Streaming services are probably the only businesses in the entertainment industry that have been doing well in the midst of the pandemic. Everyone has been spending more time at home and—if you’re like me and would rather watch paint dry than read a book—binging on television. From lighthearted comedies to hard-hitting dramas, this list covers a diverse range of television series that are currently streaming.
When female stories are too often ignored and female creators too under-represented, it is important to show support to the work that highlights, celebrates and champions the important and multi-faceted roles women play in the world. We love a strong female lead especially one with a female showrunner behind her because that means a woman has a seat at the table to tell women’s stories. Keep reading for the best shows with female leads and showrunners and where you can stream them now.
Never Have I Ever
This hilarious teen comedy opens with Devi Vishwakumar, a first-generation Indian American girl, praying for her sophomore year of high school to not suck as bad as the previous year. Her requests set the tone for the rest of the show; she wants to be invited to the kind of party where she can decline cocaine, asks for thinner forearm hair, and “a stone-cold hottie who can rock me all night long.” The plot was inspired by co-creator Mindy Kaling’s life and Kaling also lent her critically acclaimed writing skills to this show. Never Have I Ever reaches a large audience by virtue of its refreshingly diverse cast and relatable story of navigating the complicated road that is high school. With only ten thirty-minute episodes, you can easily binge this coming-of-age show in a day on Netflix.
Claire Randall is perhaps the best written female character I’ve seen on the small screen in a long time. She leads this epic tale about a combat nurse from 1945 who mysteriously travels back in time to the 18th century in the midst of the Jacobite risings in Scotland and must immediately adapt to her surroundings. The show explores her struggle with her new life in Scotland and the one she left behind as well as a passionate relationship that develops between her and a young Highlander. The show is based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, who also works as a writer on the show. I know she’s not technically a showrunner, but the series wouldn’t have been possible without her! The premise may seem a little fantastic, but the plot and performances are so compelling you’ll be transported and immersed in this world just like Claire. Watch on Netflix where the first three seasons of five are available or with a subscription to Starz.
There’s a reason Phoebe Waller-Bridge swept the Emmys and Golden Globes for Fleabag in 2019 and 2020. It’s just that good. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created, wrote, produced and starred as Fleabag, a flawed, hilarious woman who is trying to get her life back on track after a tragedy. Her performance is equal parts raunchy and sarcastic, especially when she breaks the fourth wall, but also a devastatingly real portrayal of a woman who uses humor to mask her pain. Binge the two seasons on Amazon Prime now, you won’t be disappointed!
The multi-hyphenate put her writing and acting chops to good use in her lesser known but equally funny work Crashing. The comedy series follows an eccentric group of 20-somethings who live in an abandoned hospital as property guardians and their complicated relationships with each other that, of course, includes tangled romances. Waller-Bridge stars as Lulu, an endearing but unapologetically messy woman who shamelessly tries to pursue her childhood best friend right under his fiancé’s nose. Tragically, the show only lasted a total of six episodes (that end on a massive cliffhanger!), which you can watch on Netflix now.
The historical drama stars Cate Blanchett as conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and Rose Bryne as Gloria Steinem on opposite sides of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. The show highlights several perspectives of prominent women during this time from all sides of the political spectrum, including author of the feminist manifesto The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan and former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Dahvi Waller, who produced Mad Men, serves as creator and showrunner along with a slew of female executive producers. Watch how these trailblazing women changed the political landscape with their activism on Hulu.
Odds are you’ve definitely heard of this HBO sci-fi hit. Westworld is a technologically advanced amusement park where guests can indulge their Wild-West fantasies by posing as a gunslinger or outlaw without rules. The robotic “hosts,” complex and indistinguishable from humans, are programmed to fulfill these fantasies, no matter how depraved, without harming guests. An update allows hosts like Dolores Abernathy, the first host, and Maeve Millay, a brothel madam, to obtain consciousness and feel as humans do, so they begin to reject their programming. Part sci-fi and part Western, the genre-bending series, from co-creator Lisa Joy, boasts strong performances from a star-studded cast and keeps you guessing until the very end.
