Television Shows that Got the Axe too Soon (which are surprisingly ((or are they)) led by mostly female casts)

Pan Am

 

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ABC introduced this comedy-historical drama-my personal fantasy television show in 2011. The show’s ratings started off hopeful, and then plummeted. Whose to say if DVR/TiVo recordings had something to do with it, as insinuated by the show’s Christina Ricci, or if this is just another great example as to why life’s just not fair.

Pan Am excellently captures the nostalgia for travel at the height of the Jet Age, and likewise the nostalgia of the 60’s. While the show includes various events in history, one criticism that I have for the show is that there’s limited attention given to people of color. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Not mentioned. Though, to be fair, Malcolm X is. The Civil Rights movement as a whole goes mostly unmentioned, with the show focusing more on the Cold War, and the negative effects of communism. There are instances in which the U.S.’s policies both abroad and at home, such as Papa Doc in Haiti, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and the acceptance of (and willingness to ignore) the past of Germany as a way to unite against the Soviets, could be criticized, but the show never quite goes that far. It lacks any kind of sting, reminiscent of an Aaron Sorkin production, which could be too heavy for this show, but it doesn’t find it’s own voice either, or rather, it isn’t given the time to fully develop one. I would’ve liked to see a future season, to see if the writers found a way to take the witty quip of the characters and use it to deliver stronger messages that today’s America could learn from.

One of the best parts of this show, to me, was the fact that a majority of the lead performers were women. Four female leads in a show with a regular cast this small was wonderful, and an interesting glimpse into a life that television rarely explores. However, I’m left wondering how deeply does it go, and is it enough? We see the girls face sexual advances, the strict regulations placed on their appearance and bodies (which is definitely not met by all the pilots), the ease with which they can be fired, and also relationships with the men that they work with that goes beyond sexual and romantic feelings. Of these “ground breaking” additions to the show, the only character who consistently meets occurrences of all three is Maggie. Maggie/Christina Ricci (I prefer to think of them as one in this instance) is the bomb. A scrappy small town girl who’s determined to do what it takes to see the world? Sign me up.

Lastly, this show is just visually stunning to me. Not too much, but enough of a spectacle to dazzle. And the best part? It’s only 9 dollars for the whole first season on DVD through Amazon Prime, or at least it was when I wrote this (Sorry Pan Am folks, your loss is our gain).

If you do watch the show, can you do me one favor? WHERE TF DOES MAGGIE’S WIG GO? Do we just except that it doesn’t exist beyond the first episode? Do I treat it like X-Men Origins? I NEED ANSWERS.

Bomb Girls

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Nicknamed Rosie by my family, I have always had a nostalgia for WWII storylines involving women helping the cause. Now that I’m an adult (woah) I can recognize that there are several problems surrounding these types of storylines, such as the lack of inclusion of black women, and other women of color, in the argument of ‘WWII was great because it gave women a chance to work outside the home!’ Meanwhile, women of color in the United States have been working outside of the home since forever. And historically without pay. So there’s that. On top of this there’s a problem whenever you apply nostalgia to any wartime event, I think, because it makes us forget that war serves a very precise political-economic role on the world stage. People profit of off wars, in more than one way, and a very specific group/class/race of people always pays the brunt of that cost – which is human lives, in case that wasn’t already clear. For instance, did you know that Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship as a result of the Jones Act in 1917? Do you know what else was happening in 1917? (wink,wink)

Did you know that as a citizen you are mandated to sign up for the draft (if you’re male)? Convenient.

Bomb Girls is wonderful in that it combines the nostalgia people so often have for this time period with the harsh realities faced by common folks. Also, this show is actually about Canadians, and despite the fact that an absurd amount of film production happens in Canada, I think this is the first television show I had seen that was focused on Canadians in Canada. All of that is to say, I know very little about Canadian history. Very very little. However, the show’s inclusion of internment camps for Italian descendants was one way in which it highlighted some of the issues with our (our as in the Allied powers) response to the war.

The show also brings up issues of class, and sexuality. So much yes. Class is discussed in relation to the women who volunteer to work in the factory to ‘do their part’, while some women are forced there, by the lack of a male earner at home, or in some cases the death of that spouse during their service. Sexuality is brought up when we are shown, through a terrible factory accident, that at this time women were largely viewed for how they looked and not who they were, or what they could do. In addition, lesbian characters work to challenge other characters (and our) perception of the queer community in history. This was really pivotal to me, and it is in any historical film, because through the erasure of the LGBTQA+ community in history, we’ve mythologize the queer identity, by creating a history in which those identities didn’t exist. Which is not true, for instance indigenous communities recognized differences in sexuality, a world literally separated from the ‘perversions’ of the westernized world. I hate it when people try to argue that being gay is a new thing, because the history of heteronormativity, where everyone is heteronormative, is an illusion. Not a very clever one, either.

The show’s story does wane a bit towards the end, as most television series do sometime between their 1st and 4th season, but the amount of material that the show had to work with was immense. I wanted to see the women in the end days of the war. I want to see them after the war, struggling to go back to the confines of society that they once felt. Would Lorna and Gladys smile at each other when they pass each other in the street?

Hit and Miss

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From the creator of Shameless, Paul Abbott, which is actually why I watched this show in the first place, this is the story of a transwoman who finds herself needing to return to her past life after the death of her previous partner, to take care of their child, and her ex-partner’s children.

I simultaneously love and loathe this show. Let me count the ways.

First off, I loved this show as an introduction to Trans life. I remember when I first started watching it, I thought the subject was taboo (ahhhh the days before the angel that is Laverne Cox graced us with her performance of Sophia on OITNB), and that was what had interested me. One thing I loved about Shameless was the way it dealt with sexuality and identity, with Ian stating that “sexuality is more like a sand that shifts”. I can see how people would have qualms with such an argument, which would largely work to erase gay identities under the age old explanation of “they were just experimenting”, but I think it’s a lovely idea that we will one day grow to love people for who the are, not what parts they have.

That being said, there is a problem with the fact that the main character is played by a cisgendered person. Trans visibility is on the rise now, but it’s nowhere where it needs to be, in the sense of excluding roles of transgendered characters to actual transgendered people. I love Chloë, her acting ability is out of this world, and while I see validity to the argument that actors act, and thus can portray anyone, I also recognize that that argument is often not extended to Trans folks. In a time when violence against Trans women is being perpetrated at alarming rates, with little to no justice after the fact, Trans visibility is crucial in maintaining, and building on, the few rights that have been recognized by our society, and one way to do that is to normalize Trans bodies by allowing actual Trans people perform in our media.

I think, in all, this story is an interesting opener for discussion on Trans life, issues, and how relationships can be effected after someone comes out — once you take away the whole assassin plot elements thingy. Which I also loved.

But for those of us who are seasoned in explanations of gender, sexuality, and identity, (thought there is always more to learn) this will prove to be problematic to you in some sense. I’ve never found that to be a reason to not watch something though, but rather to open up dialogues as to why something is problematic. And to know what not to do in the future.

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When I first started drafting this list, I never realized how central women were to all the stories. Whether that’s why I loved them so much, or why they got canned (tbh, I would wager it’s a lot of both), there’s definitely something to be made here. Either the industry is actively gutting stories that have female leads (which we know to be true), or women lack the same access to onscreen representation as men, and therefore lack stories to closely identify with (which we know to also be true). In essence, this list has confirmed in me my desire to be a filmmaker, because our stories matter, and I want to be apart of a culture that values women’s stories just as much (if not more in some circumstances) as men’s. 🎬

As always the titles are linked to IMdB.
Have you seen these shows? What did you think? Let me know, in the comments below!

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