cover image Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television

Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television

Joy Press. Atria, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3771-6

Women have run successful TV shows for decades, but they still routinely face bias and unreasonable obstacles in the industry, as Press (former Salon entertainment editor) details in this powerful narrative that expertly weaves reporting, analysis, and anecdotes. The author profiles 13 female showrunners and their most notable works, starting with Murphy Brown’s Diane English and ending with Transparent’s Jill Soloway. What comes across in Press’s 30-year timeline is how little has changed: barriers are erected and women clear them time and again. English calmly battled network executives over details (such as how long Murphy Brown was to have been married in the show), while Soloway had to shed a reputation for being “difficult,” which Press notes “is the second-ugliest word for a woman in Hollywood to hear next to ‘unrelatable.’ ” The shows have grown bolder and more complex—as for example in the blunt frankness of Lena Dunham’s Girls or in Weeds’ Nancy Botwin’s flirtation with being “an actively bad mother”—but a troubling culture remains: “The fact that forces of repression are now emboldened and energized,” Press writes, translates to a “vital and urgent” need for “diverse and unconventional voices.” Press’s chronicle of a pop-culture movement should inspire a new generation of women creators. (Mar.)