Give me your biddies, your scolds, your gossips
December 6, 2016 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend small-town, woman-centric, low-stakes, non-romantic entertainments for me.

Watching the recent Gilmore Girls miniseries has reminded me how much I like this sort of thing: small town chronicles where nothing much of consequence really happens most of the time, and the focus is on relationships between women. The main other example I can think of is the Anne of Green Gables books (and other LMM works). Obviously there is romance in both of these series, but the focus isn't on the development of romantic relationships, that tends to be a B plot most of the time. The focus is on a smart woman and her interesting friendships and relationships with her family members and the random weirdo personalities in her small town. It is important to me that there be little to no violence or crime. I want the stakes reeeeeally low, OK? I want a terrible musical or a hair-dye mistake to take up a whole episode.

I'm primarily looking for TV or movies, but books are fine too. Bonus points if there is a subtexty friendship (e.g. Rory/Paris) that I can gleefully ship.
posted by potrzebie to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
These are books, but I used to read Maeve Binchy novels for this. The earlier ones were a bit morality tale-ish but if you're happy to just roll your eyes at that, they are quite cosy and filled with smart women in tiny Irish villages.
posted by lunasol at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

Parks and recreation fits the bill.

I assume you've read the little house on the prairie books, and Little Women. If not they would be right up your alley.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Jane the Virgin (there is "crime" in terms of story lines, but it's telenovela-evil-twin-conspiracy-style plots not on-screen/realistic)
posted by melissasaurus at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lark Rise to Candleford - both TV ( although possibly not easy to get hold of) and book. Very very low stakes!
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:23 PM on December 6, 2016 [10 favorites]

The movie The Waitress immediately popped into my head.
posted by littlesq at 3:25 PM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

I recommend the movie 'Circle of Friends'. There's romance, but the relationships among the friends is the important part. The book is even better, if you're interested.
posted by hydra77 at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, thanks for coming up with more examples of things I already love, pintapicasso - Parks and Rec in particular is a great example of what I'm looking for.
posted by potrzebie at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2016

Marian Keyes novels as well- a dab of romance but mainly all family/friend relationships.
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:40 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Totally came in to recommend Lark Rise To Candleford!

Really any British drama set in a small town will do. I also remember the Stephen Fry vehicle Kingdom being a lot like this, and Doc Martin. Call The Midwife kind of fits the bill, if you're also OK with lots of childbirth mixed up in your banter.
posted by Sara C. at 3:48 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

All creatures great and small!
posted by Ftsqg at 3:49 PM on December 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

It will seem like an unlikely choice, given your "no crime or violence" stipulation, but "Murder, She Wrote" is so, so great for this. It's campy and dated enough that the crimes never feel high-stakes--and they're rarely gory--so the show is essentially about an endlessly charming and witty old lady writer who lives in a small town in Maine but has deep, weird friendships with people all over the world. Also, the outfits are A+. And my boo would kill me if I didn't suggest "Golden Girls" but I haven't seen enough of it to know if they're right. Despite these suggestions, we are both under 35.

Books that might fit the bill include anything by Sarah Orne Jewett, and Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April.
posted by dizziest at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

Seconding Lark Rise to Candleford. It's very like Anne of Green Gables. It's available on Amazon Prime and sounds just like what you're looking for. I also think you'd love the show Hart of Dixie. It's a small town soap opera and it's got one of those subtext frienemy relationships like Rory and Paris. Did you watch Northern Exposure way back when? If you're okay with teen drama, you might like the show Awkward.
As for books, any of the books by Fannie Flagg would work for you, I think.
posted by dchrssyr at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Mapp and Lucia series here might suit!
posted by The otter lady at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Cranford! Elizabeth Gaskell's chronicle of small English village life in the mid 1800s. It's delightful. The book is great, but really nothing beats Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench being British in bonnets.
posted by basalganglia at 4:01 PM on December 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

Steel Magnolias is excellent with its odd characters and majority female cast. (But full disclosure- there is also drama and a tragedy.)
posted by Glinn at 4:03 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

When I saw this question, I literally thought you had just watched Cranford and were wondering what to watch next...

The HBO series Fleabag is a little edgier (lots of sex jokes and dark humor) but is essentially this...
posted by benadryl at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of Liane Moriarty's novels are like this. And they are in Australia, which gives everything a very wonderful "the seasons are upside down!" feeling. Also I never tire of the Jane Marple novels and stories by Agatha Christie --and they are all wonderful in their TV/movie incarnations -- as the murders are non-troubling and it is all really more about the small town life of a (very wise/smart) English spinster.
posted by bearwife at 4:07 PM on December 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was going to say Liane Moriarty too; though hers do have stakes in some cases, they are both really vivid and yet not quite realistic, probably due to the Australian bent and extreme drama. I've listened to them all as Audiobooks and definitely recommend that--the accent makes it!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:10 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Book: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs was a fun read and sounds a lot like knit nights I've been to. There is some heavier stuff, especially toward the end, so it may or may not float your boat. I think there's a sequel, but I haven't read it yet.
posted by wiskunde at 4:19 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

How have we gone this far without somebody mentioning Designing Women? I was never a big fan but it seems to fit. (Well, other than the "small town" part, since they were in Atlanta.) Actually Alice would fit the bill pretty closely, but IIRC it was a crushingly mediocre show.

Oh! Baghdad Cafe! (The movie. There was a TV spinoff, but don't go there.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:21 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding Northern Exposure!

