There was a time, not so long ago, when names like Jessica Day, Mindy Lahiri, Olivia Pope and Leslie Knope didn’t mean a thing—but all that changed in a season or two. In this ‘golden age’ of TV, female characters we’ve come to know and love are the driving forces behind some of primetime’s biggest successes. We have them to thank for being our favorite fictional friends, but also for convincing networks that women-driven shows are viable, profitable, appealing to both genders and generally beloved. (What took so long?)
Starting in September, a slew of new shows will star even more women who are strong, funny and resilient, and we’re pretty excited to meet them. Although TV is doing a way better job balancing male-dominant programs with more female-centric shows, more representation of gender equality is always a good thing. And this season, there’s plenty of that. Here’s the next generation of female characters slated to appear on new shows this fall. We can’t wait to get to know them by name.
State of Affairs with Kathrine Heigl and Alfre Woodard, on NBC, at 10pm (Premieres Nov. 17)
Heigl will be playing the President’s (and her almost mother-in-law’s) go-to CIA analyst. She survived an alleged terrorist attack that killed her fiancé, and now she’s just left with more questions than answers. Riddled with guilt, grief, and vengeance, Charlestone Tucker is a self-destructive workaholic who is in charge of her country’s safety. It will be awesome seeing Heigl in an action-packed role that is very unlike ones she’s taken in the past (i.e. Knocked Up, Life as We Know It); she’ll be faced with incredibly difficult decisions, especially when she finds out the truth about her fiancé’s death.
Selfie with Karen Gillan, on ABC, at 8pm (Premieres Sept. 30)
Kinda-sorta based on My Fair Lady, Selfie is truly a reflection of our social media empire era. Eliza Dooley, who has over 263,000 followers online, is actually pretty lonely and socially stunted IRL. So she does what any one of us would do in this situation: she asks a professional (John Cho) to “rebrand” her image and train her on how to act like a normal human being. I have to say, a part of me is LOLing hard at this, but the other is truly interested. We all get so swept up on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we can forget how important reality is.
The Mysteries of Laura with Debra Messing, on NBC, at 8pm. (Premieres Sept. 24)
Although The Mysteries of Laura sounds like a Danielle Steel paperback, the show starring Debra Messing looks pretty hilarious. A cross between Miss Congeniality and pretty much every female cop comedy, The Mysteries of Laura is about a stellar NYPD homicide detective who solves crimes and comes home to two adorable boys and a seemingly uncommitted husband. Why I love shows like these? Because they give the audience women who are hard-working, funny, serious, tough, and love their careers as much as their families.
Stalker with Maggie Q, on CBS, at 10pm (Premieres Oct. 1)
I might need all the lights on in my apartment when I watch Stalker: this show seems equally intense as it is creepy. Maggie Q stars as Lt. Beth Davis, who is determined to keep several victims safe from their obsessive and dangerous stalkers, who, from the looks of it, are total pyro-psychopaths.
Gracepoint with Anna Gunn, on Fox, at 9pm (Premieres Oct. 2)
It’s great to see Anna Gunn in a much more empowering, in-control position than she was in Breaking Bad (not that her character wasn’t strong, but she definitely lost hold of the reigns in that relationship). Gunn, who plays Detective Ellie Miller, is on a mission to find out who murdered a young boy. The town this murder-mystery is set in is obviously tiny and incredulous: everyone, even someone’s grandma, is suspect.
Bad Judge with Kate Walsh, on NBC, at 9 pm (Premieres Oct. 2)
Even though we’ve had a lot of “Bad”s as of late (Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, Bad Teacher—the show, which got cancelled), there’s something about a workaholic who can get down with her bad self. Rebecca Wright is a criminal court judge who has sex in her office, eats wine and cake for breakfast, and has a wicked sense of humor. Oh, and she’s also weirdly compassionate. When an 8-year-old boy needs her help, she comes to his rescue, and not just because she was the one who put his parents in jail.
How to Get Away With Murder with Viola Davis, on ABC, at 10 pm (Premieres Sept. 25)
Another brilliant and fierce Shonda Rhimes creation, How to Get Away With Murder is about a very hands-on law course taught by the fearless Annalise Keating. She instructs her students on the basic principles of how to be awesome at your job — and it doesn’t exactly involve taking copious amounts of notes, either.
Cristela with Cristela Alonzo, on ABC, at 8:30pm (Premieres Oct. 10)
Finally adding a little more diversity to its network, ABC is introducing the new comedy, Cristela. The series, starring Cristela Alonzo, is about a woman who is temporarily living with her Mexican-American family while she gets her law degree. While it seems like this is the typical I’m-Having-A-Midlife-Crisis-In-My-30s show, Cristela is primarily about family, and how life can sometimes be imperfectly perfect.
Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni, on CBS, at 8 pm. (Premieres Sept. 21)
Madam Secretary is a show about the very serious and clever Elizabeth McCord who takes on the role as Secretary of State. McCord, who left the CIA years ago to pursue a quieter — albeit not nearly as stimulating — life as a professor, is brought back by the President himself when he realizes how much the White House needs her. What I love about McCord, is that she very clearly doesn’t take “no” for answer, especially if that word is coming from a man. She’s not afraid of overstepping boundaries, and is really confident in her knowledge and experience. While I know this is the millionth political drama on TV right now, I think we could stand to welcome another tenacious and strong-willed female leader.