Station Control

Shows focusing on extraordinary and conflicted women

by Benjamin Carr

Women wrestle with themselves all the time in good television. TV has built many classic series around women and how they connect, disconnect and battle one another. The emotional lives of women, as well, are a ripe landscape for drama and comedy. New miniseries, returning shows and unsung gems promise to give you a new perspective on complicated women worthy of your attention.

FLEABAG (Amazon)

The recently announced second season of this British sitcom is coming to Amazon in 2019, but the profile of writer-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has risen lately, thanks to her excellent, funny work in the new film "Solo: A Star Wars Story". Fleabag, which premiered originally in 2016, is based upon the play by Waller-Bridge, and the show is hilarious, savage and fascinating.

The main character in Fleabag is an oversexed, profane mess of a woman living in London, trying to keep her cafe open and herself afloat after the suicide of her best friend and business partner. Her relationship with her family has frayed since the death of her mother. Her father has remarried a terrible, terrible woman (Olivia Colman, Broadleaf), who antagonizes her at every point. Her sister (Sian Clifford) is a cold, unhappy sort married to an inappropriate American cad (BrettĀ Gelman).

Fleabag's approach to the inner psychology of this main character is terrific. Waller-Bridge frequently breaks the fourth wall to address the audience with her inner thoughts, which are wildly inappropriate and hilarious. At the same time, flashes of memory suggest that the character is in utter turmoil with very little hope.

The show is must-see, buried in a landscape of too-much-TV. It is great comedy, strong drama and an intimate look at the inner life of a deeply disturbed woman. Try it. You'll be glad.

GLOW (Netflix)

The best show of 2017 returns for a second season on Netflix this month, and it's bringing all the zany comedy, drama and 1980s nostalgia with it. Leads Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin - playing Ruth and Debbie, former best friends turned rivals in the ring. In the first season, aspiring actress Ruth slept with Debbie's husband, ended up pregnant by him and had an abortion. Debbie, meanwhile, used her former soap star credentials to secure a starring role on the wrestling show where Ruth worked partly so that she could beat up the woman who ruined her life. As the show developed, the wrestling show-within-the-show also emerged. And Ruth and Debbie took on the roles of a Soviet villain and an All-American Girl.

Meanwhile, the ensemble cast of women also coped with racism, sexism, coming out and learning how to be comfortable with their bodies. In the second season, Tamme - played by actual pro wrestler Kia Stevens - gets her own plot, showcasing how her character "Welfare Queen" faces the stereotypes that she embodies as part of her job. And Arthie, played by Sunita Mani, deals with the consequences of playing an Arab terrorist in a wrestling show in the '80s.

There are so many layers to explore within this show, which is based upon the actual "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" program from the 1980s. The ring of truth echoes through many episodes, which keeps the show fascinating.

SHARP OBJECTS (HBO)

Multiple Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who got her start in guest spots on shows like Smallville, returns to the small screen for HBO's adaptation of author Gillian Flynn's first novel. Flynn, also the author of Gone Girl, has a penchant for creating twisted mysteries around complicated, difficult women. Directed by Jean-Marc Valee, who helmed last year's excellent, female-centered Big Little Lies, this eight-episode thriller promises to be an event.
In addition to Adams as Camille, a newspaper reporter who returns to her hometown in Missouri to investigate a serial killer, the show also features Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson as Camille's cold and detached mother, who is trying to stop her daughter from unearthing town secrets. Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) and Sophia Lillis (Stephen King's It) also appear in supporting roles.

While trying to solve the murder mystery, Camille must come to terms with her own past and her fraught relationship with her family. Having been hospitalized for self-harm, her return to her hometown raises up very difficult feelings for her.

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