Today is not only International Women’s Day, but a day when many are choosing to strike for A Day Without Women, an economic protest to remind the nation just how important women’s contributions to society are. And as part of that, IndieWire has assembled a powerful list of shows, all currently streaming online, that would not exist without the brilliant female creators at their center. This is the great TV that happens when women show up. Don’t take it for granted.
“30 Rock” (NBC, Netflix)
Did we fully appreciate the gift we had in Tina Fey’s absurdist take on life behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show, while it was on the air? Maybe not, but here’s what matters: “30 Rock” was one of the most original, bizarre, hilarious and unapologetically female shows of its time, and it holds up damn well.
“Broad City” (Comedy Central, Hulu)
We have a tradition here at IndieWire of choosing to celebrate “Broad City” with GIFs, as for some reason the animated image format is the best way to capture Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s particular brand of feminist anarchy.
Traditions are important.
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“Chewing Gum” (Netflix)
Michaela Coel stars as Tracey, a virginal yet lustful Londoner whose rampant sex fantasies lead to some awkward but hilarious sexual explorations. Coel is a poet, playwright and actress whose senior/graduation project was the one-woman play that she eventually adapted to become the series “Chewing Gum,” which earned her BAFTAs for her breakthrough writing and performance.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW)
Richard Cartwright/The CW
Rachel Bloom is more than just the acting, singing and dancing triple threat; by writing her own material, she’s a creative force to be reckoned with. Her partner in subversive rom-com crime is Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Together, they’ve created one of the most raunchy, entertaining and yet heartbreakingly honest shows about a woman trying to find happiness in West Covina.
“Difficult People” (Hulu)
Julie Klausner, with a beautifully nuanced assist from her on-screen best friend Billy Eichner, is unspeakably herself in this Hulu comedy — an inspiration to us all, even during those moments when the title is alarmingly true.
Sharon Horgan, whom IndieWire adores for her work on Amazon’s “Catastrophe,” brought her unerring talent for creating truthful, thorny relationships to HBO for Sarah Jessica Parker’s triumphant return to TV. The reality of a marriage gone sour is one that far too many people can relate to, and yet this black comedy brings relief… if only in the form of understanding that we are not alone in our imperfect, wretched suffering.
“Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23” (Netflix)
Nahnatchka Khan’s comedic voice, developed after years of working in children’s television and animation, sings out so beautifully in this “‘Odd Couple’ with chicks and breathtakingly inappropriate humor” ABC sitcom that was canceled way before its time. Khan’s more family-friendly approach to “Fresh Off the Boat” has proven to be delightful as well, but we’ll always cherish the adventures of June and Chloe, behaving badly.
The captivating Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote and stars in this revelation of a series about Fleabag, a single woman who drifts from her somewhat empty job as a guinea pig-themed cafe owner to her even emptier sexual relationships. Breaking the fourth wall to address the viewers head-on is both unsettling and hilarious, but by the end, it’s clear that this directness is a mask for something else entirely.
“Girls” (HBO Go, HBO Now)
Lena Dunham’s think-piece lightning rod has had its ups and downs over the years, but there’s no denying that she and her collaborators have found a way to engage and electrify the zeitgeist on a level that a thousand other shows envy. “Girls” does not represent the female gender in the universal way which the title might imply, but it represents an important milestone for women as creators, and as tellers of their own stories.
“Gilmore Girls” (Netflix)
Amy Sherman-Palladino created one of the most beloved mother-daughter shows ever, so much so that Netflix convinced her to make a revival nearly 10 years later. Full of stream-of-consciousness pop culture rambles and caloric binges, “Gilmore Girls” brought a vibrant and fiercely caring energy to the relationship between young single mom Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and the daughter she had at 16, Rory (Alexis Bledel).
“The Golden Girls” (Hulu)
Susan Harris created several comedies from the 1970s through the 1990s, among them “Soap” and “Benson,” but it was her sitcom about four “older women” sharing a house in Miami that became an enduring favorite that landed at Hulu. The series was ahead of its time in how it depicted these women as lively, sexual and hilarious and also addressed several issues including AIDS, gay marriage, cross-dressing, prejudice, undocumented people and even nuclear war. The sharp writing was anchored by an even sharper cast, including Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty.
“Good Girls Revolt” (Amazon)
Amazon chose to cancel this show after its first season, but there’s still much to admire about Dana Calvo’s period drama about the women’s liberation movement, as seen through the lens of lady journalists wanting to be considered equal to their male colleagues. The greatest tragedy of the show’s cancellation is that Season 1 ends with the women just beginning the war ahead of them. It’s a shame they weren’t allowed to finish fighting it.
“Happy Valley” (BBC, Netflix)
While it may seem like we’ve had our fill of murders rocking sleepy British towns, Sally Wainwright created a series we couldn’t resist. Headed by Sarah Lancashire as the steely Sgt. Catherine Cawood, “Happy Valley” wanders into intense territory where the mystery is only part of what’s keeping us glued to the screen.