One Day at a Time
Three generations of a Cuban American family deal with the ups and downs of life. Penelope, a single mother and Army veteran looks to the people in her life for guidance in trying times. It’s a dramedy centered on family that offers a more diverse perspective then what we’re used to seeing on mainstream television thanks to co-creator and showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett. Watch the first three seasons on Netflix and the fourth season unfold week by week on the Pop TV channel.
Red Table Talk
You’ve most likely seen memes of this Facebook Watch talk show all over Twitter. Three generations of women, Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, tackle important issues of the day, like gun violence, addiction, and domestic abuse and especially those to do with the Black experience, like colorism and race relations in America. In addition to being a host, Pinkett Smith also serves as an executive producer. So many different perspectives are given the spotlight in the hopes of starting a dialogue on a range of social and cultural topics.
Anne with an E
Based on Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the classic story follows the titular 13-year-old orphan, recently adopted by an aging brother and sister, as she turns a small town upside down with her free-spirited nature, thirst for knowledge, and vivid imagination. Anne fights to be accepted by her prejudiced peers and her refreshing optimism and wide eyes will have you smiling every time she bounces on screen. The show, created by Moira Walley-Beckett, known for her writing on Breaking Bad, was unfortunately canceled after three seasons. However, there is cause for hope as fans of the series have collected over one million signatures petitioning Netflix to renew for a fourth season.
Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie were bitter rivals. That all changed when their husbands announce they want to get married after hiding their love for twenty years. Their worlds come crashing down and they must lean on each other for support. The chemistry between Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin is palpable and the show brings a fresh perspective on marriage and friendship from retirement-age women. Marta Kauffman, who we all know and love from Friends, co-created this show that’s available on Netflix.
From comedian Ilana Glazer comes this slapstick comedy about two best friends navigating life in New York City; that means hookups, crappy jobs, and bizarre adventures. The two are unabashedly themselves, frank about their sexuality, and make the most average situations incredibly hilarious. Much of the series is based on co-creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s real-life experiences in the big city—catch it on Hulu now!
This wildly popular HBO show explores the complexities of a female friendship, awkward everyday encounters, and social issues that are relevant to the modern-day Black experience.
The multi-talented Issa Rae created, wrote, and stars as a woman struggling with her stagnant relationship, navigating her at-times frustrating job, and dealing with her own flaws. With four seasons and counting, Insecure has become a cultural fixture that expertly reflects the contemporary Black experience.
Dead to Me
This dark comedy focuses on the tightly wound Jen Harding, whose husband died in a hit-and-run, and free spirit Judy Hale, who is also coping with a loss. The Netflix hit explores the unlikely friendship between two polar opposites that blossoms out of mutual grief. Creator Liz Feldman wanted to tell this personal story to help her heal from her own grief and loss. Netflix has confirmed the show will end after its third season and we can’t wait for the release after that season two cliffhanger!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Miriam “Midge” Maisel had it all. A perfect life, perfect home, perfect family. That is until her husband decides to leave her for his secretary. Now Midge must find her place in the world without a husband in the 1950s and stumbles into a career in stand-up comedy where she excels. The series follows her journey in the male-dominated profession that takes her from housewife to performer. The dramedy was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, of Gilmore Girls fame, and is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
The viewer travels through the main character Rob’s “desert island all-time top 5 most memorable heartbreaks in chronological order.” Based on the novel of the same name, High Fidelity was developed by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka and stars Zoe Kravitz (who is also an executive producer). Music plays a central role in this show as Rob tries to get over her past loves and heartbreaks to the tune of her favorite records. The show is a relatable perspective on the messiness of breakups and how to cope when your ex moves back to town. Watch the first season on Hulu!
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