TV Surf Report: Television Far Friendlier To Women Than Film

Santa Monica, CA — Between Film and Television, one medium is, by far, more friendly to women than the other:  Television.

As Studios like Disney employ men to write and to direct even the most female-centric stories like Cinderella and Beauty & The Beast, Television affords women writers and directors far more varied opportunities.

Furthermore, established Showrunners like Shonda Rhimes know how to Lean In when it comes to employing/empowering/featuring other women as exhibited by her latest all-female-led ABC pilot, The Catch.

SHONDA RHIMES  TINA FEY  JILL SOLOWAY  WINNIE HOLZMAN  Top Left: Shonda Rhimes; Tina Fey; Bottom Left:  Jill Soloway;  JJ Abrams & Winnie Holzman & Cameron Crowe.

So, what’s a Showrunner, you may ask.  The Showrunner is the Creator/Head Writer who runs the show, oversees casting, post-production, all with the help of other producers.

There are many women Non-Writing Executive Producers, but for the purposes of this writing-centric examination, they belong to another important, credit-worthy List.

(Sorry, Gale Anne Hurd.  Same goes to Ellen DeGeneres, who is quietly making great use of her production deal with NBC.  You too, Gail Berman.)

This list, which will be updated regularly, comprises those pilots/series created, written and executive produced by women.  Current Series on the air that began last Fall are not included with the exception of Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix as that just premiered.

Here’s the interesting and somewhat enlightening breakdown by Content Delivery System (why even bother using the outdated term, “Network,” anymore!). 

Clearly, some Buyers are friendlier than Others (ahem, CBS).  ABC leads the Pack by a wide margin.

  • 8 – ABC                      ABC LOGO
  • 5 – NBC
  • 3 – Showtime
  • 2 – ABC Family
  • 2 – Fox
  • 2 – HBO
  • 2 – Lifetime
  • 2 – Netflix
  • 1 – Amazon
  • 1- CBS
  • 1 – MTV
  • 1 – OWN
  • 1 – SyFy
  • 1 – TBS
  • 1 – Up

Here’s the breakdown of femme-led Pilots in production this season, by Title, with a bit more info:

  • Broad Squad at ABC is written and produced by Bess Wohl and stars Lauren Ambrose as a cop in 1970s Boston.
  • Mix at ABC.  Rashida Jones (along with Will MacCormick) produces. Jennifer Cecil writes this ensemble dramedy set in a family restaurant.
  • The Catch at ABC.  Shonda Rhimes (HTGAWM, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), Jennifer Schuur, Betsy Beers, and Julie Anne Robinson produce with Robinson to direct this adaptation of the Kate Atkinson marriage thriller between two Cons.
  • Family Fortune at ABC.  Tina Fey (along with Robert Carlock and Matt Hubbard) and comedienne Fortune Feimster produce this half-hour comedy starring Feimster and Annie Potts.
  • The 46 Percenters at ABC.  Sherry Bilsing-Graham & Ellen Kreamer write and produce this half-hour Anti-Rom-Com told from the POV of three couples.
  • The Brainy Bunch at ABC.  Wendy & Lizzie Molyneux write and produce this comedy starring Melanie Griffith about parenting kids with genius IQs but no Life Skills.
  • Untitled Resurrection-like Drama at ABC.  Jenna Bans writes and produces this drama about the dead son of a prominent politician who returns from the dead.
  • The Kingmakers at ABC.  Sallie Patrick writes and produces this YA crime thriller set at an Ivy League school starring Adrian Pasdar.
  • Recovery Road at ABC Family.  Beth Miller and Danielle Von Zerneck produce this teenage ensemble set in a rehab facility that’s written by Karen DiConcetto & Bert V. Royal.
  • Tough Cookie at ABC Family.  Lauren Lungerich writes and directs this show about a young mother who’s not ready to parent her daughter.
  • Down Dog at Amazon.  Robin Schiff (Super Fun Night) wrote and produced this pilot which didn’t make the initial cut but could always end up elsewhere should Amazon pass.
  • Criminal Minds Spin-Off at CBS.  Erica Messer writes and produces this version of the popular drama set in the Division of the FBI that helps Americans in trouble abroad.  Anna Gunn and Gary Sinise star.
  • Studio City at Fox.  Krista Vernoff writes and produces this ensemble family drama about drug dealing to the stars.  Eric McCormick and Heather Graham star.
  • The Bad Stanleys at Fox.  Dana Klein created this comedy starring Jenna Elfman as a working mom who competes with her stay-at-home sister-in-law.
  • The Devil You Know at HBO.  Jenji Kohan (OITNB) writes and produces.  Gus Van Zandt directs this period drama set during the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Elisabeth at HBO.  Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time) writes and directs this drama starring Patricia Clarkson set in the world of international politics.

