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10 TV Shows That Could Benefit From a Female Lead

By Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers | Indiewire May 21, 2014 at 2:29PM

We were as enamored with the Jessica Chastain/"True Detective" rumors as you were, but it got us thinking -- what other shows could be better with a woman in charge?
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Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in "True Detective"

We were as enamored with the Jessica Chastain/"True Detective" rumors as you were this morning, and equally heartbroken when they were proven untrue. Chastain is an inspired choice for a show in need of a feminine focus, and here's hoping the rumor is news HBO isn't ready to spill just yet. But it got us thinking -- what other shows could be better with a woman in charge? Luckily, there are a lot out there with women in co-lead or lead roles ("House of Cards," "The Good Wife," "Parks and Recreation," many more...), but these 10 TV shows currently on the air could work with a woman in the lead role -- some might even be better. Without further ado, the list:

"Looking"

I know, I know. HBO's hit freshman show "Looking" has never pretended to be about homosexuality as a whole. It's very focused on the lives of gay men as well as the culture in the city of San Francisco. But wouldn't it be nice to have a show about, I don't know, lesbians in Massachusetts (or Washington D.C., or San Francisco, for that matter)? Spin-offs are the sequels of television, and while it's hard to think of an innocent play on "Looking" ("Watching," "Hunting, and "On the Prowl" all are non-starters), if HBO could produce a series with the grace and insight of its male-centric hit through women's eyes instead, I know I'd be watching.

"Anger Management"

Say this for FX's "Anger Management" -- it seems to have been more effective than rehab in keeping Charlie Sheen out of trouble. So maybe there's some other celebrity on the wrong side of public opinion who would benefit from taking over Sheen's place on the show. Reese Witherspoon's been awfully quiet since her drunk driving arrest. Courtney Love doesn't seem busy. Just, please, no one call Lindsay Lohan. Girl's suffered enough.  

"Hannibal"

Don't get us wrong -- NBC's "Hannibal" doesn't lack for interesting female characters. But they do have an unfortunate habit of getting murdered or disappeared or ultimately playing the role of pawns. So let's take it up a notch. Television is full of male serial killers of all stripes -- a female serial killer subtly manipulating the police while cooking up a storm of tasty non-kosher delicacies would make an already original show even fresher.  

Our personal casting suggestion? Gillian Anderson. Yes, she's already appeared on the show as Hannibal's psychologist, but that might make her the perfect character to assume the mantle of Head Killer In Charge when the current Hannibal gets fitted for his Anthony Hopkins-esque mouthguard. Plus, working in "Hannibal"'s favor? Anderson adores the show

One of the CW's DC Superheroes

Yes, it's true, DC has made efforts at putting lady superheroes on screen -- specifically, the 2002 series "Birds of Prey." But while "Birds of Prey" was terrible just on its own merits, it pre-dated the new "Arrow" model for a superhero drama that the CW has found success with in recent years.  "The Flash" definitely has potential, but a female-driven story using the same tone could have just as much appeal. 

Take The Huntress, who has already appeared on "Arrow" and would be a natural spin-off. Maybe she becomes a bounty hunter! It could work. Just avoid comparisons to "Killer Women." 

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"Boardwalk Empire"

It's difficult to picture "Boardwalk Empire" without the face of Steve Buscemi, but try for one second to picture a woman in charge of 1920s Atlantic City. It would have never happened in real life, not at that time, and the HBO show would have to be fantasized to an extent to make it work. But imagine Helen Mirren wearing a giant rose on her elegant post-WWI couture. Or Sigourney Weaver. Or Linda Hamilton. Hell, the entire cast could be reworked to focus on women if we're imagining a world where women were in charge during prohibition. Milla Jovovich would make a convincing replacement for Michael Shannon's "George," and who better to play Chalky White than Darryl Hannah channeling her "Kill Bill" character? I'm intrigued already.

Ruth Wilson in "Luther"
Ruth Wilson in "Luther"

"The Following"

While Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy's acting is probably the best thing about Fox's exploitative serial killer drama, there is no shortage of female actors who could do just the same caliber of work, just as well. One thought, lovingly stolen from the BBC series "Luther," would be the sweetly menacing Ruth Wilson filling in for Purefoy as the leader of a murder cult. British accents, lethal inclinations -- it's a switch so easy, some viewers might not even notice.  

"The League"

We all love Katie Aselton's Jenny on "The League," so much so we'd like to see more of her. Her character has proven -- along with many real life examples and basic common sense -- that women can love football as much as men. Suppose the hijinks goes too far in season six, and Jenny is left alone to mourn the death of her husband -- probably from trying to glimpse the perfect lineup again by jumping off a building or letting Taco straight-razor his bathing suit area. What would she turn to in order to cope? Fantasy football, her first love. Who with? Her new group of sports fanatics: Mila Kunis, Minka Kelly, and Alyssa Milano? They've all got background in sports culture. They're all funny. Throw in Rachel Dratch as the new Taco and a token male -- maybe Jason Mantzoukas sticks around -- and you've got quite the funny new "League."

"Sunday Night Football"

Speaking of sports, wouldn't it be nice if NBC's highest rated show featured females in more than just the opening night song? I'm not saying we should stop "waiting all day for Sunday night" to see Faith Hill or Carrie Underwood belt out the catchy theme, but what if Dan Patrick was joined in his hosting duties by Charissa Thompson, Hannah Storm, or Erin Andrews? Hell, those three plus Rachel Nichols for the injury and fantasy football updates and Suzy Kolber as the cagey veteran, could run the whole damn thing. Plus, then no one would have to listen to Cris Collinsworth anymore. Win win.

"Late Night With..."

This one is less fantasy and real possibility, as in 2015 CBS has an open slot in its late night line-up, and the only thing we know for sure is that Chelsea Handler won't be using it. There's a huge opportunity for 12:30 AM to become the home of a female stand-up or host, breaking up the hegemony of white male Jimmys making fun of the day's news and making starlets comfortable on couches. And while countless lists of who should follow in Craig Ferguson's footsteps exist, the fact is that on one of those lists, there has to be the right woman for the job. Hopefully, CBS will find her.  

"True Detective"

We know creator Nic Pizzolatto is interested in hiring women to helm the second season of his critical and commercial smash, but who can live up to the two men who made season one a top contender for the best freshman season of all time? They've got to have the heat, stature, and talent of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Honestly, Jessica Chastain fits the bill just fine, giving the sourced rumor more weight simply because it made sense. Let's say somehow she still nabs the part -- who's going to be her partner? Lupita Nyong'o needs some work after that Oscar win, and she fits the bill while adding some much needed racial diversity as well. Angelina Jolie seems as far-fetched as Brad Pitt, but she would also be extremely appealing. Mary Louise-Parker, Gillian Anderson, Jodie Foster, and Gillian Anderson (yes, we know she's listed twice) would all also work, with Anderson and Louise-Parker being more attainable choices. (Of course, if Anderson signed on she'd have to partner with David Duchovny because of the unwritten laws of television.)

This article is related to: Lists, Lists, Women, Television, Television, True Detective, Jessica Chastain, Jessica Chastain







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