TV shows for women?
May 12, 2013 1:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for TV shows featuring women...

I like "The L Word". I have the first couple of "Sex and the City" seasons on order. I liked what few episodes of "The Dollhouse" that I saw. I'm bored with "Alias" by this point.

So, I like drama, "their lives", and sci-fi. I like spies/assassins and alternative lifestyles. What I don't want is where it supposedly features women and all she becomes is a foil for her male counterparts. Or that the show centers around women being shitty to each other (why I cant watch reality shows). I want the shows to pass the Bechdel Test or at least have really strong main female characters which the show centers around.

I don't need it to be award winning (I used to love "Birds of Prey"). I prefer live action but at this point I'll also accept anime. I'll accept shows which were supposedly marketed towards men (sexy spies, etc) but which seems to fit the criteria above.

posted by DisreputableDog to Media & Arts (83 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
I like Scott and Bailey, which is a UK police drama
posted by communicator at 2:02 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Veronica Mars and anything Joss Whedon are fabulous.
posted by Strass at 2:04 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Game of Thrones
posted by Defying Gravity at 2:05 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well obviously Buffy the Vampire Slayer passes those tests, and if you liked Dollhouse you should enjoy it. Battlestar Galactica does have some pretty good female characters, but you might get annoyed with some of them. Community has a good stock of female characters, although we're delving into another genre there.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:06 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend the Bryan Fuller shows Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Wonderfalls. Pushing Daisies' main plot centers around romance (though it's also a mystery, crime drama, black comedy, fantasy...) so it does feature a love triangle, but I don't think the leading ladies end up acting particularly horrible towards each other. Besides the romance each of the characters has her own other interests and desires.

Each of Fuller's series is absolutely great fun, witty, quirky and interesting. (I can't recall if Hannibal quite passes the Bechdel test yet - I'm not caught up to the latest episodes. It is a completely different tone from the above three shows, but it is very good and it does have some good female characters though the majority of the main cast is men.)
posted by Gordafarin at 2:11 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Homeland has a strong female lead (disclaimer: I've only seen the first season). Spooks (a British series, broadcast as 'MI5' in the US) also has strong female leads.
posted by rjs at 2:13 AM on May 12, 2013

This previous thread about bad-ass female characters might be helpful, also (though the answers aren't limited to female characters in television shows).
posted by Defying Gravity at 2:13 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just finished watching all three seasons of Forbrydelsen / The Killing and loved it for all sorts of reasons, one of them being that the main character is a woman who thinks and who acts on what she believes, which earns her both success and trouble. Other women characters are also delved into, in varying positions of power (political included) and family relationships. Normally I don't really go for crime mysteries, but this series is really an exception. The only thing I didn't like was how the first and third seasons are about grisly murders of young, school-aged women... on the other hand, as a woman who's been through related trauma, it was nice to see the reactions of loved ones to that sort of trauma gone into, as opposed to being used as filler (as is usually done in other crime series).
posted by fraula at 2:14 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Mouretsu Pirates (released in the US as "Bodacious Space Pirates"). It has a lot of strong female characters and they don't spend hardly any time talking about men/boys. The main character, Marika, inherits command of the space pirate ship Bentenmaru when she's 16, and the series is about her taking the job and growing into it. By the end (about two years later) there's no doubt that she's become an excellent captain. (It's technically a privateer, not a pirate ship, because it has a Letter of Marque.)

Zero, no, panty shots and very little in the way of fan service. No boys or romantic entanglements. And though there's some yuri (two different couples) it doesn't involve the main characters.

It's not just high school girls. Courier, the Bentenmaru's electronic warfare specialist, seems to be in her twenties. Misa, the ship's doctor, is probably in her 40's.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:20 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Getting On is a really great sitcom set in an NHS hospital in the UK. It's very dry, black humour. The writers and the great majority of the actors are female, but that just reflects the setting which is a very female environment. Not very many episodes exist compared to most US series, but I strongly recommend it.
posted by Acheman at 2:23 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Land Girls and Bomb Girls are, as you might guess from the names, about women during WWII. They're set in England and Canada, respectively, and while I've not seen all of either of them, I've liked what I've seen. If you like period stuff, I would definitely rec both of them.

