Looking at HBO's recent move -- the canceling of male-driven shows "Hung," "How to Make it in America," and "Bored to Death" and the renewal of the Laura Dern-fronted "Enlightened" -- it's become even more apparent: TV is now the land of women. And that's not a bad thing.
We've seen it across network TV this year. Shows like Fox's "New Girl" and CBS's "2 Broke Girls" have built a solid following. They've outperformed many competitors -- including those targeted at men like "Man Up" and "Last Man Standing" -- and sparked countless "Let's hear it for the ladies!" stories. It's just part of the TV development life cycle. Can we thank Showtime for that?
HBO is clearing its schedule for "Girls" and "Veep" -- two female-driven comedies -- that seem like they belong on Showtime circa 2009.
When "Enlightened" debuted in October, HuffPost TV's Maureen Ryan posed a very interesting question: "How did a Showtime show end up on HBO?" Considering the facts -- a star vehicle from a beloved actress, a flawed protagonist, a wacky supporting character -- and Showtime's affinity for dark, female-driven comedies, "Enlightened" does feel like a Showtime series. But, as HBO builds up its female series stockpile, Showtime seems to be getting out of the business.
At its strongest, Showtime was dominating the airwaves and headlines with "United States of Tara," "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie." "United States of Tara" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" recently bit the dust and Showtime's new slate of programming is pretty diverse. There's "Gigolos," a self-explanatory reality show about male prostitutes; "House of Lies" (premiering Jan. 8), a raunchy ensemble comedy led by Don Cheadle; and "Homeland," a critical darling about an unstable woman in a very male-dominated world. Their projects in development include "Masters of Sex," an adaptation of Thomas Maier's book of the same name about sexual education researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson; "Ray Donovan," a drama starring Liev Schreiber as a "fixer" for the Los Angeles rich and famous; and a docu-comedy from Andrew Gurland. I don't see a flawed female protagonist anywhere in that bunch.
It's important to note that Showtime has a new boss: David Nevins. His predecessor, Bob Greenblatt, is at NBC now, a network in need of re-invigoration. Where are they looking? Women.
One of NBC's buzziest new shows is "Smash," a drama set in the theater world at the onset of a Broadway musical based on the life of one iconic woman: Marilyn Monroe. With an all-star cast including Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston, "Smash" is poised to make a big splash on NBC when it debuts this February. When you look at NBC's schedule, it certainly looks like it's trying to make itself the TV home for funny women. Tina Fey on "30 Rock," Amy Poehler on "Parks and Recreation," Whitney Cummings on "Whitney," Chelsea Handler's "Are You There, Chelsea?," Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph on "Up All Night" and the unscheduled new comedies: Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair's "Best Friends Forever" and Amanda Peete's "Bent." To top it off, the network recently ordered a pilot written by and starring Sarah Silverman.
Personally, I've always gravitated toward shows led by a female character, from early obsessions with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" to today's modern day heroines like Alicia Florrick on "The Good Wife." To me, female TV characters make for more interesting viewing, probably because their viewpoints are completely different from my own. For women, it might be easy to imagine that these strong female leads are a more accurate portrayal of real women, at home and in the workplace, than we've ever seen on TV. Shows centered on strong female protagonists floundered on network TV for a bit, but as the gender roles in our society continue to shift, I'm thankful basic and premium networks are taking note and embracing the funny, flawed, dynamic, dramatic and all-around brilliant female TV characters.
At least when it comes to TV, it's no longer a man's world.
Follow Chris Harnick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisharnick