Help me watch teevee!
June 26, 2013 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Looking for television shows I will like as much as Being Erica, Six Feet Under, and the Mindy Project. Snowflakes inside.

I just got done watching Being Erica and I realized that I haven't liked a show that much in a really, really long time. So I want more shows like that in my life!

Things I like:

- Smart female protagonists who experience a full range of emotions and have complex relationships. I really liked Six Feet Under a lot (well-written, psychologically complex, deep), but would prefer a female focus instead of a male one (although not absolutely necessary).

- Well-written, well-acted, psychologically complex. Bonus points if psychology is a focus of the show in that the characters learn and grow as people (as in Being Erica and Six Feet Under).

- Shows off the beaten path. Shows from 30 years ago, British shows, Irish shows, Canadian shows, Australian shows... even shows not in English if they have subtitles. I'm willing to buy DVDs, use Hulu or Netflix or whatever, or even track down hard-to-find shows in other countries. If it's good, send it my way!

- Drama, comedy, romance... official genre isn't that important. Reality shows are fine too.

Things I don't like:

- Shows with unsympathetic characters. I don't like 30 Rock or the Office or Parks and Rec or Arrested Development -- that whole trend of having unsympathetic characters as some kind of in-joke. I want to watch people that I *like*.

- Supernatural/fantasy themes. I don't tend to like shows where for some reason the main character is a vampire/kills vampires/is an angel and the show could easily be done in a different setting with the same characters. (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer). (Being Erica has time travel but it's central to the plot and the theme.)

- Magical jobs or situations. Shows where the main focus is the magical job the main character has at the expense of characterization and subtlety. OMG, he works for the FBI! Or, OMG, they are time-traveling crime fighters! Or wow, she's a hooker! They just seem like one-trick ponies.

- Disaffected geek shows. Freaks and Geeks, Daria, etc. I liked these in high school but they just seem so formulaic to me now.

- Amurica, fuck yeah! shows. I don't like shows where it's all about how great it is to be an American or glorified visions of the American political process. (I consider even West Wing to be in this category.)

- Gratuitous, gory violence (24, etc.) Even Breaking Bad pushes these limits for me. I don't want to see people causing each other unnecessary physical pain.

- Overt sexism and stereotyping, or shows where the women are props for the men. (Numb3rs drives me insane with how smart the men are and how bubble-headed the females are.) I don't like the "being single sucks" theme of the Mindy Project, but the show is funny and smart and I can deal.

(Yes, I know this limits my range quite a bit. I'm having trouble even thinking of shows that meet these criteria. But I guess that's where you come in!)

Thank you for rocking my television watching world!
posted by 3491again to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You would probably love the Good Wife.
posted by randomname25 at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Veronica Mars! Smart, funny, and with some serious themes about outsiders vs insiders. Plus a bunch of characters (mostly outsiders) that are fun to watch. The first two seasons are far and away the best, but it's really great. Really great.
posted by janey47 at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

My So-Called Life.
posted by BibiRose at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you will like Scandal. It might seem a little unrealistic and/or showy to someone "in the know", but I like it for the same reasons you list above. It takes place in the real world, has a strong female focus, the main character is complex and 3D, etc. The first few episodes are a little hokey until they find their footing, but it gets smoother.
posted by bleep at 11:43 AM on June 26, 2013

I would check out Slings and Arrows, although the characters may be a little too selfish for your tastes.

as an aside I would suggest trying Parks and Rec again and see it through the second season. It is one of the few sitcoms where the characters genuinely like each other and like to be around each other.
posted by Think_Long at 11:47 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I recently recommended it on this thread, but the Mary Tyler Moore show. First few seasons are on Hulu.

It has / is:

- Smart female protagonists who experience a full range of emotions and have complex relationships.
- Well-written, well-acted, psychologically complex [ok maybe not complex exactly but nuanced, especially for a sitcom]
- From [over] 30 years ago

And it isn't any of the things on your "don't like" list.
posted by Asparagus at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

This has some of your points but not others but Watson (played by Lucy Liu) is a full partner of Sherlock Holmes in the series Elementary. Here is how it meets your criteria.