carol-mendelsohn-felicity-huffman1  melissa-rosenberg-kate-schumaecker

Top Left:  Carol Mendolshohn; Felicity Huffman; Melissa Rosenberg and Katie Schumaecker.

  • Unreal at Lifetime.  Marti Noxon (Buffy) satirizes a Bachelor-esque reality show with a behind-the-scenes drama starring Shiri Appleby.
  • Clan of the Cave Bear at Lifetime.  Linda Woolverton (Maleficent) adapts Jean Auel’s novel about pre-history with Neanderthals.  Millie Brady stars.
  • Untitled Comedy at MTV.  Jill Soloway (Transparent) supervises Ashley Skidmore & Lyle Friedman’s female buddy comedy.
  • Love Is A Four-Letter Word at NBC.  Diana Son (Law & Order: CI) creates this diverse ensemble drama about married couples.
  • Game of Silence at NBC.  Carol Mendelsohn  (CSI) re-imagines Turkish drama Suskunlar which chronicles an attorney’s rise despite a secret past.
  • Heart Matters at NBC.  Jill Gordon (Wonder Years) adapts Dr. Kathy Magliato’s memoir about her life as a heart-transplant surgeon.  Amy Brennaman stars.
  • Untitled Monica Potter Comedy at NBC.  Sherry Bilsing-Graham & Ellen Kreamer’s 2nd pilot of the year stars Parenthood’s Monica Potter in a comedy loosely based on her life and her three ex-husbands.  Ellen DeGeneres exec produces.
  • Untitled Suzanne Martin Proj at NBC.  Suzanne Martin (Hot In Cleveland) has created a comedy about empty nesters starring Miranda Cosgrove and Patrick Warburton.  James Burrows, the pilot guru, directs.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at Netflix.  Tina Fey (with Robert Carlock)  Series starring Ellie Kemper as a woman starting over after leaving a cult is available for streaming now and getting pretty good reviews.
  • AKA Jessica Jones at Netflix.  Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter; Twilight) runs the show on this Marvel adaptation that has a 13-episode order and stars Krysten Ritter and Carrie-Anne Moss.
  • Queen Sugar at OWN.  Ava DuVernay (Selma) adapts and directs Natalie Baszile’s novel about an LA woman who returns to rural Louisiana to claim an 800-acre farm she inherits.  Oprah exec produces, natch.
  • Roadies at Showtime.  Winnie Holzman (Once And Again) writes and produces this 1-hour comedy about daily life of a successful rock tour.  J.J. Abrams and Cameron Crowe god-father and presumably, direct.  Luke Wilson and Christina Hendricks star.
  • Lonely Hearts Killers at Showtime  Liz W. Garcia (with Josh Harto) re-tell the story of the infamous 1940s murders.
  • You at Showtime. Sera Gamble (with Greg Berlanti) adapts Caroline Kepnes’s novel about 20something love in the Digital Age.
  • The Magicians at SyFy.  Sera Gamble (with John McNamara) adapts Lev Grossman’s novel about teens who live and learn at a secret magic school in upstate New York.
  • Wrecked at TBS.  Samantha Bee (with Jason Jones) runs the show (as well as her own upcoming fake news series) based on her real-life, disastrous family vacations.
  • Ties That Bind at UP.  Sheryl J. Anderson (Charmed) has a 10-episode order for this hybrid police procedural/family drama.


Next Up:  Networks Cast Familiar Faces Hoping Audiences Welcome Them Back

About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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