The state of television seems to be deteriorating with the explosion of reality television and the never-ending series of crime shows. But among the frivolous and grotesque, there are some real gems with strong female characters to lead the way. Celebrated shows like Sex and the City, Girls, and Orange is the New Black all adeptly and humorously explore female relationships, honoring our individual differences and acknowledging our essential sameness. If this is your cup of tea, then here are five more shows worth binge-watching over the holidays.
What these shows have in common, besides an award-winning cast and well-deserved critical acclaim, are that they are all about women who are facing major life challenges: a cheating husband, an emotional breakdown, cancer, alcoholism, single motherhood, and relationship breakup; and in their struggle to cope, pave a convoluted, imperfect, mistake-ridden and often comical path to their true self.
The Good Wife
The Premise: Don’t be put off by the title of this series; it belies the complexity of the main character, Alicia, and the legal and political plots of this smart and sharp show. The initial challenge for Alicia: how to rebuild your life after your high profile husband is caught cheating (with hookers no less)? Does she stand by her man or start a new life or both?
Why should you watch? Watch this show for its complex female characters, to see the evolution of an imperfect woman in an imperfect relationship in an imperfect world, and to witness how humiliating circumstances can sharpen your focus, give you strength, and make you examine your own values and what you want out of life.
Time Investment: Seven Seasons, 143 episodes and counting
The Premise: After a public emotional breakdown, and three months in a treatment center, Amy returns home with the aim to make better choices and live a new more meaningful and enlightened life.
Why should you watch? Amy’s challenge is to maintain her new outlook within an environment where no one else has changed and moreover, who are unsupportive and cynical of the changes she is trying to make. How does she do it? Or does she?
Time Investment: Two Seasons, 18 Episodes
The Big C
The Premise: This dark comedy features high school teacher, Cathy, who lives a normal suburban life until the shock of a terminal cancer diagnosis hurtles her hilariously and bittersweetly toward self-discovery.
Why should you watch? The Big C illustrates the comical side of dire circumstances while forcing us to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves are we living or just existing?
Time Investment: 4 seasons, 40 episodes
Premise: Christy and her wayward mother, Bonnie, have recently become sober after years of turmoil and learn to grapple with life’s challenges with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous and each other.
Why should you watch?: If you’re looking for levity with a dose of bawdiness, and loads of mother/daughter invalidation, this Roseanne meets Two and a Half Men show is for you. More importantly, it is an empathic and hilarious portrayal of a dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter.
Time Investment: 3 seasons, 57 episodes and counting
The Premise: Do you like ‘The Bachelor’? Then you will love this. But be warned, you will never be able to watch ‘The Bachelor’ in the same way again! ‘Unreal’ delves into the dark and cynical world of producing a reality show, ‘Everlasting’, and how the contestants are manipulated, humiliated and character-assassinated for the sake of ratings.
Why should you watch it? The focus of this ‘behind-the-scenes’ drama is not the contestants but a female producer and the price she pays for ignoring and contradicting her values for the sake of the show. Although fictional, Unreal effectively demonstrates how our perspective on people and situations can be so easily be manipulated by the media. So while you may judge reality shows like this more harshly, you will judge the contestants less.
Time Investment: 2 Seasons, 11 and counting
Drop Dead Diva—the premise is silly, a model dies and comes back in another woman’s body, a larger, smarter woman; but it’s an easy breezy show that is able to address body image in a fun and light-hearted way.
Time Investment: 6 seasons, 78 episodes