There has never been a better time to be female. What better way to pass the cold days than to snuggle up with a mug of mulled wine and watch some of the best female-led shows TV has ever seen? We have compiled 6 of the best few for you. Happy watching!
1. Big Little Lies
The show kicked off with its central mystery: a brutal murder at a glitzy school fund-raiser in a wealthy neighborhood in California. It is then followed by flashbacks to the suburban dramas of five mothers, their families and their kids leading up to the murder, intercepted by interviews with people of the neighborhood post-murder in an interrogation room. One can’t help but try figure out who the murdered and murderer is before the story unfolds, but you soon realize what keeps you watching are the complex, flawed and engaging women characters, their relationships with each other, their families and their children.
The show’s star female cast include Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern, and the series is created under Reese Witherspoon’s production company Pacific Standard, which strives to create movies she wanted to watch growing up with strong, complex women in the center of the narratives. Having been told multiple times by big-money studios that “We’re not interested in female-driven material”, she started her own production company – going on to produce box office hits such as Gone Girl and Wild – showing that if you want something to happen, sometimes you just got to do it yourself and become the female lead in your own heroine’s journey.
2. The Good Wife
Imagine if you’re a housewife of two kids, and your government official husband is just revealed to have slept with prostitutes and facing jail time, what would you do? Would you stand by his side? Would you run away? What would a good wife do?
We weren’t given much time to think as we were thrown into the story of Alicia Florrick, who responded to the scenario by putting back her suit on 15 years after being out of the work force and joining a Chicago law firm as a junior associate (her colleague of the same paygrade was fresh out of college). The New Yorker writes of the courtroom drama “I don’t think it’s possible for a television show to be any better” – and he isn’t exaggerating.
One of the best female characters is naturally lead star Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, going from the housewife who stood beside her husband to the lawyer who zealously stood her ground both in the courtroom and the bedroom. Another equally outstanding female character is Kalinda Sharma, the sassy, snark investigator of the law firm played by Archie Panjabi, who won the show’s first Emmy in 2010. Sarcastic, snappy, and always found in a leather jacket and boots, it’s quickly established after the first few episodes that Kalinda is not someone you want to mess with.
Intelligent, witty, quick-paced – The Good Wife is a must watch.
Although the lead character of Goliath is actor powerhouse Billy Bob Thornton, who won a Golden Globe for his role in the drama series, what stood out is the army of strong female characters surrounding him performed by Maria Bello, Molly Parker, Olivia Thirlby, Tania Raymonde and more.
One thinks ‘another courtroom drama’ when first starting the TV series, but get ready to put aside 8 hours to watch all parts of the series in one go (I did) – it is hard not to be engulfed by the gripping storyline and brilliant acting. Thorton plays Billy McBride, a once big-time lawyer who got kicked out of the mega law firm Cooperman McBride which he co-founded with now enemy and lawyer Donald Cooperman. Mcbride, who now lives as a shabby looking alcoholic in a motel and is divorced from his ex-wife (who still works at his old firm), spends his sober hours working on plea deals at the public courthouse for people whose names he doesn’t remember. An opportunity soon comes to take up a case where a man supposedly committed suicide by blowing up a boat he was on in the middle of the ocean – his sister thinks there was more than meets the eye. The catch: the boat is owned by a technology company which is represented by McBride’s old law firm, and he soon finds himself fighting against a billion-dollar tech company and his former mega company – David against Goliath – hence the name of the show.
The women characters: Maria Bello plays Billy’s ex-wife and a partner at Cooperman McBride. She is angry with McBride, but respects his legal skills and is still fond of him. Molly Parker is Callie Senate, a senior lawyer at the firm who previously used a relationship with Cooperman to advance her career. Olivia Thirlby is Lucy Kittridge, a young associate at Cooperman McBride who Cooperman installs on the Larson case and later seduces. Tania Raymonde is Brittany Gold, a prostitute who cares about Billy McBride and sometimes works as his legal assistant. All these female characters and more display strong personalities in their own way, making Goliath a spectacular show to watch.
4. Sex and The City
One can’t mention a TV series with strong female characters without mentioning Sex and the city. In your group of girl friends, you could be Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte or Miranda (or all of them depending on the day of the week). They are not all role models, not all the time or not at all, but they sure show us how girl friends who stick together win together. SATC celebrates female friendship at its best. Almost 20 years since its first episode aired, it still remains relevant to the frustrating challenges, bemusing humor and exhilarating joys of love and work in a big city. Let’s not forget, of course, the dizzying array of fashion. There is never a bad time to start or re-watch the timeless TV series.
5. The Girlfriend Experience
The Girlfriend Experience follows the life of a female law student who has a secret life as a high-end call girl. With a young, beautiful, fit women as a lead character and backdrops in spacious new apartments, hotels and high-end restaurants, it would almost seem at first glance like the series would become predictable, but it is anything but. When sex appears on screen in cinema, it always seem like an afterthought or an ornament, but sex is made an essential, not excessive, part of the plot here – never overused and cleverly captured.
Christine is played by Riley Keough – in the office she is Christine – serious, diligent, with her hair sleek and pulled back. In a hotel room or across from the dinner table, she is Chelsea – hair down, spectacles-free, witty and brave. Her face remains undecipherable most of the time when she is not interacting with someone – making you wonder who is real and who is being staged – Christine or Chelsea – or both? Intertwined into each scene, be it a conversation, a financial or a sexual exchange, is a psychological tension that constantly challenges the viewer, aided perhaps by the ominous electronic score is by Shane Carruth.
The Girlfriend Experience is as much a legal and corporate drama about power and money, as it is a story about one young woman’s sexuality, psychological development, and progress in the world. Unapologetic about her choices, Christine is an anti-hero that almost dares you to judge her.
6. Z: The Beginning of Everything
We are all familiar with Scott Fitzgerald, if not, we are familiar with his work – The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned. This story is however, is told from the point of view of Zelda, Scott’s wife, muse, partner, a writer of her own right and whose words were even at times taken and used in Scott’s writing.
Artist Patti Smith once wrote of Zelda: “Some of us are born rebellious. Reading the story of Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford, I identified with her mutinous spirit.” Every women with some sort of free spirit in them would find it hard not to identify with the heroine of the show, played by Christina Ricci. She was impulsive, beautiful, very talented – the phrase “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea” comes to mind. Ricci starred in and produced the show – bringing to the big screen the contradictions that is the woman and the woman behind the man. Some critics complained that there are differences between this Zelda and the real one. Does it matter though – when one can’t stop wanting more of this one?