Procedurals, less meaty roles put women in tough spot at kudos time
It’s still a male, male, male world — at least when it comes to most of the Television Critics Assn. nominees.This year’s pack of TCA hopefuls includes just two actresses out of 10 nominees for individual achievements in comedy and drama. And other than “Grey’s Anatomy,” the finalists for program of the year and achievement in comedy and drama are all male-driven skeins (such as “The Sopranos,” “The Office,” “House” and “24″). Is it still tough for women to score TV roles that are critic-friendly? “Men are the leads, and women are the seconds in so many shows,” says Sacramento Bee TV columnist Rick Kushman. “Or you get the rare exception like a ‘Desperate Housewives’ that’s all about women, but then in an odd way nobody stands out because it’s an ensemble.” Both actresses nominated for a TCA award star in their respective skeins: Lauren Graham, for the WB’s “Gilmore Girls” (a long-standing critic fave) and Kyra Sedgwick for TNT’s “The Closer.” On the flip side, none of the cast members from the femme-centric “Grey’s Anatomy” made the cut — despite being nominated for both program of the year and top drama. But neither did the stars of another ensemble show, “Lost,” which also earned a berth in both categories. Part of the problem: Unlike most awards — including the Emmys and the Golden Globes — the TCA doesn’t distinguish between men and women. That may make for a more gender-blind award, but it also limits the number of nominees up for an acting award. Indeed, the surplus of procedurals has led to fewer female-led dramas on the broadcast web side; women-driven sitcoms have also declined (along with the number of comedies in general). “When you think of ensemble crime shows, the No. 1 cop is always a guy,” Kushman notes. “What hasn’t changed is the way Hollywood tells stories. Maybe it’s the same people who continue to tell stories or continue to greenlight those stories.” The success of “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” has started to alter the gender balance back toward more women-centric shows, particularly as the nets once again embrace sudsers and open-ended dramas. For this upcoming fall, buzz is already swirling around ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” which stars America Ferrara; the Alphabet is also launching the hourlongs “Men in Trees” (starring Anne Heche) and “Brothers & Sisters” (Calista Flockhart). And on the comedy side, Tina Fey stars in NBC’s “30 Rock.” Still, the majority of new shows hitting the air this fall are still centered around male characters, or ensembles led by men. “There are just more meaty roles for men than women on TV,” Kushman says. But don’t blame the crix: “It’s an indictment on TV, not on us.” Women fared better in the movie, miniseries and specials category, as well as in the children’s programming arena. For the longforms, the Gillian Anderson-led “Masterpiece Theatre: Bleak House” and the HBO entry “Elizabeth I” (starring Helen Mirren) scored noms. And among kids, the picks included “Dora the Explorer,” from Nickelodeon. Despite the gender imbalance, the TCA doesn’t plan to divide its acting categories into the more typical male and female categories. “The general consensus in the TCA membership has been we want it simple, we don’t want it too big,” Kushman says.