Also, if you didn't know, there was a TV series called The Road to Avonlea based on LMM's writing that is going to be right up this alley.

Not sure how your tolerance is for things that are dated, but my dad still watches The Waltons every morning on the Hallmark Channel (or he did last year; I don't keep up with their scheduling); that is a nice rural, slice of life story. Golden Girls is still pretty charming, if you can look past the clothes.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:23 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

If we're going to Designing Women, we gotta mention Golden Girls!
posted by Sara C. at 4:25 PM on December 6, 2016

Ugh, and it kills me that you can't watch Homefront anywhere--DVD, streaming, etc.--for love or money, because that would be right up your alley.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:36 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh man, Olive Kitteridge fits the bill exactly. It's a 4-part HBO miniseries based on a novel, starring Frances McDormand, set in small-town Maine. It's a super slow burn (not plot-driven in the least) but I still wanted to finish it all in one night. Highly recommended.
posted by HoteDoge at 4:52 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the Sadie Shapiro novels were kind of like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

and nth-ing the Golden Girls.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:27 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

They solve crimes but in the gentlest warmest girlfriend-supporting way: No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
posted by sestaaak at 5:33 PM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hart of Dixie!! A young NY female doctor inherits a medical practice in small town Alabama. There's some romance, but it's generally a sweet show full of the relationships and the people and small-town mishaps. There's 4 seasons and i'm pretty sure it's on Netflix.
posted by cgg at 5:50 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here are two with old biddies, but not the woman to woman thing: Mr. And Mrs. Bridge (books and movie) and Driving Miss Daisy.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:02 PM on December 6, 2016

I haven't seen too many episodes (usually I just catch them if my mother happens to have them on) but The Good Witch seems to fit your bill and doesn't seem very witchy/magical (if that's a concern).
posted by sardonyx at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Miss Read's books of the English countryside are peacefully gossipy and soothing.
posted by bluebelle at 6:38 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I echo Cranford. I just stared the series and it is lovely, definitely fits your criteria.
FYI I decided to watch bc a podcast I like (Appointment Television) is doing a "TV book club" where they discuss a episode a week, and as it's a five episode season it seemed a low commitment trial.
posted by maryrussell at 7:21 PM on December 6, 2016

Any book by Barbara Pym would be perfect, but especially Excellent Women.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:25 PM on December 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency!!!!! Soooo feel good and funny and witty in a slow kind of way.
posted by raspberrE at 7:35 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

How about "The Vicar of Dibley?" Takes place in a small village, has an endearing cast of characters, strong female leads. Should be right up your alley!
posted by jhope71 at 8:16 PM on December 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Cold Comfort Farm...strangely hilarious and I think I heard about it here.
posted by bquarters at 9:14 PM on December 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Widow's Peak! A hilarious film about small town gossips in Ireland in the 20s, IIRC.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:33 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Grace & Frankie
Broad City
Doll and Em
posted by gennessee at 11:52 PM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Call The Midwife may scratch this itch.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:03 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

In to say Hart of Dixie!
posted by functionequalsform at 6:24 AM on December 7, 2016

Denise Swanson's Scumble River mysteries might work. The heroine is a school psychologist living in a small town in Illinois, and there are plenty of quirky family members and friends who are regular characters. There is murder/crime, but it's never gory, and there's romance, but it's not the focus of the book at all. The books are as much about the interactions between the heroine, her family and friends, and others in town as they are about the mystery.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:57 AM on December 7, 2016

I came in to say Lark Rise to Candleford, everything by Barbara Pym, and the wonderful Miss Read books, so consider those nthed. I love this question!
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:35 AM on December 7, 2016

Fried Green Tomatoes (the movie, have never read the book so cannot recommend it)
posted by greta simone at 10:03 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beware of Fried Green Tomatoes. I love both the book and movie, but there is violence and murder aplenty.
posted by bearwife at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Vicar of Dibley.

Boisterous lady vicar arrives to serve a conservative parish in a small town. Definitely has an awesome female lead and a surplus of eccentric characters.
posted by cnidaria at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2016

Cranford would probably be perfect for you.
posted by pharm at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2016

Call the Midwife, for sure!
posted by gateau at 1:14 PM on December 7, 2016

Try the Mitford series. It's about an Episcopal priest in a small town and the town characters. Mysteries tend to be along the lines of who ate all the cake or who is sleeping in the belfry.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:55 PM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I mentioned this question to Mrs. SemiSalt - she likes books and movies where nothing happens - and she recommended the Shenandoah Valley Quilt books written by Emile Richards.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:00 PM on December 9, 2016

Should be Emilie Richards.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:20 PM on December 9, 2016

Definitely Vicar of Dibley, but also:

Girls On Top: Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ruby Wax, and Tracey Ullman in Thatcher's London. Incompatible roommates. High 1980s fashion.

Let Them Eat Cake: Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, and Alison Steadman in Louis XVI's Versailles. Incompatible palacemates. High 1780s fashion.

Wild West: Dawn French and Catherine Tate in most far-flung Cornwall. Incompatible villagemates. This one, the next one, and VoD hew closest to what you're asking for.

Jam and Jerusalem (aka Clatterford in North America): Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Sue Johnston, and many others. Incompatible Women's Guild members.

Biddies, scolds, and gossips abound in all of the above.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:41 PM on August 13, 2017

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