Still, those who want to see more balance in the writer’s room believe it will affect how women and minorities are depicted on TV, adding not only a diversity of characters but different storylines and new points of view. “This is not just entertainment. This is about how a nation presents itself,” Hunt says. The WGAW runs a script-judging contest designed to hook up diverse writers in mid-career with show runners, but Hunt also thinks broadcast regulators need to step in and demand progress.
That seems a long shot in both the United States, where the regulator is obsessed with squelching obscenity, and in Canada, where the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission cares about little other than ensuring Canadian content. Hunt also says the networks tend to say the diversity problem can be solved only by the autonomous show runners, who pick their own writers. The show runners, meanwhile, say the networks, whose money is on the line, breathe down their necks, vetting what writers they choose.
In one instance, that has actually led to affirmative action: Dan Harmon, the show runner of the NBC comedy Community, has said he was directed by NBC’s prime-time entertainment president Angela Bromstad – who has since been shown the door at NBC – to make his writing room half female. “I think we have to stop thinking of it as a quota thing and think of it as a common-sense thing,” he told the website A.V. Club, explaining that, while he had to hunt harder to find women writers, they brought a new energy to his writing staff that he really appreciated.
Too bad Bromstad has left the building – even if Cummings is lurking the lobby.
Which of TV’s new ‘women-centric’ shows look good?
An awful lot of network TV is aimed at women viewers. And it’s true that not much network TV is actually made by women. The new season’s batch of shows by women and featuring strong female characters is definitely unusual. But are the shows any good?
New Girl (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., Fox, CITY-TV) is the best and the first to be picked up for a full season. There’s all the charm of Zooey Deschanel as a young women recovering from a love rat, but the character, created by Liz Meriweather, is more than that. The give-and-take with the sad-sack male characters is deft screwball comedy, and Deschanel plays a broad without reminding viewers unduly of that.
2 Broke Girls (Mondays, CBS, 8:30 p.m.; CITY-TV, 9:30 p.m.). One of two Whitney Cummings creations this season had a strong pilot with a pair of contrasting female characters, and dialogue with bite. The second episode had jokes about female masturbation – it’s gone crude, but at least it’s female-centric crudeness, some say.
Suburgatory (Wednesdays, ABC, CITY-TV, 8:30 p.m.) was created by Emily Kapnek, with a central female character who is thrown to the wolves (or mean girls) in the suburbs. The show lost its satiric bite in the pilot; while some wit remains, it’s just solidly sentimental, no different from other series.
Up all Night (Wednesdays, NBC, CTV Two, 8 p.m.). From Saturday Night Live writer Emily Spivey, this is a comedy about a hard-living couple finding that a baby changes everything. It’s more droll than hilarious, but the portrait of new a mummy (Christina Applegate) has a humorous ring of truth. A keeper, picked up for all of this season.
Whitney (Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., NBC, CTV) is Whitney Cummings’s stage act of a twentysomething as a sort-of doofus broad, but it’s just bits, not a TV show. Cummings can’t act; and for all the female-friendly lewdness, it’s still a half-baked sitcom.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Wednesdays, Fox, Global, coming late November) was created by Sherry Bilsing and Ellen Kreamer. The show has, wisely, been retooled and held for a late launch. The pilot was a stew of moms shouting and their daughters shouting back. The funny was missing.
– John Doyle