princesses: Long Island. I’ll be honest, I adore this program. It’s captivating to see a woman who would wear one of those headbands with a leopard-print maxi dress just to go buy groceries. It is disheartening that none of the women on the show seem to have jobs or any career aspirations. The show primarily focuses on six unmarried women in their late 20s who were born and grew up on Long Island. They largely tend to care more about appearances than anything else in life. The biggest goal in their lives is to find a husband so that they can move out of their parents’ houses and onto their husbands’ payrolls. In terms of entertainment, it’s amazing. There have already been fights about Facebook poking, stolen boyfriends, and threats to punch someone in the face, and we’re only on the third episode. As far as role models go though, it’s pretty pitiful.
Although television is often said to be a better place for women with more powerful, creative female characters than film, these stats show that depressing reality. Meghan Casserly of Forbes, in an article titled “Is Television The Best Place for Women In Hollywood?” wrote:
More and more, female screenwriters, producers, and directors are finding success on the small screen. With hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice from Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers to new Girls’ Lena Dunham and Liz Meriwether, women are increasingly able to showcase interesting plots lines and characters without being pigeon-holed as a “chick flick.”
Although television has progressed in recent years, there is still room for improvement. The Center for Study of Women in Television and Film found that women only made up 26 percent of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers editors, and directors of photography back in 2011. Although this number did increase by one point from the previous year. However, only 32 percent of all shows have a female writer on staff. “Fewer women are looking for work in this field, so it’s harder to find qualified candidates,” said Dan Harmon, the creator, and showrunner of the NBC sitcom Community.
This summer, we are seeing the uglier side of television. We see women in maid costumes slapping each other for their boyfriends.
Although you may get some amusement this summer and some style tips, I would recommend sticking to New Girl reruns for now.