- Smart female protagonists. YES, though she's half of a team, some episodes are more her, some more him. She's smart but also feminine which I find refreshing (i.e. she's not shown as having to get more like a man to be good at what she does, for the most part).
- Well-written, well-acted, psychologically complex. YES, I think so. He's on the spectrum so there is some nuance there that is subtle. The characters grow.
- Shows off the beaten path. NO, this is pretty mainstream.
- Shows with unsympathetic characters. NO, you sympathize with most people.
- Supernatural/fantasy themes. NO, mostly, Holmes is on the spectrum but not in a supernatural way.
- Magical jobs or situations. MAYBE, you'd have to see for yourself.
- Disaffected geek shows. Freaks and Geeks, Daria, etc. NO
- Amurica, fuck yeah! shows. NO
- Gratuitous, gory violence (24, etc.) SOME. I draw the line at real violence and some of the shows have openers that are violent.
- Overt sexism and stereotyping, or shows where the women are props for the men. NO. Men and women, gay straight and trans, get to be good guys and bad guys

I like it because it's lively enough to keep me on the treadmill.
posted by jessamyn at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yes yes yes! The Good Wife! Cannot recommend it enough!
posted by bluloo at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out The United States of Tara, which is on Netflix. I loved it. FWIW I also really liked Lie to Me but it doesn't exactly fit your specs.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

oh god i cannot believe i am even typing this to the internet, but i like the lifetime show drop dead diva. the premise is that this model died but then came back to life in the body of an awesome fat lady lawyer so yeah it's a little supernatural-y, and yes, like most lifetime shows, it makes me want to roll my eyes sometimes due to a ridiculous plot line.

but but but it has margaret cho being a badass, and the star of the show, brooke elliott, is fantastic. also i'm a fat girl and i love seeing a show where the fat girl isn't relegated to the funny best friend role. it is total fluff, the complete opposite of something like six feet under, but try it. the first four seasons are on netflix as we speak, and the fifth season (brought back due to fan request! so i am not the only one!) premiered earlier this week.
posted by kerning at 11:54 AM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

You definitely described Veronica Mars. You probably also want to watch Mad Men.
posted by General Malaise at 11:55 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fringe? The last season was a pretty major departure from the rest of the series, but it fits many of your points.

Nurse Jackie?
posted by trivia genius at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2013

Bored to Death. The Jason Schwartzman character WISHES he was in a magical job and or situation. So he has to kind of create them for himself. Plus it features Ted Danson as a guy that just REALLY wants to be included in everything that is going on.
posted by aychedee at 12:01 PM on June 26, 2013

Top of the Lake. It's about a small town in New Zealand where a teenage girl goes missing. Elizabeth Moss plays the detective dedicated to finding her. It's a little slow, but in a good way, and the characterization and storytelling are subtle and complex. It's available on Netflix.

Bomb Girls and Call the Midwife are two other good shows that have sympathetic female protagonists. Also, I haven't seen it, but I've heard that The Bletchley Circle is really good.
posted by mokin at 12:06 PM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Maybe try Orphan Black (recently finished first season on BBC America) -- Tatiana Maslany (the lead actress) had a role on Being Erica. There is some violence, though.

I also really enjoyed Wonderfalls, though there is a surreal, magical element to the show.

Scandal might be a good option, but the violence really ramps up in parts of the second season.

Homeland also has a great female lead, but again might have too much violence considering it's a show about the CIA!

Call the Midwife is a lovely, nuanced portrayal of 1950s midwives in London. Almost entirely focused on female characters.

Have you watched a lot of Parks and Rec? I wouldn't really lump it in with The Office or Arrested Development in terms of unsympathetic characters. For me, it has some of the most fun, nuanced characters on tv right now, with really authentic relationships, especially between the women.
posted by wsquared at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As Time Goes By is an older BritCom starring Judi Dench. I think you'd like it.
posted by Dolley at 12:17 PM on June 26, 2013

Both my shows might not meet all your criteria, but I've watched them recently and enjoyed them.

Saving Grace - especially the first two seasons. Grace Hanadarko, played by Holly Hunter, is the smart female lead, and a very complex character. She can be really unsympathetic one second and then turn around and break your heart with an act of compassion. The show does have a supernatural premise (someone enters Grace's life claiming he's an angel) but I'm a total agnostic and was surprised by how much that element didn't bug me. There's great pride of place for Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, which I liked because I love it when a show has a sense of place. Grace also has two strong female friends who are fun to watch.

