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A well-written television character will draw in any viewer, connecting to their unique humanity. However, no matter how universal a character, there still remains the underlying question of, “Yeah, but does that person look like me?”

This is why, as a child, I always rooted for the female contestants on Wheel of Fortune and why my three-year-old niece (who understands nothing about politics) recently over-simplified the election, declaring that the “girl should be president.” She just related to what she knew. Good television showcases diverse and complex characters, embodying more than just stereotypical tropes.

Thankfully in 2016, there’s no shortage of amazing shows showcasing incredible female leads. Here are ten of my personal favorites:

1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Ellie Kemper’s Kimmy Schmidt is an addicting ray of sunshine. This off-beat comedy (created by Tina Fey) brings together everything you likely loved in 30 Rock, while diving into obscure plot-twists about the doomsday cult Kimmy narrowly escaped. Kimmy shines with relentless optimism reminding us that we too can overcome our hardships, even if those hardships involve behind held hostage in rural Indiana in an underground bunker cult. (TV-14)

2. The Good Place

This hilarious new afterlife comedy is perfect for Kristen Bell who plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a less-than-angelic woman who died suddenly and accidentally ended up in a heaven-like place called “The Good Place.” In the afterlife, Eleanor works to improve her karma to maintain her residence in The Good Place. The heaven-like setting allows characters to defy laws of nature, adding a fantasy-element for extra entertainment value. (TV-14)

For more of Kristin Bell’s work with This Bar Saves Lives, check out her article in Darling Issue No. 9.

3. Jane The Virgin

This delightful telenovela keeps viewers in suspense weekly. Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane, a young woman empowered over her sexuality, relationships and career. However, despite her empowerment over her dreams, sometimes “life” gets the way; if by “life” I mean getting accidentally artificially inseminated with a stranger’s sperm while living as a virgin waiting to do the deed with her fiancé until their wedding night. This show is hilarious, full of well-developed women, always delivering romantic entanglements and high-drama cliffhangers. (TV-PG)

4. Fixer Upper

It’s not typical for a home-design show to make a strong female character list, but Joanna Gaines is anything but typical. Bringing country-chic design to homeowners across Waco, Joanna proves to be one of the savviest women currently on TV. She’s a loving wife and mother, a self-taught interior designer, and strategic entrepreneur. Joanna manages every design challenge with grace, while always putting her family first. (TV-G)

For more with Joanna Gaines, don’t miss her inspiring interview that appeared in Darling Issue No. 15.

5. The Mindy Project

Mindy Kaling carries The Mindy Project, a quick-witted medical comedy. Further developing everything we loved of Kaling’s Kelly Kapoor from The Office, it’s hard to know where Kaling the actor ends and where her chatty career-driven characters begin.  Regardless of how autobiographical her characters may be, this show is an utter delight full of biting lines and romantic misadventures. (TV-14)

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Image via Cacá Santoro

6. Insecure

This new HBO show staring Issa Rae features a character by the same name. Issa is an LA-based 29-year-old black woman attempting to navigate romance, her career, and friendships. As the name suggests, this show centers around Issa’s insecurities. Insecure is funny, featuring the producing chops of The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore. Jump on board now, you have so little catching up to do. (TV-MA)

7. Broad City

In this extremely off-beat comedy, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson star as best friends of the same names trying to navigate 20-something New York City life. Every episode is an utter disaster concluding with neither Ilana nor Abbi any closer to living as responsible adults. Hannibal Burris lends his comic chops as Ilana’s romantic interest (of sorts). Broad City is light, always contemporary and a pure pleasure every time. (TV-14)

8. Gilmore Girls

Although Gilmore Girls isn’t a show currently airing new episodes, Netflix promised to revive the show on November 25th with a mini-series called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Each 90-minute episode will cover a season of the year, returning us back to the quick-wit dialogue we loved between the mother-daughter duo Loralei and Rory. If you missed falling in love with the Gilmores in the early 2000’s, catch-up on all the Stars Hollow antics with a proper Netflix binge before A Year in the Life premiers. (TV-PG)

9. Veep

This highly-awarded HBO razor-sharp comedy pokes fun at American politics and stars the amazing Julia Louis-Dreyfus at Selina Meyer, America’s Vice President and then later (spoiler alert) President. Navigating through the DC jungle, Veep’s commitment to showcasing politics as a circus rings particularly close to home during this contentious election season. With five Emmys and Tony Hale co-starring as Selina’s loyal assistant, Gary, what other endorsements could you ask for? (TV-MA)

10. Pitch

Another show premiering this year, FOX’s drama Pitch explores what would happen if a woman threw a fastball through the glass ceiling to become a professional MLB pitcher. Breakout actress Kylie Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker a rookie starting pitcher on the San Diego Padres. Sports dramas rarely have room for girl-power plotlines, but Pitch’s unique premise allows for both teary-eyed sports climax moments, as well as meaningful conversation around gender issues. Pitch was co-developed under the guidance of the MLB, creating a particularly authentic experience for viewers; you truly believe you’re watching an MLB game and before long, a female starter pitcher on the mound seems completely plausible. (TV-PG)

We know there are so many more great characters out there. What are you currently watching?

Feature Image via Müjgan Afra Özceylan

14 comments

  1. Madame Secretary. First few seasons I believe are available on demand through Netflix. Tea Leoni is calming and sensible which are rare qualities to find when dealing with politics. I crave this show now more than ever.

  2. Great suggestions! I’ve also been loving Supergirl. It follows most of the typical superhero show tropes, but I still love it because of how Cara is written. She’s brave, kind, badass, compassionate and yet occasionally naïve all at the same time, which I think makes her very relatable – aside from the superpowers, of course. 😉

  3. This is an excellent list. I’m watching a bunch of these, as well as Divorce, Mary + Jane, Casual, Fresh Off the Boat, and Blackish.

  4. I just finished season one of Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt, and it was amazing! The female characters were all relatable, strong and supportive of each other, and the story was great!

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