My friend Todd made a comment to me that I’ve been watching a lot of girly TV shows. And you know what? He’s right.
The two new shows of the fall season and one from earlier this year all have a female showrunner (that’s an industry term for executive producer.)
The Mindy Project (two episodes viewed)
Mindy Kaling attracted my attention in The Office, simply because it was just uncommon to see an Indian-American female actor on a network show. She started off as a writer, then took on the role of Kelly Kapoor, and finally became an executive producer. The fact that she played a ditz who’s obsessed with celebrity gossip was a bit one-note, but I thought it worked for the character.
She carries some of this persona over to The Mindy Project which sets up her character as an OB/GYN whose worldview is based entirely on romantic comedies. Mindy Lahiri is perfectly set up in the first sequence of the pilot as she watches and simultaneously quotes When Harry Met Sally as a kid, You’ve Got Mail as a teenager, and Knotting Hill as a college student while everyone else is partying.
I relate to the character because if you take out the romantic comedies and insert the original Star Wars trilogy, that’s pretty how I view the world.
Girls (Eight episodes viewed)
There was a lot of hype for HBO’s Girls by 26 year old Lena Dunham when it came out in April—and I think she deserved it.
This show hit the rare “wife-and-I-can-both-enjoy-it” stratosphere joining the ranks of Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and a sprinkling of comedies. It helps that she (my wife) went to a small liberal arts college in Ohio (Kenyon), just like Dunham (Oberlin), moved to Manhattan after graduating, and got a job at a publishing house on 55th off Sixth Ave. This is relevant because at the end of the pilot, Dunham marches west on 53rd, and shoots straight down Sixth as the camera pans up from the north side of Sixth.
We rewound it a couple of times to figure this out.
I think the show really hit its stride in The Return (episode six), when she heads back to Michigan to visit her parents. The Freaks and Geeks/My-So-Called-Life influences really start kicking in, which is no coincidence since Judd Apatow created the former and has has an executive producer rold on Girls (I know there’s a Sex and the City vibe too, but I didn’t watch enough of that show to justify talking about it. It helps that Becky Ann Baker also played the mom in Freaks and Geeks.)
There was a certain quality to this episode that really brought back those Angela Chase (Claire Daines’ character in My So-Called Life) moments for me. It was something with the interaction between Hannah Horvath (Dunham’s character) and her parents and the suburban setting’s tone that sold me.
There’s also a meticulous attention to detail where a Goo Goo Dolls poster hangs above one of those vintage iMacs in her childhood bedroom.
My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks were two shows I hopped on board immediately after airing, and I feel since 1994 and 1999 respectively, my pleas are finally justified.
Nashville (one episode viewed)
Friday Night Lights has the single most realistic portrayal of marriage ever on screen and Connie Britton is a huge part of that. If you’ve never seen her act before, go straight to Season 1 Episode 17’s “I Think We Should Have Sex.”
(Minor spoiler alert) Britton’s waiting for her daughter to come home after she finds out that she’s planning to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time. The performance she gives while confronting her daughter is so powerful that The Onion A.V. Club’s TV Roundtable held an entire discussion just on this episode.
Despite being born in Boston, she completely comes to life when she puts on that southern accent and becomes the person I think she was meant to be.
She carries this over to Nashville where she plays a country singer Rayna James losing popularity to younger upstart Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere).
Sure enough, the showrunner is Callie Khouri, who wrote Thelma and Louise, completes my trifecta of female showrunners.
So basically I like these shows because they’re mostly controlled by a single person—as much as a show can be controlled by one person. (The Wire’s David Simon, Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan, The Sopranos David Chase, etc.) Because they happen to have female showrunners doesn’t make a lick of difference to me.
Nashville of course features Britton, and the minute she puts on a Southern drawl, sign me up. Unless she’s in a scary show like American Horror Story. I don’t do scary. Because I get scared.