Fall means holidays, back to school, changing leaves and new TV. Personally — though I can't hate on holidays — it's that last thing I'm really most excited about. The latest crop of fall shows will soon be here, and while most of them will probably be gone by winter, the hope is at least a few will wow fans and critics alike. I look for a lot of different things in a TV show — good dialogue, coherent storylines, characters worth spending time with — but one of the things I am especially interested in is shows that tell quality stories about women. And, luckily, at least seven new fall shows have the potential to be awesomely feminist.
To me, a feminist TV show means it features a female character with a compelling story to tell, dealing with issues of representation head on, and not limiting a character based on gender, race, or sexuality. It's not about how strong the woman is, because honestly, "strong" is too vague an adjective for my liking. It is more about the depth in which the story is told, and whether or not it challenges gender norms, gets those female relationships right, and furthers the roles of women in entertainment.
Sadly, some of the shows that look like they will be able to hit all these points, like Shonda Rhimes' The Catch, won't premiere until midseason. These seven shows have the potential to fill the void until then, though.
1. Quantico, ABC
The ensemble cast of Quantico is led by Priyanka Chopra's Alex. The trailer shows a wide array of women defying stereotypes as they train to become FBI agents. From an openly Muslim character to a former model, these women are unabashed in their work ethic and owning their own desires. The show also goes deeper to positively portray characters from the LGBTQ community and to incorporate characters from varied social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. There are several moments that focus entirely on women helping other women and the series is told from Alex's point to view, giving viewers an intriguing, determined, funny, sex-positive hero to root for. If the show can live up to the trailer it will be a definite must watch.
Premieres: September 27
2. Supergirl, CBS
It's true that Supergirl is a story of a hero, but it's even more so the story of a young women embracing her identity and her history. Throughout the trailer, there is a sense that Kara is done being limited, and wants to embrace her full potential. She wants to be her best self while also saving people. I particularly love the moment in the pilot when Calista Flockhart's character tells Kara why she doesn't believe the name Supergirl is derogative or limiting. Is it a little on the nose? Sure, but the straightforward manner in which the issue is addressed seems to be indicative of the feminist themes running throughout the show.
Premieres: October 26
3. Indian Summers, PBS
What has me most excited for Indian Summers is the fact that a female character is strongly involved in the rebellion against British rule. She is one of many female characters who stand out in the trailer, from Julia Walters' wry doyenne of the country club to the fearlessness of the young woman who declares she's running away, Indian Summers can tackle class, racial issues, and female repression in ways most shows only dream about. The cast is strong, but the setting may be even stronger when it comes to the potential to tell the most feminist stories possible.
Premieres: September 27
4. Flesh & Bone, Starz
The world of ballet has always been a choice setting to tell stories of unease and the imperfection behind perfection. Flesh & Bone looks no different. It presents a female lead who everyone makes assumptions about. She's the ingénue, the virgin, the wide-eyed innocent — but the trailer strongly hints the protagonist is none of these things. In fact, her life is much darker than any of her teachers and maybe even her classmates could imagine. The push and pull between perception and reality is Flesh & Bone's strongest storytelling device.
Premieres: November 8
5. Scream Queens, Fox
The satire is strong with this one: In true Ryan Murphy fashion, horror is being turned upside down in Scream Queens. (Does the final girl trope still apply when the cast is almost entirely female?) With Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts on hand, can Scream Queens possibly fail to thrill, offer up unique characters, and mix up a genre that has historically been problematic? I don't think so. The show may not be perfect, but on the strength of its actresses alone, it looks ready to dazzle.
Premieres: September 22
6. Fear the Walking Dead, AMC
From everything I have seen so far, Fear the Walking Dead appears to be a far more human story than its monster hit big brother The Walking Dead. Because the show focuses in on the beginning of the apocalypse, establishing the characters is important. The key character is a school teacher and mother named Madison who has to become something of a warrior to ensure the survival of her kids and herself. Her apparent arc coupled with the fact that she's played by Deadwood's Kim Dickens, has me optimistic that Fear the Walking Dead can give good zombies and feature a feminist hero.
Premieres: August 23
7. Blindspot, NBC
Blindspot looks like it has real potential to be a feminist story about women and the ways in which their identity is simultaneously defined for them and stripped away. Star Jaimie Alexander is brilliant in everything she does, and the fact that she's playing a female Jason Bourne certainly has my hopes up. Blindspot is a wild card, but if it makes its Jane Doe as angry, skilled, and unrelenting as she looks in the trailer each week then it will be on the right path.
Premieres: September 23
I hope you will add all of these shows to your fall try-out list. They deserve a shot for their ambition alone, and if they live up to their ambitious goals then TV fans are in for a great fall for women characters.
Image: Darren Michaels/CBS