The Fall - I liked this more than Top of the Lake, where the lead cop is a bit of wide-eyed Bambi. Gillian Anderson plays a London detective who comes to Belfast for an outside investigation into a murder case. She's icy, smart, focused, and doesn't take shit off her male colleagues when they're critical of her. My largest reservation in recommending it to you is that I think it lingers too much on the execution of some of the crimes. Fast-forward through those scenes - they're not vital to the plot.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:22 PM on June 26, 2013

posted by hmo at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2013

You may want to give Parks and Rec another try, starting at season two. I genuinely like and care about all the characters in the main cast. I think Leslie is a compelling character with strengths and weaknesses and lots in between.
posted by Tevin at 12:30 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

You might like Sex and the City. I know that sounds odd, but the characters are mostly likeable and the way they change throughout the series is really fun to watch. In my opinion, they are all strong female characters with complex relationships - particularly Samantha.

My So-Called Life is a great suggestion.

Firefly. It's set in the future and is a bit fantastical, but it's very good.

I would say no to the Mad Men suggestion. None of those people are remotely likable.
posted by k8lin at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2013

Channel4's "Fresh Meat," (UK) which has completed 2 series. It's about 6 college students (3F, 3M) lumped together in a house, and trying (usually failing) to bridge the gap between childish behavior and adult behavior. Funny, and good characterizations after their facades fall away.

On Preview: Alias-- yes! It does have action violence, but the protagonist and a few antagonists and antihero (antiheroines?) are women. Skip season 4, as it's both a rehash of s3 and a badly abbreviated show resolution (owing to their episode order being chopped down). Firefly-- doubleplusyes.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

In Plain Sight's protagonist gets more nuanced the more I watch.

It's a very ordinary police procedural on the surface, and you might itch at the slow pace of Mary Shannon's relationship and emotional development, but it's easy to digest and not condescending to the gender or dramatic roles of the characters.
posted by Kakkerlak at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just want to nth the people who suggest giving Parks and Rec another try. I've heard the first season is different (haven't watched it), but it's sort of The Office, but with people that you like. Leslie, the female lead, is both interesting and sympathetic.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2013

Came in to make suggestions but so many others have beaten me to them! Instead I will nth Veronica Mars, The Good Wife (I just caught up through season 3 on Amazon Prime Instant Video), Call the Midwife (I think you can stream on and Drop Dead Diva.
posted by hungrybruno at 12:46 PM on June 26, 2013

Have you watched the Friday Night Lights tv series? I resisted for a while because I do not care about or understand sports, but the while the football is important and drives much of the characterization, it's not important to like football to enjoy the show.

The show is centered around a high-school football coach, his wife, and his daughter. Tami Taylor, the wife, is a glorious creation, y'all.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:54 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you tried the new show The Fosters on ABC Family? It isn't as well written as I would like, but it is worth watching for this: mixed race lesbian couple raising a bunch of foster kids. Totally sympathetic, strong female leads. It explores some pretty rich issues, even if it is limited to a middle-brow level.
posted by Pineapplicious at 1:35 PM on June 26, 2013

Oh how I love Gavin & Stacey. Great writing, really funny, and the female characters are well-developed. And lots of scenery of Wales!
posted by jabes at 1:36 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Comeback is a lot of fun, and only lasted about a season. Caveat - may cross the line into unsympathetic characters for you (to me she's just flawed, but there is a discomfort factor which is part of the comedy).
posted by Mchelly at 1:53 PM on June 26, 2013

Nthing Call the Midwife, which I just stumbled upon and loved. Season 1 is on Netflix, and Season 2 was on PBS until about a week or two ago, IIRC.
posted by sa3z at 2:06 PM on June 26, 2013

I am LOVING The Americans on FX. For the record, I hate history or war related shows, and am not huge on action dramas, but its awesome - complex, well written and with a strong female protagonist. The end of Six Feet Under was an extremely sad day, FWIW.
posted by floweredfish at 2:40 PM on June 26, 2013

Try Parks&Rec again, it's amazing in its later years.
posted by katypickle at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thumbs up for being another Being Erica fan. Loved that show!

My suggestions, in order of remembrance, not quality:

1. Dr Who, current season. Female companions who are not props. Thoughtful storylines. While sci-fi, there's definitely complexity between the characters. Love this show!

