Female duos take the screen
Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, April 13, 2014
Sometime last year, after having a long conversation comparing HBO’s “Girls” to its network predecessor “Sex and the City,” I realized how common four-women television shows and movies were. I decided to crowd-source for more examples and was hit with a tidal wave of titles: “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants,” “Mean Girls,” “Golden Girls,” “Heathers” and dozens of other examples were suggested. Four women, it seemed, was the equation for success in female-targeted film and television.
Recently, however, it seems as though a new model is emerging. While reading up on new shows that will debut this spring, a theme emerged: shows starring two female, best-friend leads.
While the format certainly isn’t new (there was “Laverne and Shirley” in the 70s and “Square Pegs” in the 80s, to name some of the most recognizable), the few existing shows currently sharing the format on air are less than inspired, namely USA’s underwhelming tag-team crime show “Rizzoli & Isles” and CBS’s consistently unfunny “2 Broke Girls.” But, I like to think that in part due to the impossible-to-underemphasize success of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” this winter, three new female-led, double-lead comedies are debuting this spring, two on primetime television.
Premiering on April 29 is “Playing House,” a comedy starring, and written by, real-life friends Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair. The show will follow a newly-single mother-to-be (Parham), who recruits her best friend (St. Clair) to help her raise the child. The single-camera, half-hour long sitcom will air on USA and looks at least a little promising, though Parham and St. Clair’s series have had trouble gaining traction in the past.
After the unexpected success of teen comedy series “Awkward,” MTV has decided to try its hand at the “best friend” comedy, this time with “Faking It.” The show will premiere on April 22 and stars newcomers Katie Stevens and Rita Volk as high school sophomores who gain popularity when they are mistaken as a lesbian couple by their school. The girls then proceed to fake their sexuality in pursuit of popularity.
The premise is interesting and, in my opinion, extremely precarious, and it will be noteworthy to see how cautiously writers will tread into relatively unknown waters with the show’s plot. While I don’t have many expectations for this show and foresee the almost infinite missteps it could take, I am still intrigued.
Finally, there is “Doll & Em,” a HBO series that became available on HBO’s instant player last month after the network acquired it from UK network Sky Living last year. Starring and written by Emily Mortimer (“The Newsroom,” “30 Rock”) and Dolly Wells (“Bridget Jones’s Diary,”), the comedy follows exaggerated versions of the two actresses when Mortimer, the more successful actress of the two, pays her best friend to be her assistant. Full of celebrity cameos and self-deprecating, self-aware humor, the show is reminiscent of the underrated and hilarious HBO mockumentary “Life’s Too Short,” starring Warwick Davis. “Doll & Em” certainly shows plenty of promise in its six-episode first season and will hopefully return to show off its creators’ writing and acting chops with more episodes to come.
As news stories pile in about the underrepresentation of women in television, it is exciting to see how these new “best friend” shows will play out. It is nearly impossible to explain how refreshing it was to see not only two women write and star in a show with “Broad City,” but also to see how funny these women were.
It is important not only that women are being represented on television, but also that two of the three new shows are written by their stars and all three are comedies that provide a fresh breath of air into the world of television. While some look better than others, all three are potential steps in the right direction.