I rec this more cautiously, but Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes retelling that has cast Watson as Joan Watson, played by Lucy Liu. It rarely passes Bechdel, but Watson isn't any more of a foil for Sherlock than she is in other retellings, and thus far, the series has done some impressive (to me) things about making her a character who's both a woman and who has a complex life, and is allowed to be a person, not just a woman. It gets bonus points, imo, because the Holmes/Watson relationship is as asexual and nonromantic as it ever is, and the showrunners have expressed a desire to keep it that way.

Also, I don't know how willing you are to watch older shows, but sometimes when I'm sad I watch The Golden Girls or Roseanne, both of which are basically all about women and their relationships, mostly with other women.
posted by MeghanC at 2:28 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eureka passes the Bechdel test like CRAZY by season three, and is pretty good up until that point to. At one point there are four whole women of color on screen, talking seriously about scientific ways to save the universe and their lives, and I was kind of in shock. Keep in mind though that Eureka's lead is male, there is a distinct lack of queer characters, and it's a really cheesey sci fi show that never quite seems to find its footing. But it is very charming in its own way, and wow! Women respected for their skills and motherhood not being a weakness and an actually diverse cast.
posted by Mizu at 2:33 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Charmed would probably fit. I find it kind of terrible and watchable all at once.
posted by shelleycat at 2:39 AM on May 12, 2013

The highly acclaimed Damages with Glenn Close and Rose Byrne is right down your alley I would imagine. Great drama revolving around the two powerful female characters. I think it's rare to see this level of power and independence of women depicted in shows/films even nowadays.
posted by snufkin5 at 2:40 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Scandal (season 1 is on Netflix, season 2 on Hulu)
Stargate (which we're currently discussing on the blue)
posted by decathecting at 2:47 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Parks and Rec has been wowing me and my partner with how it isn't just hilariously funny, but also genuinely sweet and absolutely full of wonderful female characters. Though putting it like that is almost insulting to the writers, because nobody on the show is written to be a "female character" - they are all people, and all interesting, and all awesome in so many different way. I seem to recall seeing the writers saying that they were tired of comedy always being derisive, so it's a show where you're supposed to laugh with the characters, rather than at them, and celebrate their triumphs rather than snicker at their failures. The show might be billed as a comedy, but it is very slice-of-life, and has a lot of incredibly genuine interaction and affection between the characters.

A note: the first season is only six episodes, and put me off the show when I tried to get into it the first time. I only realized how good it was after stumbling on a random later episode. Gave it another go, starting with season two, and fell in immediate TV love with it.

In the same vein, Community and 30 Rock, which both also have female writers.
posted by harujion at 3:21 AM on May 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: The Good Wife
posted by redfishbluefish at 3:29 AM on May 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

Judging Amy
posted by ipsative at 3:54 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Farscape! Aeryn Sun is a main character and she is awesome. She does have a romantic story line with another character in the show, but her importance is never lessened because of that, and she has her own story lines that are not tied to that romantic one. There are a number of other interesting main female characters in the show too, including a giant living space ship. The don't always all get along, but their issues usually stem from something other than, say, fighting over the same man, and women in the show also have real, platonic friendships with men on the show (or with male aliens/puppets) so the range of relationships is a lot wider than in your average sitcom, where everyone is either paired-up, or secretly pining after someone else.
posted by colfax at 4:02 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Being Erica
posted by Cuke at 4:02 AM on May 12, 2013

Warehouse 13. It's fun, cheesy sci-fi, with more female characters than male characters and it easily passes the Bechdel test pretty much every week. There are great strong female characters (Myka, Claudia, HG, Leena, Mrs. Frederic) who talk to and like each other. It's definitely worth watching (if you don't like it at first, keep watching until at least episode 4 of season 1, because that's when it starts to get good).
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 4:07 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Lip Service. It's sort of a Scottish version of the L Word, and is on Netflix.
posted by treese at 4:31 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some of my absolute favorite ever female characters come from 'Mad Men'. Yes, the show is notoriously truthful yet dramatic when displaying the old school misogyny of the 60s, the female characters are relatable and human. The impact of a male denominated culture on women in the 60s is represented wonderfully in that show, with strong, intelligent yet vulnerable women. Love Peggy, Joan, even Betty (who suffers from her emotional reliance of the male gaze).

