Television

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

It’s hard to overstate the cultural influence of BtVS: its tone, vocabulary, and storytelling chutzpah have been widely imitated in the years since the height of its popularity in the late ’90s. There’s a whole host of reasons why writers like David Simon considered it one of the best shows ever made, and those reasons largely center around Buffy herself  and the rest of  “the Scooby Gang.” Over the course of 7 seasons, viewers got to grow, laugh, and grieve with a fully-realized, three-dimensional group of characters. Not bad for a show about a high schooler who fights the undead.


Halt and Catch Fire

In an interview she gave to FemFreq, lead actor Kerry Bishé articulates part of what makes this show so exciting: the opportunity to watch women playing a vital role in the explosion of the personal computing revolution. Taking place in the early 80’s, HaCF follows a crew building early computer and gaming technology. Catch up and then read our review of season 3.


Leverage

A former insurance investigator brings together a crew of criminals who use their specialized skills to take down corrupt corporations and help those they have harmed. This Robin Hood themed show weaves in strong social justice values and alludes to real injustices in the world.


Parks and Recreation 

The female characters that populate this workplace mockumentary are undoubtedly the reason to watch: funny, smart, ambitious, and outspoken. P&R truly shines when it gives free rein to its talented ensemble cast, led by waffle-obsessive Leslie Knope (played with humor and heart by comic genius, Amy Poehler). Watch it. As Donna Meagle would say, “treat yo’self.”

Orphan Black

Check out our interview with Tatiana Maslany to see why we love this BBC America show, which is “deeply concerned with how we perceive women’s bodies, minds and humanity.” The narrative conceit of Orphan Black (a shadowy cabal of “neo-lutinists” attempt to shape human evolution through cloning) is secondary Maslany’s ability to embody an endless number of discrete characters. 


Grace and Frankie

This comedy revolves around two older couples getting a divorce when their husbands admit that they are in love with each other. It is very rare to see older women starring in their own show, and granted they are Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda but it’s really nice to see older women who are human with desires, struggles, and interests.


Steven Universe

Animated gem* from Rebecca Sugar that is both impossibly sweet and silly — but nevertheless has lots of important things to say about gender expression and identity; teaching consent; and finding your own voice. Each short episode about the alien “Crystal Gems” is anchored by a unique cast of characters, including half-human/half-Gem, Steven (*who would love this pun).  We also love how many POC are behind the voices of this charming show.


#1 Ladies Detective Agency

The luminous Jill Scott plays Precious Ramotswe, the Botswanan owner and brains behind the titular organization. Based on a popular series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith.


Avatar: The Last Airbender

The world-building of A:LA is culturally dense, environmentally progressive, and socially adept in regards to gender. Forget the M. Night Shamalyan abomination and check out the original for engrossing storytelling about Sokka, Katara, and Aang, a playful young “airbender” with the ability to master the elements.

Fringe

Comparisons to The X-Files are probably unavoidable, but this take on the credulous investigator/skeptical partner trope offers some intriguing notions about “fringe” science, parallel universes, and evil Leonard Nimoys.


Star Trek: Voyager

The fourth entry in the inexhaustible Star Trek canon, this version features a ship
(finally) helmed by a badass female captain who tries to safely get her motley crew back to Federation space after being pulled 70,000 light years away by an immensely powerful – if misguided – alien. Spoiler alert: it takes seven seasons.


Farscape

While on an interstellar mission, astronaut John Crichton is sucked through a wormhole and ends up on Moya, a sentient, living ship. He joins ranks with its  crew to try to make it home, all while trying to stay one step ahead of a fiendish alien intent on wresting wormhole information from John’s brain.

Elementary

This Sherlock Holmes remake features a gender-swapped Watson, played by Lucy Liu. She is smart, compassionate, and confident and her presence gives this show an emotional depth — and growth for Holmes – that hasn’t been seen in other iterations.

Black-ish

Endearing and smart sitcom about the black, middle-class Johnson family: father Dre, mom Rainbow, and their photogenic, wisecracking tv kids. The show can be searing and spot-on when it comes to race (though there are occasional fumbles around gender). One to keep an eye on.

Top of the Lake

This New Zealand crime drama from Jane Campion is dark, atmospheric, and unflinching in its examination of violence against women and girls. Characters within the show endure a litany of mental, physical, sexual, and emotional trauma, and the show offers no easy answers. Elizabeth Moss plays young Detective Robin Griffin, and her unrelenting strength is of the few beacons of light this show allows.

Up All Night

It’s almost impossible to believe that a comedy this smart lasted only one full season (and a truncated second season while it changed formats). Christina Applegate and Will Arnett play Reagan and Chris, two former Bright Young Things. They have a baby, and with that life change comes all sorts of questions: about the nature of masculinity, about what it means to get older, and about how to navigate an adult relationship. Show highlight: Maya Rudolph’s turn as Ava, a deliciously-loony Oprah clone.

Jane The Virgin

The CW Network’s loose remake of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen is given wings by its incredibly talented, primarily POC cast (including the incredible Jaime Camil and newcomer Gina Rodriguez, who took home a Best Actress Golden Globe in 2014). The central plot starts simply and grows more and more ludicrous: pious young Jane is artificially-inseminated by mistake, and must contend with the fall-out. Along the way, we get evil twins, Czech crime families, and tons of melodrama. The show offers a satirical take on the stereotypical telenovela formula, but its winking nudges at the audience are leavened with a lot of heart.


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