Since the majority of us are currently stuck inside with lots of time on our hands, I’m sure we are all looking for a great TV series to binge! If you are like me and forever on the hunt to find a good complex female character who dominates the small screen (as let’s face it in the year 2020 they can still be hard to find) you are in luck! Here is my top ten favourite shows which are all led by incredibly complex, strong and brilliant women:
10. GENTLEMAN Jack (2019-)
Gentleman Jack is a historical drama set in 1832, based on the real life diaries of Anne Lister. Anne was a land owner and industrialist, and as described on her blue plaque a “gender non conforming entrepreneur”. The diaries of Anne Lister were written in secret code, as they contained details of several lesbian relationships. At the start of the series Anne (Suranne Jones) is seen travelling back home to Halifax, after an ex lover breaks her heart by marrying a man. The series then follows Anne’s new relationship with Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle), and as audience members we are let in on many passages of Anne Lister’s fascinating diary.
I recommend this series as Anne Lister is a very important and inspirational woman of history, who is portrayed beautifully by Suranne Jones. It also has very positive LGBTQ+ representation with the lead being an openly gay woman, refusing to change to fit into society and giving herself an easier life. Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle have wonderful chemistry, which makes their on-screen relationship beautiful to watch.
9. The Good place (2016-2020)
A comedy centred around Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who arrives in the after-life, named “The Good Place”, which is a village designed for people that deserve to be rewarded for their good behaviour on earth. However, it all soon goes to chaos when it becomes apparent that there was a mistake in the system and Eleanor is not supposed to be there.
I recommend this series as it is incredibly funny and feel-good, and with all that’s going on in the world right now you cant go wrong with some good humour to help distract you! It also has some great and important messages imbedded within the comedy, and opens your eyes to evaluate life and what is really important. Going back to the topic of female leads, Eleanor is an amazing anti-hero who you cant help but route for throughout the series. Without giving away any spoilers, another great thing about Eleanor’s character is that she goes through a great redemption arc and character progression, which is fulfilling to watch for the audience. Other main characters who deserve a mention are Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), who are incredibly interesting and funny in their own way.
8. Timeless (2016-2018)
Timeless is a sci-fi series is centred around history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), who was summoned by a business “Mason Industries”, who secretly built a time machine which has been stolen by terrorists. It then becomes her duty to lead a “lifeboat” team, the other members including scientist Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) and ex soldier Wyatt (Matt Lanter). The team have a responsibility to retrieve the stolen “mothership” back, by following it through different time periods and making sure no important historic events are drastically changed in the process.
If you love a suspenseful story with great plot twists, this series is 100% for you! One of the reasons why I personally love this series is because of the great representation that it has; firstly with the diverse cast and also with the storylines that it explores. Similarly to ‘Gentleman Jack’, what makes this series special is that explores part of history that has often been ignored, especially history related to people of colour and the LGBTQ community. For my last point, relating back to the female leads, Lucy is incredibly intelligent and kind, which makes her a very lovable leading lady to root for.
7. Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
This fantasy series is set in the fictional town of ‘Storybrooke’, where a group of fairy-tale characters are living. However the characters do not have any idea or knowledge of who they are and their past lives. This is due to them being cursed into the real world with no memories, by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla), who in modern/present day is the Mayor of Storybrooke. However all is about to change when Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is brought into Storybrooke by her biological Henry (Jared Gilmore) who she gave up ten years ago for adoption. Just to complicate the whole situation, it turns out that Henry’s adoptive mum is Regina (I know right what a shocker!). Throughout the series we are taken on a journey with the characters both in the fictional modern day town of Storybrooke and in the fantasy land of the enchanted forest.
If you love a good leading lady you are in luck, as this show has two! Firstly there’s the feisty Emma Swan, who has a heart-breaking backstory that has shaped her into the strong and bad*ss anti hero that she is, Emma is afraid of no one and certainly does not need saving by anybody! We can’t forget the antagonist Regina Mills, who is a brilliant and fascinating villain, who you both hate and root for at the same time. Without giving away any spoilers, both characters throughout the seasons go through great story arcs, which really shape and develop their characters. I cant help but lastly mention the great on-screen relationship the two female leads have, and the development is goes through, you can interpret this as you please…….
6. Why Women Kill (2019-)
This anthology series is centred around three women who live in the same house in three different decades. We follow the lives of Beth Ann (Ginnifer Goodwin) a housewife in 1963, socialite Simone in 1984 and lastly attorney Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). We follow these women’s devious actions after discovering their husbands infidelity and the events leading up to their husbands inevitable death.