That show is perfect for a girl like me. The characters are all flawed, but compelling in their humanity and their attempt to deal with tremendous circumstances. That's true equally for both genders represented. And Jon Hamm has been in my dreams ever since.
posted by rhythm_queen at 4:53 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nikita might be just the show. A very strong female lead who is a super-spy total bad-ass. Not award-winning but better than it has to be.
posted by bfootdav at 5:06 AM on May 12, 2013

Bones. Love Emily Deschanel. Good female character on the show.
posted by discopolo at 5:09 AM on May 12, 2013

If you're open to vintage cop shows, there are a lot of Cagney & Lacey episodes on youtube.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:16 AM on May 12, 2013

I'm going to stick up for Shonda Rhimes' shows Grey's Anatomy (hospital drama) and Scandal (political thriller). Both center around strong women, their lives, and especially their careers. I would skip the Grey's spin-off, Private Practice, because it just kind of sucked. I know a lot of people bash them as trashy, but my theory is that is at least as much because they center on women with men as supporting characters as it is because of the sex or whatever.

I've just gotten into a brand new show, Orphan Black, on BBC America. It's a modern day sci-fi thriller and very fun. It hits some of the same notes as Dollhouse and Alias but in my opinion is much more fun than either. The lead actress is much better at playing multiple roles than Eliza Dushku.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:35 AM on May 12, 2013

Dropped in to suggest Orphan Black, too, but hydropsyche beat me to it. So, I'll suggest Continuum over on SyFy. Future cop sucked back to current-day Earth, chasing future baddies also in present day. Better than it sounds. Strong female lead.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

2nding Nikita. Also Covert Affairs.
posted by pyro979 at 5:48 AM on May 12, 2013

Love My Way
posted by h00py at 5:48 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing Buffy, Game of Thrones and Girls. Not only do each have strong female characters, but they also have strong female (and male) characters who grow and change and progress and regress. Game of Thrones also tends to have a lot of gratuitous sex, so you might avoid that if it's not your thing. There's plenty of sex in Girls as well, but it tends to be more realistic and plot driven.
posted by brevator at 5:57 AM on May 12, 2013

The Americans, which just wrapped up its first season, stars Keri Russell as KGB agent and Margo Martindale as her handler, and both are really well-written and strong roles, and the show is just outstanding all around.

'The Americans' producers on marriage, spycraft and the wigs of season 1 is not too spoiler-y.

And speaking of Margo Martindale, there is a reason she won an Emmy for her role as Mags Bennet on season two of Justified.

Also, seconding Orphan Black.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like Alphas for this. There are two women in the core team, they pass the Bechdel test, the women have a strained friendship but actually like each other, and the whole show toys with the idea of superpowers being paired with vulnerabilities. There are some romantic relationships but it's not the core of those characters.

Take Rachel, for instance. Her superpower and vulnerability is that she is incredibly sensitive. She can hear/see/smell/taste the smallest things, and this is very useful in certain situations and almost crippling in others.

(And yes, there's a scene where Nina, who can 'push' people with her mind, manipulates Rachel into kissing her in a club and of course that clip is all over Youtube, but what's not on Youtube is the fallout from that betrayal of their friendship which spans several episodes. It was not an "oh let's do the faux-lesbian thing" cheap shot, it was a "what's the meanest way I could disable hyper-tactile Rachel right now" Nina-at-rock-bottom moment.)
posted by heatherann at 6:20 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Orphan Black and the Mindy Project are both great. Awkward Black Girl is hilarious!
posted by spunweb at 6:35 AM on May 12, 2013

Fringe is a solid sci-fi crime procedural, with a strong female lead. As with many shows mentioned, it takes a few episodes to get going.
posted by Wulfhere at 6:43 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Good Wife, absolutely. Bones, but only the first few seasons. Veronica Mars, at least season 1. I think Community gets too mean towards Britta some time in season 2, though there are still 2 other female characters. (5 male, 3 female, which counts as equal I guess).

