Color TV turns 60 this month. We’re currently lauding 5 feminist TV shows to watch now, but let’s take a moment to reflect on the amazing strides women have made on the boob tube over the past six decades:
1950s: The roles for women in TV’s premiere decade didn’t stray far from “wife/mother/homemaker,” but that wouldn’t last long…
1960s: Strong women asserted their power, independence, humor and wit in sitcoms such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Bewitched,” “Julia,” “That Girl” and “The Lucy Show.” Bye-bye June Cleaver, hello, Mary Tyler Moore
1970s: Barbara Walters has done more for women on the small screen than just about anyone. After years of being treated as little more than a secretary who read the occasional fluff piece, this trained journalist muscled her way into co-hosting the NBC Nightly News, the first woman to do so. Everyone from Katie Couric to Oprah owes her a debt of gratitude. Also this decade: A single woman moves to a big city–without a man!–and makes women everywhere want to be just like her. Thanks again, “Mary Tyler Moore.”
1980s: Sure, there were over-glammed women bitch-slapping it up on soaps like “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” but we also saw how badass women with badges can be in the groundbreaking “Cagney & Lacey,” and learned the importance of female friendships—well into later life—on the beloved “Golden Girls.” These were the women to idolize in the 80s.
1990s: Watching TV in the 90s made it seem like the country had been taken over by pretty, rich teenagers with problems. But the reigning teen on TV also wielded a steak, which she used to kill vampires. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” gave women and girls a relateable super hero. This was also the decade of miniskirt as power suit in “Ally McBeal,” and sardonic, dysfunctional wit as ratings gold with the still-groundbreaking “Roseanne,” which started in 1988 but hit its stride this decade. Also: Ellen DeGenerous had her own show and helped a nation face the fact that being gay didn’t make you any less funny, pretty or smart. Her show was cancelled, but the message changed millions of lives.
2000s: Women were formally issued their ass-kicking card this decade. Smart, tough killers with a conscience ruled the first half of the ‘00s, led by Jennifer Garner on “Alias.” The latter half has been owned by Tina Fey, whose “30 Rock” proves that smart and hilarious are not mutually exclusive when it comes to women.