Where the Award Winning Actresses Are

10 years ago

If you want to see talented actresses plying their craft these days basic cable might be a better bet than your local multiplex.  Shows starring strong leading female characters are setting the ratings on fire in the cable world.  In USA Today, Holly Hunter comments:

"The whole cable industry has been validated by that show's success," says Hunter, whose Grace, premiering July 23, will follow The Closer. "That it's a female lead has been great, not just for women but for everybody, because people understand that people want to watch women in the lead (roles)."

The latest star to take her act to the small screen is actually no stranger to television.  Academy Award-nominated and Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Glenn Close stars in the new FX show, Damages (Tuesday nights, 10 pm).

Tom Shales at the Washington Post wrote:

the pilot script is one of the most artfully crafted since the debut back in the 20th century of "The Sopranos."

I would agree that Close is in top form as a scene chewing shark and costar Rose Byrne is compelling to watch and draws you in.  I was disappointed by some cliches (especially the fate of the dog which really put me off) and inexplicable motivations (why does she take the job with Hewes?) but nonetheless there were some genuinely surprising twists that will keep me watching (unless the Lost-style flashback structure frustrates me).

Other new cable shows featuring strong leading ladies include Saving Grace with Holly Hunter and State of Mind staring Lili Taylor.

Collen Gleason blogs that she's a fan of Saving Grace: 

The show was edgy and intense, with bits of humor thrown in. It was thought-provoking, too, and I really enjoyed it. I've already got the DVR cued up to record the upcoming episodes.

Always a day behind is taking a wait-and-see approach to State of Mind:

I will keep watching and wait if Lili Taylor will be able to let out some of her more hilarious side, that I caught glimpses of when she imagines a part of herself talking to her. That internal her is just so much more funny.

Sara Jersild at From Inside The Box is less sure:

It's a disappointment, because Lili Taylor is a fantastic actress who deserves better than the first script and her character, Ann.

Deb Donatti at the Open Adoption Blog has an interesting perspective on the show:

After being involved with adoption for many years, I could clearly see and understand some of the perspective the show tried to share. It was obvious on some levels they had consulted with someone for this script who knew what they were talking about.... I did find the way this new show explored the topic of adoption dynamics and grief interesting. Not sure how much more they will explore those issues with this same character, but I believe I will be checking back to find out.

Maureen Ryan at her Chicago Tribune blog, The Watcher, takes a look at State of Mind and its sister series at Lifetime, Side Order of Life and Army Wives:

Regarding Side Order Ryan writes:

The theme of the show — that you should go ahead and get the dressing on your salad, and not primly put it on the side — is a metaphor for how McIntyre will start to dive into her life and listen to “wake-up calls from the universe.” It’s a slender concept, and the series may not stand out enough in this crowded summer season. But, as is the case with “State of Mind,” it’s a show that may develop into something richer over time, and as such, deserves another helping or two before you decide whether it’s to your taste.

And about Army Wives Ryan notes:

So the channel is to be commended for not only raising its game with “Army Wives,” but also for taking on the timely topic of war, albeit in a somewhat indirect manner. Iraq is barely mentioned, and current events are merely glimpsed on the TV screens of the characters at the fictional Army base on “Army Wives,” but the effects of war on the home front are unmistakable and are dealt with in a surprisingly straightforward manner.

But wait, there's more!

The Closer starring Kyra Sedgwick is the most watched show on cable.  Anna Johns at TV Squad is smelling Emmy for Sedgwick:

I don't know about you guys, but this struck me as an Emmy-worthy episode. Brenda's quirks and weirdness were completely gone and she was just in all-out detective mode. She had to switch from being angry to being sympathetic, and finally to delivering some tough love to both a sex offender and Sgt. Gabriel. It has become obvious that Brenda's role in the squad room has become 'mother hen' and I get the feeling she doesn't like that very much. Watching her in this episode made me feel exhausted. Kyra Sedgwick truly was spectacular tonight, and she was backed up by a terrific script that let her show a very large range of emotions.

And, finally, Academy Award-nominee Minnie Driver is no doubt enjoying her Emmy nomination for her role as a traveling grifter in The Riches.  As Meredith LePore writes at Pretty Boring, Minnie Driver is Having a Good Week:

Then when I saw the previews for her FX show The Riches I wondered why they had hired two classy British actors (Minnie and Eddie Izzard) to basically play white trash but the show got very good reviews and Minnie was just nominated for an Emmy so the joke is on us apparently. Minnie is also promoting her second album (that's right she sings) and is doing a voice in the upcoming Simpsons film (which may be as big as Harry Potter from the looks of it.) It is nice to see a talented actress doing so well.

How about you? Are you watching any of these shows? What's your take on them and is television the right venue for these women?

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