Elementary is very good, though Watson is the only recurring woman this season. Also Orphan Black.
posted by jeather at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2013

Seconding Veronica Mars.
posted by loveyallaround at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2013

nthing Battlestar Gallactica. Not about women lives, per se, but it has some really great women in there. Badass women, badass men, and nobody acting as a foil for the other.
posted by hannahelastic at 6:59 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

A lot of people don't like it, but Star Trek: Voyager has strong female leads and I always thought it was enjoyable. I like the earlier seasons better.
posted by jeoc at 7:04 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lost Girl! It's an urban-fantasy show from Canada. The main character and central female friendship are amazing, and it's super fun. Bonus points for being diverse and queer-friendly too.
I think Bones has stayed feminist, though it's not quite as good anymore in a technical sense (like, the writing). There are three great female characters who have a believable friendship, which has really kept me watching the show.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra are ostensibly kid's shows, but are both very complex, and have excellent, well-written female characters.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:07 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm watching Fringe right now. At the midpoint of season 2, it's good. I fear it will fail to payoff on its promise as with other Abrams shows, but it meets all your criteria.
posted by donnagirl at 7:16 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think others have covered TV pretty well, so here's some anime recs for strong female leads:

Blood+: Strong female lead who also slays monsters, regular (non-sparkly) vampires.
Bounen no Xam'd: I don't know if this would be your cup of tea, but there's a large cast, including several strong female characters who all have complicated relationships with each other. Also, more monsters ^^' (note they don't appear until about the second or third episode, but once they do they steal the show)
Juuni Kokuki: Girl gets pulled into another world, becomes queen, more or less. (The rulers are all women)
Kurau Phantom Memory: I don't know if you'd like this one, but I thought it was very refreshing seeing a female action lead for once.
MaiHime: I think you will like this show- large female cast, and it's pretty complex.
Read or Dream: Three sisters, who are spies, and they fight with magic paper abilities. It's a little campy sometimes, but fun. (make sure it's the 26 ep TV series and not the similarly named OVA which was awful)
Seirei no Moribito: The main character is a woman bodyguard who protects a young boy. She's one of the strongest female lead characters i've seen. The show itself is kind of part action, and also part slice-of-life.
posted by Aliera at 7:24 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Rizzoli & Isles

Saving Grace, all three seasons are on Netflix.

And for your (sexy spies) try Covert Affairs.
posted by zinon at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2013

Bounen no Xam'd: I meant most of the female lead characters don't appear until the second or third episode, not the monsters. xd.
posted by Aliera at 7:41 AM on May 12, 2013

It isn't quite a drama per se and there are certainly no spies about, but Gilmore Girls does a great job of featuring strong female characters who are good to each other 99% of the time.
posted by telegraph at 7:46 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

How has Prime Suspect not come up yet? All seven series are on Netflix. Don't bother with the American version.
posted by Sara C. at 7:48 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Most all my favorites with an sf and action flavor have already been mentioned, so here are a few other dramas I have not seen listed yet:

Call the Midwife (drama, grittier and more realistic than Lark Rise)
Lark Rise to Candleford (note - gentle humor, not high art, still can be enjoyable)
posted by gudrun at 7:57 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Designing Women hasn't been mentioned yet?!?! (Though skip the last few seasons after the cast drastically changes. Dear lord, Julia Duffy's character sucked.) I know it's not sci-fi, but if you mentioned SatC, I think it's fair to mention this one.

Lost Girl has a very close friendship between the very-bisexual heroine and her best friend, plus is on the SF scale of wacky plotlines.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I created an account just to tell you Buffy the Vampire Slayer is absolutely what you are looking for. Seriously. Whole books and academic papers have been written about the effect of Buffy on television's understanding of gender roles. The entire 7-season show is a study on gender, female-female interactions, female-male interactions and female empowerment.

Seriously. Go start with the pilot, "Welcome to the Hellmouth", and watch every single episode after that. We were beginning to get female protagonists like Scully on X-Files, and Xena to some extent, but everything else people are mentioning now? is because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which revolutionized the portrayal of women in TV.
posted by Unangenehm at 8:06 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

posted by supercres at 8:17 AM on May 12, 2013

Seconding The Mindy Project. There are so many jokes in it that had to have been written by a woman; it's great.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:23 AM on May 12, 2013

The Mary Tyler Moore show.

