A few days ago, I came across an article on Bust that made me terribly sad. The article was about how women are mostly left out of Superbowl programming and the best we can hope for, if we don’t like football, is a selection of assorted oddities on other channels, including a marathon of Law & Order SVU (really, on Superbowl Sunday, you want to watch multiple shows about sex and violence and rape and other triggering stuff?), Downton Abbey on PBS, and – the saddest thing I’ve ever read on the Internet ever – that “Ghost will play multiple times on E!”
Ghost? The worst movie of all time is the best that someone could come up with on a day when women are relegated to the small TV in the bedroom? What is your problem, American TV programmers?
Which is why we’re going across the pond for a selection of amazing gal-positive TV that kicks ass and will have you laughing so hard your ribs will hurt.
Why Britain? Because the shorter series length and public funding means that UK television shows have more leeway in terms of representing real people – with no advertisers to keep happy, actors don’t have to be tiny, perfect and pretty, so they’re free to portray real people, break Hollywood stereotypes, and give amazing performances that are amazing, in part, because they’re ugly and honest. British TV offers quality roles for women, allowing them to be smart, strong, independent and funny.
Some of these titles have made it onto Netflix. For those that haven’t, I’d suggest ditching your cable contract for a VPN account that will let you access a UK IP address to track these shows down. I promise that it will absolutely be worth never having to watch Ghost again.
Sky Arts, 2 seasons: S1 – 5 episodes, S2 – 6 episodes
Created originally as part of the Playhouse Presents series of shorts, Psychobitches shows the notable women of history – real, fictional and mythological – as they take to the therapist’s couch. Actor Rebecca Front plays the therapist, the proverbial “straight man” to the antics of her patients who range from Lucille Ball, Eva Braun and Anna Nicole Smith to Lady Godiva, Miss Muffet and Noah’s wife. The hilarity spreads to the waiting room when Delilah encounters both Pocahontas and Medusa. Featuring some of the UK’s most noted actors and comedians including Katy Brand, Sam Spiro, and Sharon Horgan with appearances by folks such as Johnny Vegas, Mark Gatis and Sheridan Smith.
Up The Women
BBCFour, 2 seasons
Banbury Intricate Craft Circle politely request women’s Suffrage.
The genteel ladies of Banbury circa 1910 want the right to vote. They’re a little confused as to how to go about getting that, and hilarity ensues on a regular basis as they wander around town in their ribbons and placards, but this period comedy, filmed before a live audience, is both hilarious and inspiring. Starring Jessica Hynes, Rebecca Front (Psychobitches), Vicki Pepperdine (Getting On, Puppy Love), and Judy Parfitt (Call the Midwife).
BBC1, Netflix, 1 season, 2nd season in the works
If you thought Luther was the most intense show on TV, then you’ve not visited Happy Valley. Sarah Lancashire plays Catherine Cawood, a Yorkshire police officer whose family has been destroyed by piece of shit rapist Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). And oh, look, he’s out of jail. A crime gone wrong puts Royce directly in Catherine’s path and the entanglement that ensures will make you cry, scream, hold your breath, and cheer.
BBC4 – 1 season
Remember what I said about UK actors willing to be ugly – and vulnerable – for a role? Best scene in ugly underwear (ever) must go to Joanna Scanlan for the fantastic scene in Puppy Love. Scanlan plays Nana V, a down on her luck dog trainer who sells (ugly) crappy lingerie and other fenced goods on the side to support her family. Her brilliant comedy partner Vicky Peppardine plays Naomi Singh, a new dog owner who just can’t get her dog under control. Their lives, families and dogs intermingle in this dry, witty and subtly hilarious comedy. Bonus points – a dog in every scene of every episode.
BBC Two, 3 seasons, 2-part finale
If you love Miranda Hart’s character Chummy on Call the Midwife, I highly recommend checking out her sit-com. Intentionally modelled on goofy 70s style comedies, Miranda is full of corny jokes, silly misunderstandings, sight gags that will elicit groans, and tons of pratfalls. No, really, Miranda falls over at least once each episode. It’s got a lot of the old clichéd chestnuts (her posh Mom bemoans Miranda’s ability to find a man), but it’s adorably charming and “such fun!”