Fall television begins soon. I couldn’t be more excited about the returns of Glee and Storm Chasers. And, as usual, there are a couple of new shows I have my eye on. (Or, is it “on which I have my eye?” See my last post. Whomp whomp.)
The New Girl and Whitney are two new female-driven comedies. The New Girl stars everyone’s favorite doe-eyed beauty, Zooey Deschanel and Whitney stars stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings. These are two of my favorite funny ladies, and I plan to add both shows to my DVR, but I’m a bit nervous. I want to like these programs.
The New Girl features a broken-hearted, eccentric young woman who needs a new place. She moves in with three dudes who essentially teach her how to be datable. Because, clearly, all her idiosyncrasies make her unfeminine and thus impossible to snag a guy. (Heaven forbid.) This show is like a reverse Queer Eye sitcom. Instead of gay men teaching heterosexual men how to be a good partner for their women, these straight men are teaching a heterosexual woman how to be a good girlfriend. Because women are dolls that can be shaped into men’s fantasies. Duh. Zooey’s character has so much potential to embrace quirky authenticity, but I get the feeling they’ll follow the Pretty Woman story line.
I almost hope she ends up a lesbian in the series finale.
Whitney borrows its material from Whitney Cummings’ (admittedly hilarious) stand up comedy routines. But, though hilarious, her comedy revolves around relationships between men and women. She has the tendency to essentialize how men and women communicate, often defaulting on gender stereotypes. Occasionally she offers biting commentary (like how porn stars are popularizing completely bare nether regions which contributes to a creepy fetishization of prepubescent girls, video here), but I worry network primetime won’t allow for these sharp analyses.
Jonathan Gray* notes these two shows are clearly geared towards two different audiences. He writes:
Deschanel is very much being marketed as cute, adorable, and vulnerable. The relationship between her and her three male minders suggests that, yes, she is the new girl, as the promos make an obvious pitch for male protection … while still trying to hold onto her as identificatory character for women and throwing in several, “oh, men!”-style jokes in the trailer. Turning to Whitney, though the promos certainly sexualize Cummings, they also sell her as loud, abrasive, and in charge. She is the new woman therefore, and she’s being sold to women more than men, with almost all of the humor in the trailer being of the “girlfriend, am I right or am I right?” variety. FOX is hedging its bets, in other words, going for men and women. NBC is going mostly for women, all-in on the one star and all-in on one gender as audience.
When was the last time a female-driven comedy received the respect (and ratings) it deserved? (And don’t say Sex and the City. Let’s talk network TV.) Why is it so hard to market to women? It’s not as though we don’t watch television. And we don’t just watch soaps. Where does the responsibility lie, with the networks or with the viewers? Do women use television programs as a relationship-building activity? (i.e. Do women skip female-centered programming because their male partners are not interested?) Or are networks pushing tropes that simply don’t resonate with female viewers?
Share your thoughts. Are there new shows you’re looking forward to? Do you plan to watch either of these? What’s on your DVR? Don’t you just love Storm Chasers?
*This post was inspired by a discussion of these two shows, as well as two other new shows, on Jonathan Gray’s blog The Extratextuals.