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More female writers, producers needed for television

It’s hard for me to watch as much TV as I do. I get through around four hours of TV a day in some form, whether it’s watching live, Netflix or Hulu, and I care immensely about the medium. I watch trends in the medium, pay attention to repeating tropes and watch as much HGTV as I do Spike. It’s frightening.

For those who aren’t as tuned in as someone who spends most of his day staring at glowing rectangles, we’re getting into the dubious time of pilot seasons. These are the days where networks trot out whatever long gestating, generally flawed series of inane plot points they’ve been sitting on and shove them down our collective throats through advertising rushes and pop-up ads that make me wonder just why Whitney Cummings has such a big mouth.

Versus last seasons pairing of ambitious failures like Lone Star, fatty-fall-down-make-funny sitcoms like Mike and Molly and dull, plodding stereotypical procedurals like Chase, this year is surprisingly focused on producing a bunch of shows in the same theme. 2011 is strangely focused on sassy girls, whether they were broke, sassy, really sassy or vaguely twee.

There’s been a persistent problem in television of a lack of female writers and producers in the medium. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, the number of women writing television has dropped from 35 percent in the 2006-2007 season to a mere 15 percent in 2010.

It’s a rough but understandable drop off. For almost entirely white-male network chairmen, men in their early 20s are the primary market to shoot for. They see men as consumers willing to spend their disposable income most likely on high-profit-low-cost items like movies, snacks, video games and events. It’s an easy product to sell, but they require programming to draw males in to advertise to them and, as such, more programming targeted to that very specific demographic is required.

So spring’s raunchy comedies in the vein of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and most of Adult Swim’s programming blocks are given green lights simply because they’re drawing a very marketable demographic. The problem is cyclical, more males are needed to write the marketable shows, moving shows written and conceived by women off the docket.

This year features pilots focused on women such as 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Whitney, Pan Am, and The Playboy Club. While only a few have been made available for view, there’s some promise, and it’s nice to see a rising female comedian receive her own show in the form of Whitney. It’s a shame that the pilot is nothing but sub-Two and a Half Men level raunchiness and awkwardly forced emotional moments with a less than stellar cast.

With the success of this summer’s “Bridesmaids,” I would think network executives would see the demand for female dominated entertainment with crossover appeal. Unfortunately, what we still receive is rarely thoughtful, rarely considered and rarely inspired in its treatment of female characters or women in the writers room. Until we’ve got that, I guess we’re stuck with having to deal with inequality in Hollywood and its fiction.

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