Single, 30-something woman who works in a newsroom and lives alone and across the hall from her female BFF. She dates, but the show does not focus that much on her romantic life or make a Big Deal about the fact that she's over 30 and unmarried.
posted by Asparagus at 8:39 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Call the Midwife has already been mentioned, but I want to second the recommendation. It's about the working lives of eight professional women (one of them retired). The drama comes from their interactions with the working-class London community they serve, not from "being shitty to each other" (they have moments of getting on each others' nerves, but they all basically support one another). The show is loosely based on the memoirs of a woman who worked for a few years as a midwife in East London, and both the memoirs and the show have been huge hits in Britain (last year, the Call the Midwife Christmas special scored higher viewership numbers than its Downton Abbey counterpart).

If you're open to comedies, there are some good female-driven British shows; Absolutely Fabulous comes to mind immediately, but also French & Saunders, The Vicar of Dibley, and Miranda. (I've only seen one episode of Miranda because I have had a hard time getting access to the show from the US, but I just love Miranda Hart, who also stars in Call the Midwife.)
posted by Orinda at 8:52 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

Definitely Homeland--Carrie Mathison is a strong and notorious hard-ass, but also very vulnerable. She's both super-smart and a total idiot. There's some romance, but she also has (arguably more relevant) struggles with mental illness, authority, and trusting herself. It makes for an interesting, not-often-seen, more realistic depiction of women on TV. (Also, she's in the CIA working on counterterrorism, so that satisfies your craving for spy tropes.) Claire Danes is just stellar in the role. In addition to Carrie, the show features a few other great female characters. Ignore the stupid poster/cover they've apparently chosen based on that IMDB page; the show is more subtle than it appears.

Nthing Parks and Recreation, which features a really warm-hearted depiction of female relationships. It's a bit more prosaic in terms of content, but very funny, smart, and sweet.

I've been pleased with how much Girls deals with the non-boy-related lives of 20-something women. While there's a good deal of relationshippy stuff, there's also a lot of career-related floundering, with the characters working on figuring out where they belong and how they should get to where they want to be, professionally.

Also, this is a little out of left field, but there's a sort of campy, dopey, unrealistic, but surprisingly watchable show called Pretty Little Liars, which is (basically) about four best friends in high school trying to solve the murder of their friend. For a show featuring four popular high school best friends, there's a refreshingly fierce closeness between the four, and a gratifying number of their conversations don't revolve around boys.
posted by aintthattheway at 9:09 AM on May 12, 2013

I have heard great things about Lost Girl and plan to watch it eventually.

Bones used to be great but became ghastly when it started being all about making babies and having ~relationships. I can't even watch previews for it without gagging.

It is in no way a scifi show or a show about spy assassins but the Golden Girls is definitely centered around strong female characters.
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on May 12, 2013

I would suggest Scandal on ABC for Kerry Washington being a total 3-dimensional badass leader of badass spies except it seems like the female characters don't talk to each other that much. Army Wives is better for women talking to each other and drama.
posted by bleep at 9:39 AM on May 12, 2013

hell yes to "the good wife"
hell yes to the first few seasons of "bones" (seriously, they ruined that show)
buffy goes without saying. i (and others) found season one to be a bit of a slog, but the payoffs come quick and brutal shortly thereafter.

this might not pass the women not being shitty to each other criteria - but, revenge is incredible and very focused on the women in the show. the first half of the first season makes it seem like it's going to be all drama, and then the robbery and ninja shit starts. i really like it - of course, i'd probably watch madeleine stowe watch paint dry.
posted by nadawi at 10:00 AM on May 12, 2013

In Plain Sight also fits, though I've only seen the first couple of seasons.
posted by unsub at 10:17 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wonderfalls. Done by one of the Whedon Disciples, and unfortunately recieved the same scheduling treatment as Firefly. Only 1/2 a season but a great show. Very strong Female leads and they often solve problems for the males on the show (and sometimes get help from the males also-almost like real Life!).
posted by bartonlong at 11:13 AM on May 12, 2013

Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter is quite good. It's a Swedish series about an investigative reporter, available on Netflix.
Nurse Jackie might work for you, too.
posted by Corvid at 12:41 PM on May 12, 2013

Just a few suggestions, most of which have been mentioned, but with a few sentences explaining how they might fit your requirements.

