With cracking new comedy Suburgatory coming to E4 tonight and both Veep and Kathy Burke’s Walking and Talking lighting up Sky Atlantic, it finally seems like the GIRLS are getting the laughs in too.
For too long a male dominated genre, the rise of lady-led comedy is something really to crow on about. So we shall, at great length.
For so very long, sitcoms were all about the guys. Seinfeld, Cheers, Blackadder and a so many other entries into the pantheon of great comedy always focussed on the men. Even when they we an ensemble, the testosterone dominated.
While there’s always been an individual sitcom that’s given the GIRLS something to shout about, there’s very rarely been a slew of them like there is this year. Dinnerladies, Smack The Pony and Sex In The City tried to light a fire; it seems only now that we’re seeing the flames.
Like usual, the entertainment industry is a slow moving beast when it comes to the changing balance of genders. It would have to take something major to trigger a massive change and get women to the front of the funniest shows on TV. That trigger came in the shape of Bridesmaids.
A massive hit both critically, and more importantly, commercially, Bridesmaids was a revelation. Proving that girls in comedies didn’t just have to be about swooning over the latest gorgeous guy and be just, well, funny, Bridesmaids proved a massive door-opener.
All of a sudden, the US schedules were starting to swell with new, fresh and above all funny comedies with the girls taking charge. 2 Broke Girls, New Girl and Suburgatory all popped up in a short spell, all with female creators and stars but packing universal appeal.
Not to be outdone HBO set about new female-based comedy, commissioning both Enlightened (starring and created by Laura Dern) and Veep (a female focussed re-imagining of The Thick of It). Both have been met with praise from critics stateside.
Enlightened, Surburgatory and 2 Broke Girls though only feature female protagonists. Girls on the other hand, the creation of bright young thing Lena Dunham is something else completely; a female ensemble. With the clout of Judd Apatow for support, that’s exactly what Dunham’s done.
While Girls has been met with some hostile reactions over in the States (although that’s mainly due to the insane levels of hype surrounding Dunham), the show has been a triumph. Confident and always true to itself, Girls is a fantastic, if slightly self-indulgent show. Navel-gazing it may be, but Girls is a totally unique animal and a real coup for HBO.
They weren’t the first though. Parks and Recreation has had a female lead for some time, but its lack of ratings success, despite constant acclaim and praise have held it back from blazing a real trail.
The same cannot be said for 30 Rock. It has achieved enormous success, launching star and creator Tina Fey into the spotlight. The female-based comedy TV comedy had its first hit, but it would take years for anyone else to follow in her footsteps.
Finally though, the switch is happening. The enormous success of 2 Broke Girls (despite constant criticism) has been staggering becoming one of the most watched comedies on U.S TV. With New Girl proving a hit both domestically and internationally too, it seems like the networks are now reaping the rewards they perhaps should have done years ago.
The UK hasn’t been quiet either. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been getting more and more funny women up on screen. Ruth Jones has undoubtedly been the biggest success story, and for good reason. Gavin and Stacey was routinely one of the BBC’s highlights, with Jones going on to create the excellent Stella for Sky earlier this year.
Sky’s Trollied and Walking and Talking have also been great successes, the latter in particular being a nicely low-key and realistic look into Kathy Burke’s formative years.
While those still stoutly against change will hold up the universally derided and unfunny Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? As example of women-led comedies gone wrong, the continued existence and success of the similarly bad Two and a Half Men show it’s an issue that dogs all comedy.
The biggest surprise of all though isn’t that the US has caught up to the UK’s amount of girl-centric comedy but has now, in quantity at least, overtaken it. Ruth Jones and Victoria Wood may have lead the charge, but the American’s are finally here to back them up in serious numbers.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith