Oh Lifetime. You are there for us when we really need you. It used to be just about giving us a good cry by playing all the movies of the week from our childhoods (long before Sundays belonged to HBO) covering everything from cancer to eating disorders to forbidden romances and, of course, murderous cheerleaders. And then in the past years Lifetime has seen a major evolution in its programming presenting the world with dynamic and powerful shows about women like UnReal and Drop Dead Diva.
They do still throw in the occasional bit of cheese (hey, if you say you aren't excited for the Harry and Meghan Markle movie then you are a liar) but now they really deserve some applause as it was just announced at the TCA press tour that Lifetime’s scripted programming slate is entirely made up of shows created and run by women. As a result, the working environment is a bit different than others in Hollywood. “I don’t have to over-explain myself,” UnReal co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro said. “We just walk in and are taken incredibly seriously.”
Writers rooms are notoriously male-dominated and often quite perverse and lewd places, past the point of offensive (read Tina Fey's stories of horror of the SNL writers rooms in Bossy Pants or any interview with a female writer on a show) These rooms are starting to feel a shift too as women's voices are heard more in Hollywood even though these are supposed to be creative spaces. "The room has always been, theoretically, a safe space for people to discuss their most twisted thoughts," Liz Meriwether, creator of Fox's New Girl, told Variety. "This is a place where you're supposed to be able to occasionally cross a line or two, if it's done with respect, but now you think to yourself, 'Maybe that's a joke that I can't say.' "
Though there have been many notable female showrunners in recent years-Lena Dunham and Jenny Konner of Girls, Melissa Rosenberg, of Marvel's Jessica Jones, Maurissa Tancharoen of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marti Noxon of Private Practice and Girlfriend's Guide To Divorce-according toVariety the diversity of the 2016-2017 TV lineup, the majority of showrunners across the major networks were white (90%) and male (80%). This makes Lifetime a beautiful snowflake.
Television, as we have seen recently, is a great place for female-driven projects (hello Big Little Lies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), often better than film, but clearly there is work to be done. However, with the recent changes happening in Hollywood and the growing #MeToo and#TimesUp movement finding more power every day, female showrunners will hopefully be more typical than atypical. UnREAL showrunner Stacy Rukeyser, Deadline reports. “What I want is to get our shows on the air and get rid of the idea female-run shows are going to be ‘soft’ or get rid of the insistence that female characters are ‘likeable’ which makes them soft. And to get rid of the idea you need a man above you or with you because a woman is going to be too emotional…or any of the other stereotypes out there about women, to handle a $30 million plus budget on their own.”
So thank you to Lifetime for going full speed ahead and I personally cannot wait to see what craziness they are going to throw at the women of UnReal. But don't worry, they can take it.
Photo courtesy of Lifetime