'Scandal's Shonda Rhimes & the 9 Other Women Behind Your Favorite TV Shows
There's been a lot of praise showered upon Shonda Rhimes in recent months, and for good reason; two of the showrunner's series, Scandal and Grey's Anatomy, are pulling in big ratings several seasons in, and her newest addition, How to Get Away With Murder , is already a major hit. ABC's can't-miss "TGIT" line-up was named for her shows; The Hollywood Reporter recently called her one of TV's most powerful showrunners; the backlash to a New York Times article labeling her an "angry black woman" was so great that the paper itself stepped in to cringe and apologize. Rhimes is everywhere these days, the hype around her growing with each and every episode.
And as one of the very few women running today's TV, she's also making history. Rhimes, and her longtime producing partner Betsy Beers, are two of the small class of female showrunners responsible for some of 2014's best shows. They may be a minority, but the impact they've made on TV — and women — is huge. Check them out:
Show: Orange is the New Black on Netflix, now readying for its third season.
Who She is: A former writer and producer who made it big as showrunner of Showtime's Weeds before creating OITNB.
What She's Done for Women: She made a hugely important show about a little-discussed issue affecting women, starring actresses of every race, sexuality, and background imaginable. The fact that the series is so good is just a bonus.
Show: Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family, now readying for its sixth season.
Who She is: The creator/producer/writer/director of the most addicting teen drama on TV. Also, she wrote Now and Then. Yup.
What She's Done for Women: Let me repeat: she wrote Now and Then. As for Liars, the soap show's depth when it comes to feminism has been one of TV's biggest and best surprises; beneath the murders and betrayals, there's a truly great (and rare) depiction of female friendship.
Mara Brock Akil
Shows: The Game, now readying for its eighth season, and Being Mary Jane now readying for its second season, both on BET.
Who She is: Akil is a TV veteran, having written and produced for Moesha, The Jamie Foxx Show, Girlfriends and Cougar Town, among other shows.
What She's Done for Women: Rhimes' series may get more attention due to their primetime spot, but Akil's have been breaking barriers for years, featuring black women in several lead roles. Not that she's been ignored, though; The Game is BET's most successful series ever, and Jane was renewed for a second season before its first even began.
Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner
Show: Girls on HBO, now readying for its fourth season.
Who They Are: Dunham is, well, Lena Dunham, the 28-year-old actress/writer/director/producer/author who may or may not be the voice of her generation. Konner is a writer and producer who, pre-Girls, worked on Undeclared and Help Me Help You.
What They've Done for Women: What haven't they done? Girls has totally changed the conversation about feminism, friendships, and the importance of a well-fitting onesie. It may have its issues, but Girls, thanks to Dunham and Konner, has had a huge impact on how women are viewed in pop culture.
Show: The Good Wife on CBS, now in its sixth season.
Who She is: King is the Writers Guild-nominated wife of Robert King, her Good Wife co-creator.
What She's Done for Women: The Good Wife is widely considered one of the best dramas on TV, thanks in large part to its ensemble of complex, realistic female characters.
Show: Masters of Sex on Showtime, now in its third season.
Who She is: The Emmy-nominated writer and producer of the 2010 miniseries The Pacific, Ashford created Masters of Sex in 2013.
What She's Done for Women: Ashord assembled a writing staff that's mostly women, an anomaly for TV, and the female influence is clearly reflected in the series; Masters' intensive focus on female sexuality has made it one of the most interesting (and feminist) shows in recent years.
Show: The Vampire Diaries, now in its sixth season, and The Originals, now in its second season, both on the CW.
Who She is: Plec is a writer and producer previously best known for her work on Kyle XY.
What She's Done for Women: Both of her hit shows have female leads, and even their male characters have embraced their feminism on-screen.
Show: The Mindy Project on FOX, now in its third season.
Who She is: Mindy freakin' Kaling, one of the funniest, smartest, most inspiring women in Hollywood.
What She's Done for Women: She's an Indian-American woman starring in her own TV show. Not enough? Kaling wrote an awesomely feminist book, made Kelly Kapoor an icon, and is responsible for bringing Chris Messina into our lives each week.
Jennie Snyder Urman
Show: Jane the Virgin on the CW, now in its first season.
Who She is: Urman, the creator of one of 2014's buzziest new shows, also made Emily Owens, MD, and produced many episodes of Gilmore Girls and 90210.
What She's Done for Women: Jane stars a Hispanic woman who's honest about her sexuality, nice with her friends, and deeply, lovingly close with her mother. This is brand new territory for TV – and it couldn't be better.
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