“Idiotsitter” (Comedy Central)
Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse have a very special comedic energy, and their small-scale homegrown series about a spoiled rich girl and the naive teacher hired to keep her in line is rich with absurdity, Jay Baruchel impressions and one glorious episode guest-starring Channing Tatum. In short, it’s a show full of gifts.
“Jane the Virgin” (The CW, Netflix)
Robert Voets/The CW
There have been plenty of telenovela adaptations for American audiences, but not since “Ugly Betty” has one captured the imaginations and acclaim like “Jane the Virgin” has, thanks to creator Jennie Snyder Urman. The show centers on aspiring novelist Jane Villanueva (the Golden Globe-winning Gina Rodriguez), a virgin who falls pregnant through an accidental artificial insemination. That’s probably the least of the wacky events in this series that constantly reinvents its formula but keeps its core sweetness.
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix)
The biggest badass of the Marvel Universe isn’t the Hulk — it’s Jessica Jones, strutting through New York City with her leather jacket, superpowers, and deeply buried personal trauma. As developed by “Dexter’s” Melissa Rosenberg, Jessica has her heroic moments, made all the more heroic by how the show never shies away from her pain and inner turmoil. She’s not a victim, she’s a survivor, and her story is profound in its importance.
“The Mindy Project” (Hulu)
Richard Foreman/Universal Television
As the title indicates, comedian Mindy Kaling is the brains and beauty behind the frothy comedy that communicates her impish sensibility delightfully. Kaling stars as OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri, who is intent on finding love (and her next snack), and along the way learns to be a mother and perhaps find out who she is. While silly and irreverent is its wheelhouse, the series takes some conceptual risks at times and veers into the realm of fantasy, with hilarious yet thoughtful results.
“New Girl” (Fox)
Liz Meriwether created her most telegenic self in the “adorkable” Jess (Zooey Deschanel), a lady who clearly knows how to work a ukulele even while she’s taking a pratfall. While Jess’ broken heart is the entry point in the series, it’s her friendship with a wacky but entertaining group of friends though that keeps the fun coming.
“One Mississippi” (Amazon)
A deeply personal tale from a comedian who made her mark with deeply personal stories, “One Mississippi” is a show as much about life, love, and family as it is about tragedy and crisis. Tig Notaro’s placid delivery belies great emotional turmoil — her show proves that the more specific the story, the more universal the impact.
“Orange Is the New Black” (Netflix)
When the show first premiered, it took a bit of time to realize just how rich an ensemble of diverse, intriguing women Jenji Kohan had brought together for the Netflix prison drama. Four seasons in, and we’re now deeply invested in the stories of every woman in orange or khaki. This character dramedy has its idiosyncratic moments, veering at times wildly from comedy to drama. But it’s brought us characters we’ll never forget.
“The Path” (Hulu)
Jessica Goldberg has crafted something truly unique with her Hulu drama about a complicated new religion which… let’s just say it’s cult-like. While well-balanced between its male and female characters, “The Path” stands out as a great example of a show which looks to hear all sides of an issue, with dynamic and fascinating women at its center.
“Scandal” (ABC, Hulu)
“Grey’s Anatomy” might be the Shondaland flagship series, but “Scandal” is perhaps Shonda Rhimes’s most exciting creative achievement, a political thriller that manages to blend the boundaries between soap opera and prestige drama. The series hasn’t been the most consistent over the years, but with its rich array of female characters striving for power, and fearless engagement with social issues, it’s remained a delicious favorite for six seasons.
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson dared to create this series that offers up vigilanteism that isn’t just reserved for guys in capes and cowls. Instead, Jules and Ophelia (Eliza Bennett, Taylor Dearden) take to the shadows to teach a strong, and often bloody lesson to sexual assailants on college campuses. Although the issues of rape culture and violence are never ignored, there’s a core of Tarantino-esque fun and excitement to the action.
“Thirteen” (BBC America)
Less life-affirming than “Room,” this kidnap drama is more intent on examining what happens after Ivy (Jodie Comer), who was abducted at age 13, escapes at age 26. Marnie Dickens delves into the psychological drama of Ivy still feeling confined by a world that continued on without her. The addition of the police, who both try to support but question Ivy in hopes of tracking down her abductor, brings a sense of urgency to the mix. Behind the camera, the series also boasts executive producer Elizabeth Kilgarriff and two female directors: China Moo-Young and Vanessa Castile.
Inspired by her own parent who transitioned, Jill Soloway brought the story of a transgender woman to the forefront in a way that had never been seen before on television. Following each step of Maura Pfefferman’s journey was both heartfelt and messy, but in a way that the entire Pfefferman clan is heartfelt and messy. There is a lot to embrace in this acclaimed series that has racked an impressive number of Emmys and Golden Globes.
“UnReal” (Lifetime, Hulu)
The first season of Lifetime’s “UnReal” was just delicious, rich with scandal and drama and comedy. By tearing down the tropes of the reality dating show genre, the show also found a fascinating lens through which to examine how men and women relate to each other. And creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro made the most of it.