This blog is a little different. Because I aspire to write film and TV, I try to keep up with new offerings in both those media. (Okay, so it’s also an excuse to watch more television and justifies my MoviePass subscription!) This week, I want to tell you about three new shows I’ve started watching that indicate the #MeToo movement has hit the TV landscape hard—and we can expect to see more female-driven content in the months and years to come.
Limited series have ruined me for regular network TV. Instead, these days I follow several shows that produce only a handful of episodes… and then disappear for a year at a time (sometimes longer, in the case of Game of Thrones!). AMC’s British-based Humans (about a futuristic set of synthetic beings who gain consciousness) is one such show. Dietland premiered after an episode of Humans, and I was immediately hooked.
On the surface, Dietland is about an overweight woman (irreverently nicknamed “Plum”) who becomes involved with a radical feminist group that calls itself “Jennifer.” Jennifer begins executing rapists and threatening everything in our culture that objectifies women: porn, fashion magazines, make-up and clothing—and of course, the obsession with surgery as an option to remake female bodies into the “cultural ideal.”
Plum begins the series complicit and self-hating. She works at a fashion magazine for young women anonymously giving advice as “Dear Kitty.” In reality, Kitty is her skinny bitch boss, the editor of the magazine who takes credit for Plum’s intelligence and ease with words, while insulting the package those virtues come in. Plum is grateful for the job; she’s saving every penny for weight loss surgery so she can dump her nickname, become a skinny bitch herself, and assume her given name “Alicia.” But an encounter with the mysterious Leeta brings her into the mission of Jennifer with a punch in the face (literally!).
Live action is interspersed with animation moments which gives Dietland a refreshing unique visual appeal. AMC also offers a companion talk show, hosted by tv personality Aisha Tyler. I can’t speak on that—I haven’t watched it yet—but I can understand why it exists. Dietland has that same buzzy “what just happened here?” shock value of The Walking Dead.
Like Dietland, Claws features a primarily female cast but this time the women work in a low-rent South Florida nail salon crafting elaborate designs on fake nails. They are so long they curl like talons. Led by the flashy and curvaceous Desna (portrayed by Nicey Nash), the salon’s cast of characters could be interesting all by itself. There’s Polly, the ex-con huckster, Silent Ann the Ivy league-educated, baseball bat-wielding enforcer; Jen, the recovering alcoholic and struggling wife and mother; and Virginia, the former sex worker. The bond of friendship between these women as they support each other through their ongoing personal drama is refreshing and well done. But what really kicks the show up a notch is that the nail salon is actually a money-laundering front for an illegal opioid-distribution clinic.
Where Dietland interrupts live action with animation, Claws interrupts drama with musical numbers and bursts of song—not unlike an episode of Glee. Sometimes, I found these interludes misplaced and little jarring, but on the occasions where they work, they bring a bit of light-heartedness and humor that complements the soap-opera style outlandishness of the plot lines. While Dietland is clearly intended to be serious and thought-provoking, Claws chooses drama with a generous side of fun.
You can catch the entire first season of Claws on Hulu.
USA’s Queen of the South
Theresa Mendoza was just a simple woman living in the Mexican town of Sinaloa until she met Guerro, the love her life. But when Guerro is killed for informing on a powerful cocaine smuggling cartel, Theresa’s world turns upside down. On the run from the same thugs who killed Guerro she finds herself under the protection of the deadly Camilla Vargas– who has aspirations of taking over that cartel and running it herself. Forced into working for Camilla in order to stay alive, Theresa discovers she has a real talent for “the business.” Theresa struggles to maintain her sense of humanity in the violent drug underworld as she becomes more and more powerful—so powerful that her protector becomes her nemesis.
Unlike the other two shows, Queen of the South doesn’t break its dramatic arc with animation or music. It’s an intense drama that puts two powerful women against each other as each vies for control of cocaine distribution from Florida to Texas. The characters are well-drawn and interesting and I find myself “rooting” for drug dealers, which is always an interesting phenomenon. But Queen is the most formulaic of the three shows, thanks to its traditional network cliffhangers, unlikely rescues, unwillingness to kill characters who surely would have been executed in the world it strives to represent. These omissions make Queen a little frustrating in my opinion, and as it enters its third season, I wonder if those weaknesses will be its undoing. Its brilliant first two seasons are available on Netflix.
Still, it’s worth watching—all of them are. If you’ve seen these shows, I’d love your thoughts about them in the comment section below– and if you have any recommendations for other female-centric television shows, I’d love to hear about them!