Hey, it’s me, a man.
It’s been one helluva a year on TV for women. Big Little Lies? Incredible. The Handmaid’s Tale? Great. And oh my God, have you seen The Crown? Just, wow.
HOW-EV-ER. As a very good report in Variety, titled, “From ‘Big Little Lies’ to ‘Veep,’ Male Creatives Tap Into Their Feminine Sides,” notes, very importantly, “it’s worth noting that the year’s most-talked-about performances—take Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale or the stars of Big Little Lies and Feud—all came from the pens (and keyboards) of male writers.”
You may think men overwhelmingly representing the decision makers in this age of 50 million TV shows is more of a flaw than a feature, but I am here, along with Variety, to tell you that this is not the case.
Now get a load of this:
Ryan Murphy has proved particularly potent as a writer of female perspective, who turns his collaborations with his cast into award-winning work. Consider last year’s triumph by Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark in “The People v. O.J. Simpson” — their partnership produced an indelible portrayal, effectively redefining the nation’s perspective on the beleaguered district attorney. This time out, he’s behind “Feud: Bette and Joan,” luring Susan Sarandon to television in the role she was predestined to play, and guiding Jessica Lange to a legend-making turn as Joan Crawford.
Those actresses will face off in the limited series race category against two other powerhouse performers: Nicole Kidman, who’s having an unprecedented year, with every project she’s chosen, from “Lion” to “The Beguiled,” and Reese Witherspoon, who proved she could find humor and depth in what might have been a one-note character. The duo shepherded the femme-led project from concept to screen, yet it was David E. Kelley as the writer and director Jean-Marc Vallee who executed the creative vision. The other contenders in the category — Carrie Coon for FX’s “Fargo” and Felicity Huffman for ABC’s “American Crime” — both collaborated closely with their male showrunners (Noah Hawley and John Ridley).
Let me hold you here for one second, if you don’t mind.
Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon—two iconic, Academy Award-winning actresses. They did it. They “shepherded” Big Little Lies from “concept to screen,
Y E T
it was David E. Kelley as the writer and director Jean-Marc Vallee who executed the creative vision.”
Now altogether: “The duo shepherded the femme-led project from concept to screen, yet it was David E. Kelley as the writer and director Jean-Marc Vallee who executed the creative vision.”
DO NOT FORGET THIS FOR ONE FUCKING SECOND, GODDAMMIT!!!
OK, where were we.
There are some women working behind the scenes of TV’s greatest comedies and dramas, too, which is very nice.
There is a female voice in the room behind one of the lead actress’ noms: Lisa Joy co-showruns the sci-fi thriller “Westworld” with her husband, Jonathan Nolan. Joy has been an eloquent defender of the show’s sexual overtones. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton may well have her to thank for their nods.
The comedy race finds more female voices behind the scenes: Marta Kauffman partnered with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda to create “Grace and Frankie,” and this year finds both women on the list. And Pamela Adlon can credit herself for the success of “Better Things,” a prime example of the trend of creators writing star turns for themselves (see “Atlanta,” “Master of None” and the criminally under-recognized “Insecure”).
See? That’s nice. But please, please, please, please, please, please, I am telling you, two men run Veep:
But even Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who’s poised to break Emmy records should she win again as the profane politico Selina Meyer, has triumphed with the work of not one, but two male showrunners (David Mandel inherited the post from Armando Iannucci last season). Selina Meyer might have some choice words to say about that.
That said, this Variety piece I have quoted at length makes a strange decision in its conclusion—a confusing one, really, given that nothing that precedes it would seem to gesture toward a conclusion like this one. This is what it says:
This may well be the year of the actress — to be sure, they all delivered the performances that have everyone talking. But it’s long past due time for the year of the female showrunner.
Huh. If you say so!