1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As previously mentioned, the first season (even the second, I found) can be slow, but it's nonstop amazing once you hit season 3. Strong females all around.

2) If you liked Alias at all, try out Covert Affairs. It's kind of like "Alias-light". Female CIA agent, interesting balance of personal life and professional life for the first couple of seasons. Strong female lead, a couple of other strong women, but it's really all about Annie Walker (Piper Perabo).

3) Homeland. Claire Danes has won awards for her portrayal of Carrie Mathison and they're well-deserved. Carrie's a great female character, strong lead, but has her issues. Heavier than Covert Affairs.

4) Charmed. Hilarious at times, terrible at others, somewhat silly at others. It focuses on three sisters who discover they're witches. All three are strong female leads and there's a good balance between the sisterly relationships and the monster of the week stuff. Bonus points for guest appearances by Finola Hughes, IMHO.

5) Lost Girl. I don't really have words for this, but I quite enjoy it. It follows Bo, a strong female lead, through her adventures in discovering who (and what) she is. Other women shown are fairly strong as well, although it's really all about Bo.

6) Being Erica. I loved this show. Erica's in her 30s and doesn't really have much of a direction and then things kind of start to happen to her. I love Erica as a character: she's strong, but vulnerable, smart, but a little neurotic. Best thing is the character growth you see throughout the show. Highly recommend, even though the other females you see aren't really all that strong.

7) The Facts of Life. Okay, no, you're right, it has no spies and no supernatural stuff, but it's such a fun show, with an all-female lead cast. The dynamic between Jo and Blair is still awesome, 20+ years later. (You may want to skip the lackluster first season and skip right to season 2.)

Honestly, I envy you if you haven't seen all of these shows. You're in for a lot of great TV. :)
posted by juliebug at 1:08 PM on May 12, 2013

Nobody has yet mentioned "The Bletchley Circle", which is very short (only 3 episodes in the first series), but has been renewed for a second series. It's about four women who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII as analysts but because it was top secret, they are forbidden to talk about what they did now that the war is over. They now live fairly pedestrian middle or working-class lives, until one of them spots a pattern in the press reports of a serial killer on the loose, and decides to investigate.

All the major characters are women, and it's pretty awesome.

I also strongly recommend "The Good Wife", "Call the Midwife", Buffy, and "Xena the Warrior Princess", which is focused almost entirely on the relationship between two women. While I love "Farscape", it's not primarily about women and their relationships: the core relationship of the show is John and Aeryn, and there isn't as much time spend just with the women as I would like.
posted by suelac at 1:16 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You should see Fringe, because Olivia is awesome. Plus, Anna Torv doing a Nimoy impression is pretty fun. Seasons 1 and 2 have a few solid episodes but a lot of blah ones too. Seasons 3 and 4 you can watch every episode. Season 5 has been mostly disappointing, including in terms of what you are looking for.
posted by fleacircus at 3:16 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I recently caught some re-runs and even though it's decades old, the writing is fantastic!
posted by sarah_pdx at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2013

The Hour by the BBC is about a news show in the 60's and has great female characters.
posted by kjs4 at 4:54 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Call the Midwife is amazing. No supernatural elements, but it's primarily about women and their relationships.
posted by syncope at 6:48 PM on May 12, 2013

If we're going back to Golden Girls, then we obviously must also give props to Roseanne.
posted by heatherann at 6:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Strongly seconding the recommendations of the original Prime Suspect and Forbrydelsen series (the American remakes should be avoided, particularly Prime Suspect; the American version of The Killing at least had some redeeming qualities, and the cast is mostly great, though in the end I gave up on it after the first season).
posted by scody at 7:03 PM on May 12, 2013

Three dark comedies that are all very good to excellent/sometimes brilliant and all feature, as Netflix puts it, a 'strong female lead':
The Big C
posted by Flashman at 8:33 PM on May 12, 2013

Gilmore Girls
posted by Coaticass at 8:38 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm currently way more into Nashville than I would have expected. There is admittedly a bit of the two main characters being bitchy to each other...but that's far from the whole point of the show, and I get the sense that part of the drive of the show will be them learning to respect each other/developing a better relationship.

