5 Feminist Shows to Watch This Winter

The Winter TV season is here, full of familiar guilty pleasures and still more sassy female sitcoms to add to the bumper crop of the fall (Are You There, Chelsea?). Here we pick our favorites among them — chase any viewing of The Bachelor with these female stereotype-challenging series:

Alcatraz: This one seems made for this list. A trio led by a woman (Sarah Jones) investigates weird stuff going down at the creepy, famous prison that has been the setting for a billion dude movies. And the show was co-created by one of Lost‘s few female writers, Elizabeth Sarnoff. Exec producer J.J. Abrams delivers another one for the strong ladies.

House of Lies: Showtime’s latest edgy sitcom follows a team of brash management consultants led by Don Cheadle. It’s full of the kind of locker-room talk high-paid professions still traffic in, and Kristin Bell’s Jeannie dishes it out and takes it the way we imagine any successful businesswoman must. But she hasn’t checked her womanhood at the door and knows she needs to make different choices than a man to get ahead — like harvesting and freezing her eggs for later. Watching Cheadle’s character parent his adolescent son, who’s aggressively ambiguous about his sexuality, is another interesting depiction of gender politics.

Portlandia: This makes the list just for revealing the hidden comic brilliance of ’90s indie-rock goddess Carrie Brownstein. We also enjoy the takedown of self-serious feminists in the recurring skit about the proprietesses of the “Women & Women First” bookstore. See, feminists are funny and can take a joke!

Hot in Cleveland: Can the world ever have enough Betty White? This show says no, and we agree. It’s basically a modern Golden Girls, five over-40 women living together and hardly about to pine for a man.

Suburgatory: This show, new in the fall, just gets better every week. It follows a single dad (Jeremy Sisto, yum) and his teenage daughter, the strong, tough, independent Tessa (the luminous, Reese Witherspoon-esque Jane Levy) after they move from New York City to the suburbs. Tessa gives us a fresh take on the outsider new kid — she has no interest in being part of the cool group, but she’s not invulnerable to the charms of a cute boy or a pretty dress. She’s a complex heroine worth rooting for.



Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded SexyFeminist.com, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013; her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. She is the author of the Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club published by Grand Central in 2010. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC, and teaches article writing and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong


  1. Jenna says:

    Good list. :) I’ll have to check out House of Lies. It’s nice to have some feminist friendly shows to watch.

  2. It’s a shame that Prime Suspect got cancelled–I thought Maria Bello’s character was one of the best female roles I’ve seen in any crime drama, ever….

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