2. Bunheads. From the team that brought you Gilmore Girls (You have watched that one, yes? If not, grab the DVDs). I like this show because it's all women and girls, and about their relationships to one another and their relationship with dance, specifically ballet. Michelle, the lead, is complex (former showgirl, married quick, a little bit rebellious, feeling like she's been aged out of dance), and her relationship with her mother-in-law and the dance students are interesting. I also love the relationships between the female dance students.

3. Switched at Birth. Centered around two girls, one of who is Deaf, who were... Switched at Birth. The two very different families now live together and the tensions, drama and attempts to get to know each other. Primarily focused on the women & girls on the show. Favorite part: Having sign language as a regular part of the show.

4. Lost Girl. A Canadian show. Tough female characters. Supernatural stuff, but ultimately, it's about the lead, Bo, a woman who finds out she's "fae" and lives her life on her terms (by not choosing a side, cavorting with humans, and doing what she feels is right in life). This show can get mad cheesy, but it's also funny and the characters are lovable.

5. Elementary. Watson is played by a woman. I'm enjoying this show. @jessamyn gave a good write-up for it.

6. Parks and Rec. Disregard 1st season and give this show another try. Lesley is amazing and so is the rest of the cast.
posted by vivzan at 2:57 PM on June 26, 2013

Another vote for both The Good Wife and Veronica Mars. And perhaps the first few seasons of Bones - Bones is a smart female protagonist who is definitely a bit different and struggles with it occasionally. Not violent, but a bit of dead gore. The first few seasons are well written, but it goes downhill for the later seasons.
posted by cgg at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2013

Seconding Gilmore Girls. I know, I mean Gilmore Girls, but you have seen it right? Super enjoyable.

Also Enlightened with Laura Dern.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2013

Oh and damn I never thought I'd get a chance to recommend this on Metafilter but Grace Under Fire is one of the best sitcoms ever made. It's as good as Roseanne but (unbelievably) even darker.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2013

posted by The corpse in the library at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2013

Whoops, sorry, I take back that suggestion -- the characters aren't likeable, for the most part. They're not bad people, but they're self-centered.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:21 PM on June 26, 2013

Jumping in again to discuss Saving Grace. I loved this show. Grace is an incredibly complex character, super flawed. If this show was on the air, it would be the first one I'd recommend, but because it's off the air and I know how it ends, without giving out spoilers, I would say that the ending is unsatisfying. If you're ok with that, then go for it.
posted by vivzan at 3:34 PM on June 26, 2013

We're really enjoying watching Cheers at the moment. Although Diane is pretentious and Carla is aggressive, the show is laughing with them, not at them. It's a wonderfully affectionate show at times.

I quite like Weeds as well - Nancy's friend (I can't remember her name) is a likeable person who does unlikeable things, and I really like it when shows allow people to dwell in shades of grey. (Mad Men very much does this, but there are a few dislikeable characters and some which are at least dislikeable for whole seasons, such as Betty.)
posted by mippy at 3:37 PM on June 26, 2013

Also, is The Golden Girls too obvious a suggestion?

Also, Murphy Brown. The characters bicker a lot, and at first I wasn't sure if Murph was even a likeable character, but it's great, especially the political nostalgia it evokes.
posted by mippy at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2013

Rizzoli and Isles just started its fourth season.
posted by zinon at 8:25 PM on June 26, 2013

Oh! Also! I can't believe I forgot this when I first posted, but Bomb Girls. It's an amazing-but-canceled Canadian series about women working in a bomb factory during WWII. Huge emphasis on character development and women being awesome. One of my favorite bloggers sells the show far better than I can.
posted by randomname25 at 10:54 AM on June 28, 2013

I came here to suggest the Australian drama Offspring, but I see that someone beat me to it. It's a great show and I think it would be just what you're after. There are some similarities with The Mindy Project in that the main character is a slightly neurotic obstetrician who struggles with her love life, and it has a great ensemble cast - but it's a drama rather than a comedy.

Australian actress Asher Keddie plays the lead role in Offspring, and she's also excellent in the two part mini-series 'Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo', which I also think you might enjoy. It's about the Australian publishing industry in the 1970s and Keddie plays Australian icon Ita Buttrose.
posted by RubyScarlet at 12:25 AM on July 1, 2013

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