Bridesmaids No More: TV's Women Get All The Laughs

Dec 30, 2011
Originally published on December 30, 2011 6:07 am

Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?

She's playing a woman who moved in with three guys after a bad romance. We've seen Deschanel play this character countless times over the last 10 years: quirky, bohemian, earnest and a little dorky. Fox even used the term "adorkable" just to describe her.

But she's also the leading edge of a trend that defined television in 2011: the Funny Female.

Kristen Wiig has played GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Saturday Night Live. Wiig practically defines the year of the Funny Female on TV — and not just because she dominated the funniest skits on SNL this year.

It's also because Wiig's hit movie Bridesmaids gave a boost to two of television's other female MVPs of comedy: Mike and Molly star Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, from NBC's Up All Night.

When other TV shows tanked, Rudolph and Christina Applegate stepped up with their oddball chemistry as a daytime TV star and her executive producer pal, who is also a new mom.

When you consider who watches TV, this all makes sense. Women typically watch more TV than men, and outside of sports, shows with a high percentage of female viewers also tend to be among television's most successful — think American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

Comic Whitney Cummings even grabbed two prime spots on the schedule, as an executive producer on CBS' Monday-night hit 2 Broke Girls, and star of NBC's Whitney.

In January, Cummings' NBC show will be paired with a new sitcom on the life of boozy, sexy comic Chelsea Handler.

That's right: a double-barreled shot of in-your-face females happy to sling sex jokes just like the boys.

It's debatable whether this is such a wonderful leap forward for female's images. But just a few years ago, some critics predicted reality TV shows would kill the sitcom altogether. Instead, the rise of the Funny Female proves network television's future likely comes with a smile — and a pair of snappy high heels.

Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

A lot of critics, professional and amateur, have spent a lot of time, in the last few weeks, making best of lists - movies, trends, gadgets and gaffes. TV critic Eric Deggans wants to note a trend: the Triumph of Funny Women.

ERIC DEGGANS: Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom "The New Girl?"

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE NEW GIRL")

ZOOEY DESCHANEL: (As Jess) So you know in horror movies when the girl's like, oh my god, there's something in the basement. Let me just run down there in my underwear and see what's going on in the dark. And you're like what is your problem? Call the police. And she's like, OK, but it's too late, because she's already getting murdered. Well, my story's kind of like that.

DEGGANS: She's playing a woman who's moved in with three guys after a bad romance. We've seen Deschanel play this character countless over the last ten years - quirky, bohemian, earnest and a little dorky. Fox even coined the term adorkable just to describe her. But she's also the leading edge of a trend that defined television in 2011: the Funny Female.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Michele Bachmann) I believe paying no taxes can help us return to the America I love.

DEGGANS: That's "Saturday Night Live's" Kristen Wiig, playing GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

WIIG: (As Michele Bachmann) The America of thousands of years ago in which feral bands of mud people lived in their caves, never worrying that Barack Obama was going to come and take their hard-earned pelts or infringe on their right to bear spears. That's my America.

DEGGANS: Wiig practically defines the year of the funny female on TV. And not just because she dominated the funniest skits on SNL this year, it's also because Wiig's hit movie "Bridesmaids" gave a boost to two of television's other female MVP's of comedy; "Mike and Molly" star Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph from NBC's "Up All Night."

When other NBC shows tanked, Rudolph and Christina Applegate stepped up with their oddball chemistry as a daytime TV star and her executive producer pal, who is also a new mom.

(SOUNDBITE OF "UP ALL NIGHT")

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: (As Reagan Brinkley) Do not worry. I am going to fire Nancy.

MAYA RUDOLPH: (As Ava Alexander) Yeah?

APPLEGATE: (As Reagan) Yeah. Of course. I'm a firing machine, honey. That's why they call me the ray gun. You're fired.

RUDOLPH: (As Ava) You used to be the ray gun, but since you've had Amy you have lost your edge. Now you've been more like ray going to let everything slide.

DEGGANS: When you consider who watches TV, this all makes sense. Women typically watch more TV than men. And outside of sports, shows with a high percentage of female viewers also tend to be among television's most successful. Think "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."

Comic Whitney Cummings even grabbed two prime spots on the schedule, as an executive producer on CBS's Monday night hit "2 Broke Girls" and star of NBC's "Whitney."

WHITNEY CUMMINGS: (As Whitney) I mean, being a comedian is not really a choice. It's just you either have a bad childhood or you don't. And thank you, mom and dad, for that.

DEGGANS: In January, Cummings' NBC show will be paired with a new sitcom on the life of boozy, sexy comic, Chelsea Handler.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?")

CHELSEA HANDLER: (As Sloane) You cannot date my ex-boyfriend. That is very slutty.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I would let you date one of my ex-boyfriends.

HANDLER: (As Sloane) What, am I going to call up Vinnie Machato(ph) and see what time he gets off at the cigarette factory and then we can go down to the river and molest each other?

DEGGANS: That's right: a double-barreled shot of in-your-face females happy to sling sex jokes just like the boys.

It's debatable whether this is such a wonderful leap forward for women's images. But just a few years ago, some critics predicted reality TV shows would kill the sitcom altogether. Instead, the rise of the funny female proves network TV's future likely comes with a smile - and a pair of snappy high heels.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: Eric Deggans is a TV and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.