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Saturday 16 December 2017

Girlie TV

Desperate Housewives may have reached the end of Wisteria Lane, but there are plenty more funny female dramas that will keep us tuned in

Eight years ago, anyone who knew how to pronounce Manolo Blahnik dreaded the winding down of hit TV show Sex & The City. We graduated to the similarly stylish and smart Desperate Housewives, cannily dubbed 'Sex & The Suburbs', but now, after a whopping eight seasons, this juggernaut is shuddering to a halt this month on RTE 2, too.

However, female viewers aren't being left so high and dry as they were in 2004. For anyone looking for smart fem-centric fare, fear not as Teri Hatcher & co gallop off into the Wisteria Lane sunset, for there is an embarrassment of riches out there ... and there's not a Cashmere Mafia dud in sight. Perhaps it's the Bridesmaids effect.

In fact, such is the spectacularly rude health of girlie TV these days that one Hollywood executive was moved to complain about it. Lee Aronsohn, creator of Two & A Half Men, reckoned that there might be too many women on TV these days.

"Enough ladies, I get it. You have periods," he said. "But we're approaching peak vagina on television, the point of ... saturation."

Predictably, a Twitter backlash followed, with actress Martha Plimpton remarking: "Um, Lee, women are 51pc of the population and a coveted demographic for advertisers. What are you thinking?"

Happily, Aronsohn appears to be in the minority, and everyone else is embracing this new wave of smart, funny female comedies. Heading the charge is 25-year-old Lena Dunham, whose HBO series Girls is currently on the crest of a huge wave of hype Stateside. With the help of Hollywood heavyweight Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Dunham has created a spot-on series about four lovelorn, confused and broke twentysomething women in Brooklyn.

In essence, Girls has been described as 'Sex & The City for a new generation'. Yet, unlike its predecessor, opinion seems divided about the series.

Many have hailed Dunham's brave and honest writing (she directs the show and stars in it, often stripping for sex scenes).

So far, Girls has tackled weight issues, abortion, cobbling together the rent and dispiriting sex with toxic and unavailable men. Close to the bone doesn't begin to describe it. Most twentysomethings will relate to it, although others have slammed the series.

Critics have noted that the four characters are overly privileged, unlikeable and overly entitled.

"I am a working woman out in the world, but I still live with my parents half the time. I've been taking this long, stuttering period of moving out. ... I feel like I'm constantly asking them to please stay out of my work life, but also to please bring me soup,' explained Dunham in a recent interview.

Girls has yet to air in Ireland, but the smart money says that it won't be long before viewers here can make up their mind over the hotly contested comedy.



socialite

2 Broke Girls, currently showing on E4 in Ireland, treads similar ground to Lena Dunham's series. The comedy, based around a spoiled socialite who is down on her luck and a feisty working-class New Yorker, is a massive hit Stateside. The two unlikely friends and roommates are trying to raise enough money to open their own cupcake business, all while working in a Brooklyn restaurant.

Michael Patrick King -- the brains behind Sex & The City -- created the series, and predictably it bears the same glossy hallmarks as its precursor. Even before the series was filmed, 2 Broke Girls became the subject of an intense bidding war between American networks.

Said one critic: "The actresses --especially the Gwen Stefani-esque Kat Dennings -- transcend their types, and the pop-savvy humour has spirit thanks to producer Michael Patrick King. After the forced opening minutes, it's the best multi-cam-com of the season."

A third sitcom makes up the trifecta of clever female-oriented comedies: Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 (soon to be showing in Ireland on E4). Rom-com favourite Krysten Ritter stars as Chloe, the titular Bitch in Apartment 23.

Joining her is newcomer Dreama Walker, who plays June, an innocent arrival to New York. Forced to find a last-minute flatmate, June ends up living with con-artist Chloe, who tries to scam her from the outset. However, the pair forge an unlikely friendship.

With Krysten Ritter's star on the rise in the US, the show is gaining traction. Last year, it was nominated as one of the Most Exciting New Series at the Critics' Choice Television Awards, and the plaudits have been rolling in.

Anyone missing Carrie Bradshaw's unique style or Gabrielle Solis' sexy dress sense will find much to love in TV's newest fashion icon Zooey Deschanel. Already a bankable film star, Zooey landed her own sitcom, New Girl, late last year. Deschanel plays Jessica, a kooky, upbeat woman who moves in with three men. Amid their misadventures, the show is a visual treat, not least because of Deschanel's indie-queen personal style.

When New Girl debuted in the US late last year, the pilot drew a staggering 10.28 million viewers.



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"Everything about New Girl, from her goofy costars to the distinctively quirky writing, is irresistible," enthused one Stateside critic.

"I love this show, because I love the wide-eyed star, who is fully engaged in her role here. If you dislike her hipster adorability, though, beware," wrote another.

Finally, Happy Endings, which began airing last month on RTE 2, treads ground that is familiar to fans of Bridesmaids and Knocked Up. Happy Endings revolves around a group of six Chicago-based friends. At the heart of the group are David and Alex, who are the couple that brought the disparate group together.

When they break up, however, the rest of the group has to decide whose 'side' they are on. 24 star Elisha Cuthbert and Will & Grace star Megan Mullally head up this cast, made largely of newcomers. Happy Endings has been largely described as a probable successor to Friends.

Despite a shaky start, the show has begun to receive more and more praise from critics. "Happy Endings excels at fearless humour that's sometimes shocking, not because it's gratuitous, but because it's an unexpected surprise -- and a welcome one at that," gushed one US writer.

For years, girlie-centric comedies were tokenistic additions to TV schedules, but no more. Now, the cream of female writing and acting talent are finally taking centre stage ... and doing more than gushing over shoes and cocktails.

As Aronsohn indicates, TV is still very much a man's world, even if women do make up 51pc of the population. Women may still only make up 5pc of the directors currently working in Hollywood ... but the good news is that their labours are finally the ones getting the lion's share of attention.

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