I remember the early seasons of Charmed doing well with the relationship between the three sisters (that was my favorite part of the show). I was into it back in middle school though; I don't know how well it holds up as an adult.
posted by tan_coul at 10:20 PM on May 12, 2013

Nthing Buffy, Fringe, Gilmore Girls and Daria, all awesome shows.

The West Wing is nothing like the genres you have mentioned, but does feature very strong female characters. Also a lot of politics, but somehow personal lives get in there too. Mostly politics though.

There's plenty of strong female characters in Lost as well, though if you're getting bored with Alias, you may also with that. First 3 seasons are just brilliant though.

And I have no idea if Australian shows are available wherever you are, but there are a stack with strong female characters, like Love My Way, Spirited, the oldie but goodie SeaChange, and Offspring. Not so much with spies though.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:39 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Being Erica. A lot of the episodes are about friendships and what they mean.
posted by mippy at 4:29 AM on May 13, 2013

"The Closer" if you like procedurals at all.

More current, maybe "Covert Affairs" (spy stuff) or "Fairly Legal" (mediation)?
"The Good Wife" is great too (law plus some political fumes).

The first two seasons of "Grey's Anatomy" were really fantastic, although it went off the rails pretty quickly from there.

And it's worth saying Buffy again, because, I mean, Buffy! wow. (a little formulaic in season 1, but gets richer and more complex with time. but end of Season 1! I need to rewatch some Buffy now.)
posted by acm at 6:46 AM on May 13, 2013

So this is fantasy, not sci-fi, but it otherwise sounds right up your alley: Once Upon a Time. Most of the important characters are female (and certainly the vast majority of the story-driving characters are) and many of them kick ass. I watched it on a whim and got hooked really quickly because the main character is so great.
posted by ashirys at 7:17 AM on May 13, 2013

Response by poster: o_____O wow.

I didn't know that I didn't know all these existed! I mean, just, wow. I'm going to fav those I'll look into soonest but please know I'll be referring to this for the next several months.

I really wish I could eponysterically give everyone a puppy. Or a piece of pie, if you're more inclined. Thank you, a thousand times over.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't believe we can still post in this! I discovered two wonderful shows because of this and can't thank you all enough for Fringe and Bones. I am having so much fun with them!
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 5:28 PM on July 16, 2013

if anyone is still reading - i haven't watched it yet, but it seems "orange is the new black" would qualify.
posted by nadawi at 5:58 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks to this post I tried Girls (loathed it) and Lost Girl (really like it and am miffed only Season 1 is available in Australia).

And it reminded me that another show to recommend is Haven. Weird stuff rather than straight science fiction, and sometimes the weird things are a bit too neatly resolved, but it has strong female characters who, although interested in romance, are not limited by that. I think I have a small crush on Audrey, like almost everyone in the show.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:18 PM on July 16, 2013

most of what i would recommend has already been addressed upthread. buffy. veronica mars. orphan black.

more fluffy, lighthearted fare: everything on lifetime tends to feature strong women. so, the client list, drop dead diva, and recently devious maids, which i think is much better than desperate housewives was.

abc family is pretty good with girls. so, bunheads. and my not-so-guilty-pleasure, pretty little liars. PLL features a group of four female best friends. i watch more television than anyone i've ever met, and i cannot think of anything that features a group of this many girls (four) who never, ever, EVER have had romantic entanglements come between them. other things do - people being thoughtless, or selfish, or dishonest. but never guys (or girl).
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:03 PM on July 18, 2013

oooh and since you liked birds of prey, what about dark angel?
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:04 PM on July 18, 2013

The Danish political drama "Borgen" has gotten lots of good comment, but it has been nearly impossible to find for legal watching in the US. No more: it's available on the KCET website UNTIL AUGUST 4. SO STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH IT NOW.
posted by Corvid at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ooh! It's here on Link TV, too, but not for long.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:56 PM on July 26, 2013

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