This series is a solid recommendation as it has all the qualities that you want in a good show; interesting characters, good comedy and many unexpected twists and turns! Al three women give strong performances as these complex characters, who despite their questionable actions you cant help but root for.
5. Sharp objects (2018)
Sharp Objects is a mini-series, psychological thriller which takes place in a small town called ‘Windgap’. The series follows the extremely troubled reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is sent back to her home town, to write an article on the recent violent murders of two young girls. Upon return she goes back to her family home where lives her mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson), which she has an incredibly dysfunctional relationship with. As well as her step sister Amma (Eliza Scanlan), who has a very dark personality which is very hard to figure out.
If you love watching a very strong acting performance, there is nothing you will dislike about this series. Amy Adams gives one of her best and strongest performances to date, her interpretation of troubled Camille who suffers from many demons including alcoholism and self harm is no less than thrilling to watch! The series does not hold back in exploring just how dark and sinister women can truly be, so if you are a fan of watching problematic and evil female characters this series is right up your street.
4. Grey’s anatomy (2005-)
Greys Anatomy is a medical drama that follows the life of Dr Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), and other young doctors as they start their surgical internship at Seattle Grace hospital. Throughout the shows run we meet many other interns, residents and attending doctors, following their lives in advancing their careers and maintaining their personal lives and relationships.
This series is a classic with many great characters, especially many complex and strong female ones! The show is not afraid to cover and discuss discuss difficult and important topics, to spread awareness to their audience. The best thing has to be about the show is the amount of heart and humour it has. You can’t help but be invested in these characters lives! Lastly yes there is a LOT of seasons but as most of us are stuck inside for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty of time on our hands!
Bonus: private practice
As a cheeky extra recommendation, if you enjoy Grey’s Anatomy why not adventure into its spin off Private Practice. Dr Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), leaves the Grey’s Anatomy hospital in Seattle at the end of the third season, to join a practice in LA. It has everything that Grey’s has with the amazing characters and witty humour. However the only thing its lacking is the extreme amount of seasons (phew!), as the show ended with six, which makes it a lot easier to binge!
3. Fleabag (2016-2019)
Written and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag follows a troubled but free-spirited young woman trying to get through the confusions and struggles of life. Fleabag’s struggles include her dysfunctional relationship with her dad and step-mum, keeping her business afloat and experiencing grief after the death of both her best friend and mum.
This laugh out loud show, is a great watch if you want some positive distractions and simply want to feel good. However past its many humorous qualities, there is an incredibly deep and meaningful tone to it. There are certain feelings and questions that we all bury deep inside ourselves, which Fleabag effortlessly brings up in the series, leaving us feeling emotionally connected with what she is saying and how she is feeling. Overall if you are a fan of feeling a range of extreme emotions, this show is definitely for you.
2. Killing eve (2018-)
In this thriller Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) a British intelligence investigator is given the important task of capturing a highly skilled Russian assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). However Villanelle soon discovers that Eve is on to her and as the chase continues the two become mutually obsessed and fascinated with each other.
This incredibly gripping series is a solid recommendation, with a suspenseful storyline and humorous elements. I also cannot rave enough about the two phenomenal performances that the lead actresses give. It is a surprise to no one that Comer and Oh have won numerous awards for this series, as they are some of the strongest television performances that I have seen in a long time. I can’t fail to mention that their on-screen chemistry is ELECTRIC! So not only are these characters obsessed with each other, we are now obsessed with them and their relationship (however twisted it is).
1. Big Little lies (2017-2019)
Last but DEFINATELY not least we have the incredible drama that is Big Little Lies. A drama following the lives of five women in Monterey, California; Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Renata (Laura Dern) and Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz). The series presents the events occurring in all of the women’s lives which lead up to a murder. As audience members we are kept in the dark as to which character in the series has been murdered, and how the murder took place. We only know that all of the women are somehow linked to it.
This is my top recommended series for many reasons; I mean just look at this stellar cast. Just when you think the cast cant get any better, the one and only Meryl Streep joins in the second series! This whole article is based on strong and powerful female leads, and this show has many of them. All of the women are completely different but are all incredibly strong and complex in their own way, which makes it so easy to love and become invested in all of them. The chemistry that the women share with each other on screen is also amazing to watch, which makes all the beautiful on screen friendships that these characters have even more delightful to watch. Of course the show has a very intriguing and complex narrative to go with this brilliant cast!
So there it is folks, my top ten recommendations of female led television shows. Of course there are many other female led shows which I enjoy and wanted to put on the list, but unfortunately I could only talk about a few! If you decide to watch any of my recommendations please feel free to discuss your opinions with me on twitter @sophiewoolley_ ! Or please let me know/comment on what your favourite female led show is as id love to know. Happy binging everyone!