How many new comedy series with a female lead were picked up last May? Zero. How many have been picked up so far this season? Every single one. All four new comedy series ordered so far by Fox and NBC this season have female leads. That is how many the four broadcast networks combined have on the air this season: NBC’s 30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Parks and Recreation starring Amy Poehler, and ABC’s The Middle starring Patricia Heaton and Cougar Town starring Courteney Cox. Half of those were created by women. All four of the newly picked series come from female creators. While not at 100%, female-centered series are also dominant on the drama side. One of the two new Fox dramas, Alcatraz, has a female lead, Sarah Jones, and was co-written by a female writer, Liz Sarnoff. Of the two NBC drama pickups, one is the female-centered Prime Suspect starring Maria Bello and written by Alexandra Cunningham and the other the female-skewing Smash, which has two leads, one played by Debra Messing. And the two locks at ABC are all about ladies (though penned by male writers), Charlie’s Angels and Good Christian Bitches.
The four newly picked up half-hour series will probably be joined by 3-4 more for a complete domination of the freshman comedy class of 2011 the way ensemble relationship comedies were all the craze last year. What’s more, it looks like as many as three new comedy series are two-female lead shows. Here is the list: Fox picked up The New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel and created by Liz Meriwether, and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, about two moms, played by Jamie Pressly and Katie Finneran, written by Ellen Kreamer and Sherry Bilsing-Graham. Then NBC today picked up Up All Night starring Christina Applegate and written by Emily Spivey, and Whitney, created by and starring Whitney Cummings. Also very likely at NBC is the Chelsea Handler comedy starring Laura Prepon and written by Dottie Zicklin and Julie Larson. And the comedy frontrunners at the other two networks, CBS and ABC, are also female-centered with two female leads each: CBS’ Two Broke Girls, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs and co-written by Whitney Cummings, and Apt. 23, starring Krysten Ritter and Dreama Walker and written by Nahnatchka Khan. In contrast, there is only one comedy pilot with a male lead this season, ABC’s Tim Allen project, that appears to be a slam-dunk, with another one, David Hornsby’s male buddy comedy How To Be a Gentleman, also very likely at CBS. Another hot ABC pilot, Work It, also has two female leads, sort of, as it centers on two guys dressing as women to get pharmaceutical rep jobs, while the network’s Suburgatory centers on a girl and her father.
Fox, which had done little female-centered programming outside of American Idol until Glee came around,is reportedly considering turning Tuesday and Wednesday into female-driven nights and could use the new comedies there. And for the past two weeks, there has been talk that NBC is mulling opening a female-skewing comedy block midweek, with The Biggest Loser and Smash among possible companions.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.