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Before 'Girls': A Television History of the Single Woman in the City

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 13, 2012 at 1:23PM

This weekend, Lena Dunham's highly anticipated new series "Girls" officially debuts on HBO. And if early reviews have anything to say about it, the show should quickly become an imperative addition to a long-cherished television genre: the single woman (or women) trying to make it in the big city.  In honor of this, Indiewire decided to take a look back at the historical progression of the shows that came before it.

Laverne & Shirley (CBS, 1976-1983)
A spin-off of "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley" starred Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams as its titular women, roommates who worked at a fictitious Milwaukee brewery. Set in the 1960s, it's considerably more goofy (and less influential) than the aforementioned shows, but stands as an forerunning example of the single-gal-in-the-city sitcom nonetheless.  Laverne and Shirley supported themselves financially, and relied on each other emotionally largely over any male characters (the series' primary male characters, Lenny & Squiggy, were more sidekicks than anything else). For two seasons in a row, it was also the highest rated series on television.

Murphy Brown (CBS, 1988-1998)
A full decade after "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" went off the air, it found its truest successor in "Murphy Brown."  Candice Bergen starred as the title character (and won a whopping five Emmys for the role), an investigative journalist and news anchor who enters the series fresh from rehab after suffering from alcoholism. Single and forty-ish, Murphy caused a huge stir outside the show when she became unwed and pregnant.  After the show made it clear Murphy would raise the child alone, then-Vice President Dan Quayle infamously spoke out against the show's disprespect of family values.

This article is related to: Girls, Lena Dunham, Television, Features, TV Features

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