While there are no doubt many strides still to be made in the pursuit of true diversity in the arts, a glimpse at this week’s TV schedules reveals four new programmes with strong women at their core.
That all four shows are as different as you could possibly imagine suggests that sturdier roles across the genres are now becoming more available for women.
If you were asked to name individuals most associated with Ancient Rome, chances are Julius Caesar, Nero, Caligula, Cicero, and Augustus would all be high on the list.
A distinct Game of Thrones feel
Sky Atlantic’s Domina aims to push a historical female towards the spotlight, focussing on the rise of Livia Drusilla from child bride to revered Empress (played by Nadia Parkes as a youngster, and Kasia Smutniak in her later years).
Livia has appeared in TV dramas before such as I, Claudius and Rome (she was even cited as part inspiration behind Tony Soprano’s Machiavellian mum) but finally she has elevated to leading lady.
Domina has a distinct Game Of Thrones vibe, from its pulsating theme tune to murky political intrigue, though the innocent among you will be relieved that there’s not as much flesh on show; and while there are plenty scenes of violence, they’re scaled down from the gory bloodbaths that were run in Westeros.
There will be some who inevitably dub Run The World, a Starz comedy series featuring four thirtysomething pals seeking (among other things) global domination, as ‘the Black Sex And The City’. Despite the geographical shift within New York from Manhattan to Harlem, they certainly share similar concerns of work, parties, love, and life in a big metropolis, while the bedroom scenes should also not be watched with a squeamish family member.
There’s even a Mr Big (of sorts)
At one point, one of the quartet even admits that a partner is “my Big”, a direct reference to the ongoing will-they/won’t-they of Sex And The City between Carrie and John James ‘Mr Big’ Preston.
The foursome here are ultimate perfectionist Whitney (Amber Stevens West), a once famous writer Ella (Andrea Bordeaux), a soon-to-be divorced diva Renee (Bresha Webb), and erudite scholar Sondi (Corbin Reid). Along the way, they tackle everything from racism in ballet to dealing with hangovers now they’re no longer in their 20s, and the existence of unicorns (Sondi is in a relationship with a man who has a young daughter).
The Nevers is the latest creation from Joss Whedon, but after allegations about his past behaviour on production sets going all the way back to the Buffy years, he stood down from this project last year. British screenwriter Philippa Goslett stepped in to fill the void as the Sky Atlantic drama’s new showrunner.
Set in Victorian times, there’s an urgent vibrancy to this supernatural affair in which a number of women (‘The Touched’) have developed unusual abilities after an Eclipse-like event; these new talents include seeing into the future, talking fluently in foreign tongues, and transforming objects into glass, while it’s not yet certain where the benefits would lie of suddenly being ten foot tall at the age of ten.
Upturning the gender possibilities further, there’s even a Jack The Ripper-style female serial killer on the loose.
By far the most amusing of the four is We Are Lady Parts.
Initially a one-off Comedy Blap from Channel 4, Nida Manzoor’s project was given the green light for a full series, and it makes a fine start with its opening episode of six.
The story of how a Muslim punk band (Lady Parts) got together in London, it zeroes in on the tale of geeky Amina (Anjana Vasan), a stage-frightened music teacher who is also a wizard on the acoustic guitar.
When word of her skills gets out, Amina is approached to be the vital missing link in the Lady Parts line-up. Among the highlights of the opener are the band singing 500 Miles in the car, à la Wayne’s World, and a short Brief Encounter parody.
Energetic and effervescent, We Are Lady Parts could become a vital element of your weekly viewing.
- Domina, Sky Atlantic, Friday May 14; Run The World, Starz, Sunday May 16; The Nevers, Sky Atlantic, Monday May 17; We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4, Thursday May 20.