This week we were treated to two new fall sitcom previews: Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project on Fox and Sarah Chalke's How To Live With Your Parents on ABC. Let's watch them both, shall we?
I laughed non-stop during this preview. I know it's cool to bag on network sitcoms, but I think there are some great ones out there, and The Mindy Project looks hilarious. I love Mindy Kaling; I think she's long proven herself as one of the strongest writers on The Office, and her portrayal of Kelly Kapoor has always delivered big time laughs.
Next we have Sarah Chalke's new pilot:
Plenty of laughs in this guy, as well! I mean, there's some tiresome stuff (a precocious kid saying "Oy!", a crotch shot), but the networkiness of both previews is offset by two - three, actually, counting the great Elizabeth Perkins - hilarious women given free reign to be goofy as hell.
As always, compared to film, the opportunities for women in television are abundant. Particularly in comedy: someone like Anna Faris who is really tremendously funny is reduced to crap like The Dictator and every Scary Movie. I'd actually really enjoy seeing Faris headline a sitcom; she'd kill it. Next fall, the above two shows will join Girls, The New Girl, Don't Trust the B, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Rebel Wilson's terrific-sounding new show Super Fun Night, among others that I don't like as much so I won't mention. I legitimately like every single one of these shows, and they all star very funny women as the leads. It's a great scene.
But one thing that should be noted: the above previews for The Mindy Project and How to Live With Your Parents make it clear that the lead characters are klutzy, adorkable (ugh) screw-ups. And that's fine. I love goofy, dorky, clumsy, irresponsible women as much as the next person. I love them on Girls and The New Girl and 30 Rock and I imagine I'll love them on Super Fun Night, as well. I quite like the fact that Don't Trust the B shakes it up a bit: June (Dreama Walker) is a hyper-responsible individual and Chloe (Krysten Ritter) is evil, but in a very organized way. And that's ultimately what I love about Parks and Recreation, too. Here's a show that draws great laughs out of a character who is kind, competent and successful. I imagine that can't be easy; if it were easy, every other show wouldn't make the same tired jokes about klutzy ladies flailing in wacky misunderstandings.
But that's not a problem with the representation of women on television; that's just sitcom leads in general, male or female. Sitcoms usually feature the inept and hapless, because these characters have to get in screwy dilemmas that can be easily solved within half an hour. Sure, parts of The Mindy Project and How to Live With Your Parents look familiar, but both shows star great talents dishing out huge laughs. Would I prefer to watch Mindy Kaling, Sarah Chalke, Rebel Wilson, Krysten Ritter and Amy Poehler headline their own shows on HBO? Of course. But there can only be one Girls, and the rest of these women are having no trouble nailing it on the networks.