On the Box
Do we have the success of Bridesmaids to thank for the glut of girl-centric sitcoms that continue to cross the Atlantic? Or are we just witnessing an evening-up of things after decades of male-domination? It’s far too early to say, but there is no doubt that sitcoms are no longer a male preserve – indeed, if ever they really were.
Even going back to the early days of the genre, when TV simply didn’t exist in Ireland, one woman stood supreme in the United States of Sitcom. Lucille Ball was the number one sitcom star back in the 1950s and into the 1960s. Not only that, Ball was ahead of the game in many respects as she also produced I Love Lucy and its many offshoots while also running her own production company, making millions out of syndication.
As Ball’s star inevitably waned, Mary Tyler Moore took up the mantle on the 1970s with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was a massive global success. She was followed in the 1980s by Roseanne Barr, whose eponymous sitcom established herself and co-star John Goodman. You can throw Ellen DeGeneres, Loretta Swit, Sarah Silverman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Heaton into the mix and, let’s face it, there’s no denying that TV’s been pretty good for the girls.
But they were always the exception rather than the rule. Until now.
One glance at the current RTÉ Two schedule will tell you all you need to know. On Tuesdays there’s New Girl, a sitcom starring indie movie poster girl Zooey Deschanel in her own show about a broken-hearted schoolteacher called Jess who moves into an apartment with three men.
Next up is Suburgatory on Wednesdays. While Jeremy Sisto is ostensibly the lead actor, the show really revolves around his character’s daughter Tessa Altman, played with great gusto by Jane Levy, a clued-up teenager coming to terms with a move from Manhattan to the more conservative suburbs of upstate New York.
Then on Thursdays there’s 2 Broke Girls. Okay, it’s a throwback to the 1970s with its casual racism, but at its core is a great partnership between two chalk ‘n’ cheese diner waitresses played by Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings. It’s definitely more Oscar and Felix than Laverne and Shirley, which is both good news and where the latest addition to the femcom lexicon comes in.
Starting tonight (Thursday May 24th) on E4, Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 stars Dreama Walker (Gossip Girl, The Good Wife) as June, who arrives in New York wide-eyed from Indiana to pursue her dream job, until she finds out that it no longer exists and she ends up moving in with a con-artist/party-girl named Chloe, played by Krysten Ritter (27 Dresses, Gilmore Girls).
In typical sitcom fashion they don’t get along at first, but when Chloe’s attempts at conning June backfire, they end up friends. As an odd aside, former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek co-stars as a fictional version of himself, who happens to be Chloe’s best buddy.
Looking further afield, female comedy has also been well served in recent times by Tina Fey’s award-winning role in 30 Rock (3e and Comedy Central) and Amy Poehler’s frighteningly realistic turn in Parks & Recreation (RTÉ Two), two of the greatest comedies of modern times.
And there’s more to come.
The sex and the city prequel The Carrie Diaries will shortly begin production, while HBO has Girls, which offers a warts ‘n’ all depiction of the lives of four young women living in New York. Whitney Cummings, co-creator and executive producer of 2 Broke Girls, stars in her own show, appropriately called Whitney, which is due soon this side of the Atlantic on British satellite channel Comedy Central.
So . . . What’s up, guys?