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This article was published 27/12/2017 (1271 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At the beginning of 2017, women were marching. By the end of it, they were bringing down bad men by raising their voices in an irrefutable chorus of #Metoo.
Television in 2017 provided both an escape and a salve for what has been a trying, but also triumphant, year. I wanted specific things from TV this year: to watch women be funny; to watch women kick ass and take names; to watch women be excellent friends to one another and have each other’s backs.
I also wanted to watch women fight back.
And did the small screen deliver. This year gave us not one but two meaty Margaret Atwood adaptations — The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace — and more opportunities to watch Christine Baranski be fabulously ruthless as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight.
Here are five new female-led shows that that gave me life in 2017.
SMILF (premièred Nov. 5)
Despite having a truly terrible title — I’ll leave you to Google to figure out the acronym — Frankie Shaw’s Showtime comedy is the best show on TV right now. Adapted from her award-winning short film, SMILF features Shaw as Bridgette Bird, a 20-something single mom trying to make ends meet in south Boston. It’s a smart, ink-black, unapologetically feminist comedy that offers incisive and often quietly devastating observations about poverty, female sexuality, motherhood, trauma and scaling back your dreams. (Rosie O’Donnell is also a revelation as Bridgette’s mom.)
Iconic scene: Bridgette is sexually assaulted by a man who grabs her by the vagina, and she punches him in the face. This episode aired after the Harvey Weinstein allegations blew up, making it extra-satisfying. Honourable mention goes to Connie Britton, who plays Bridgette’s moneyed boss, mainlining McDonald’s in her parked car instead of going to a yoga class.
GLOW (premièred June 23)
This knockout Netflix original starring Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin was inspired by the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a short-lived cult women’s wrestling TV show that aired on Saturday mornings in the 1980s. Brie is Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress who ends up auditioning for GLOW, along with her best friend-turned-enemy Debbie Eagan (Gilpin), who got written out of her soap for getting pregnant. This is a show about a group of women who don’t fit in anywhere finding a tribe — and finding strength and empowerment where you might not expect it.
Iconic scene: The scene in which Ruth finds out she’s pregnant and decides to get an abortion is strikingly tender and empathetic, which is something we don’t see often. Historically, abortion has not been handled well on TV — women usually end up getting their period, or decide not to go through with the procedure. In GLOW, Ruth makes an informed decision and the scene is given emotional heft without resorting to guilt or shame.
The Handmaid’s Tale (premièred April 26)
Everyone relax: I won’t call this show "scarily relevant" again in this column — even though it is. But the latest adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel starring Elisabeth Moss was one of the biggest blockbusters of 2017, raking in a fistful of Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe nominations. What was once America has become the Republic of Gilead, where fertile women are forced to become handmaids and reproduce for their commanders and their wives. Moss is stunning as narrator Offred, and so is the show’s gorgeous, chilling photography. Many fans of the novel have remarked that this iteration of Gilead looks closest to what they had in their heads when they first read it.
Iconic scene: "My name is Offred, and I intend to survive."
Big Little Lies (premièred Feb. 19, 2017)
The HBO adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s dishy bestseller of the same name stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz as incredibly smart, incredibly rich stay-at-home moms who live in the tony enclave of Monterey, Calif., which has been rocked by a murder. A Real Housewives whodunit this is not; Big Little Lies goes deep on big subjects, such as domestic abuse, the dynamics of female friendship, and why life never is as picture perfect as it might look.
Iconic scene: While any moment featuring Witherspoon perfectly cast as the irrepressible and overbearing Madeline Martha Mackenzie is a gem because she has all the best lines — "I love my grudges, I tend to them like little pets" — there’s one scene in particular that sums up the show’s vibe. Woodley is running along the beach and suddenly, Kidman and Witherspoon join her, flanking her. They run together, in solidarity. I’ll confess: seeing those women so fiercely have each other’s backs made me bawl.
Workin’ Moms (premièred Jan. 10, 2017)
CBC has really stepped up its comedy game as of late, and this sitcom starring creator Catherine Reitman is one of the leaders of the pack. Set in Toronto, Workin’ Moms follows four 30-something friends trying to reconcile career ambitions with motherhood. It’s a hilariously frank — and often touching — exploration into what "having it all" really looks like. Breast-pump scenes abound.
Iconic scene: Kate (Reitman) is jogging with her son, when she encounters a bear on the path. She gets between the bear and her baby, screams at the top of her lungs and the bear backs down. While the mama-bear imagery is hardly subtle, the emotions Kate cycles through in what is a one-minute scene — from the fear to the adrenaline to the astonishment — makes for a great TV moment.
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