Thought Box

The Women who transformed television

The Women who transformed television

by Shruthi Venkatesh March 4 2019, 1:30 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 49 secs

It is important to make note of the people who work off screens. Success or failure, they are the root cause and would stand as a pillar despite all measures. The funny, fearless women who revolutionised TV inspired The Guardian writers to pick their most favourite TV heroines.

Shonda Rhimes - Who gets to be the bitch?

Born in Illinois, Shonda Rhimes is an African-American woman to create and executive produce a Top 10 network series - the medical drama Grey's Anatomy. She is also the creator of its spin-off, Private Practice, the political thriller Scandal and the legal unit How to Get Away with Murder. Before these series, Rhimes penned such film screenplays as Crossroads and HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. She is a black single mother who began as a freelance scriptwriter.  Rhimes also works to level the playing field regarding race and sex. Since Grey’s Anatomy, which was conceived as a way of showcasing a diverse cast, she has tried to address industry and national norms. “Most of the women I saw on TV didn’t seem like people I actually knew. They felt like ideas of what women are. They never got to be nasty or competitive or hungry or angry. They were often just the loving wife or the nice friend. But who gets to be the bitch? Who gets to be the three-dimensional woman?” wonders Lucy Mangan.

Women who rocked the television space.

Zeinab Badawi - She co-parented me

Badawi went through a stage when she wanted to change her name as she felt her previous south Indian name was too unpronounceable and foreign. She later rebranded herself as a glamorous British-Sudanese journalist. She was the first presenter of the ITV Morning News and co-presented Channel 4 News, before joining BBC News. Badawi was the presenter of World News Today broadcast on both BBC Four and BBC World News, and Reporters, a weekly showcase of reports from the BBC. Badawi inspired Chitra Ramaswamy who wanted to steal her identity.

Tina Fey - Hot messes and kickass bosses

Writer, actor and producer Tina Fey deserves a round of applause for being the first as Saturday Night Live’s head writer, then as the force behind 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Great News and Busy Tonight – all female-first shows. But her greatest contribution to the sisterhood is Liz Lemon, the character who, in the tele-visual sphere, gave women permission to fail. She portrayed Lemon - 30 Rock’s protagonist who reflected our lives as kickass girl bosses in one arena and hot messes in another. “Take that, manic pixie dream girl” says Shilpa Ganatra.

Oprah Winfrey - The queen of everything

Kate Abbott starts it as Oprahfication. The Oprah Winfrey Show is basically the bedrock of culture today. Winfrey started out in local radio while still at school, then promptly got hired by a Nashville TV station – as their youngest ever news anchor and the first of colour. By 1986, she had turned around the fortunes of a Chicago talk show and set up her own production company. In the intervening years, she has become America’s first and only female black multi-billionaire, nicknamed the Queen of All Media. She has also managed to star in copious TV shows and movies, transform America’s reading habits, launch a sideline as a mindfulness guru, and set up the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Winnie Holzman - She made us wear candy necklaces

She is the maker of “My So-Called Life”, a TV series which gave millions of hope. She made us wear candy necklaces and dye our hair Crimson Glow. She allowed us to believe we would make it through the hormonal commotion of our teenage years safe and sound. She taught us it was OK to be awkward and flawed like Angela Chase, to be true to yourself and eccentric like Rayanne Graff. My So-Called Life is a key to makeup, as well as the very fabric of television. But this beloved show was cut down after just 19 episodes. Holzman’s follow-up was shelved by HBO in favour of that other feminist masterpiece, The Sopranos.

The Guardian gives a mention for most off-screen heroines out there and ensures it would add up more. Cheers to the writers who gave a glance on who is behind our entertainment.



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