NBC's 'must-she TV' marking a trend among Big Three
November 4, 1997
Web posted at: 5:01 p.m. EST (2201 GMT)
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- NBC may have instituted "Must-She TV" on
Monday nights as an antidote to the Monday night football
games airing on rival ABC, but the trend toward female-driven
prime time shows isn't exclusive to NBC.
Today, there are more than 15 woman-driven prime time shows
on all the networks, leading some TV analysts to declare 1997
the year of the woman.
"They are everywhere," said TV Guide's Mark Schwed. "And
they're doctors, they're lawyers, they're princess warriors.
They're everything, and the best thing of all is apparently
you don't have to be a 20-year-old model anymore" to get a
While many women-led sitcoms are still headed by the young
and the beautiful -- prime examples being Fox's "Ally
McBeal," the WB phenom "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and NBC's
"Caroline in the City" -- many others are not.
"Cybill," "Murphy Brown" and "Touched by an Angel" on CBS,
and NBC's "Veronica's Closet," serve as proof that older
women can also get a piece of today's prime time pie.
In some cases, the women's lineup is also going to lengths to
explore serious women's issues. For example, the veteran
team of Candace Bergen and Diane English hopes to attract
female viewers with this season's "Murphy Brown" storyline
about breast cancer.
"We're pushing ourselves not to shy away from what's real and
dramatic, and yet some of the best comedy comes out of those
situations," said English, who serves as executive consultant
for the program.
The shows also offer their stars new opportunities behind the
cameras. Ellen DeGeneres is taking a more involved role in
her show following her groundbreaking coming-out episode.
"I don't think I could do the show if I didn't have creative
control," she said of her self-named show on ABC. "I think
my character is stronger than it's ever been, because she
knows who she is."
And Anna Maria Horsford, the star of "Amen," now has input
behind the camera. Speaking about her recent role in
directing an episode of UPN's "Good News," she said, "You do
need a woman's touch sometimes to get the other perspective."
As president of The Carsey Werner Co., Caryn Mandabach helps
provide that other perspective, overseeing shows like
"Cybill" and "Grace Under Fire."
However, Mandabach says, there is still room to round out
women's portrayals on TV.
"It's good that there are a lot of women on television,
because a lot of women watch television," she said. "It's
not so good that the portrayals of women are a bit -- not
stereotypical, but there's a bit of sameness about them.
There's no diversity or not enough diversity about the
portrayals of women."
Mary Tyler Moore, one of the pioneers of leading women's
roles on TV, agreed. "I'm not sure that the writers always
do justice to the women," she said.
Diversity or no, Nielsen ratings confirm that shows driven by
funny, young, and successful women are holding their own, and
capturing the viewership of just that same kind of woman --
the type advertisers hope to reach.
Correspondent Gloria Hillard contributed to this report.