The 2016 Pilot Season is a fascinating thing to watch. If you hop on over to Variety (www.variety.com) you can see, network by network, which new shows in drama, animation or comedy categories might grace your TV screens this year for the first time (and a couple look pretty binge-able). But the most interesting thing for me and for what I’m researching for my PhD is that you can see the names of the writers, executive producers and, sometimes, directors, of all the new shows. And I’m here to tell you, the numbers are pretty dire.
At the time of writing, there are sixty new TV shows up on the TV Pilot Season Development Scorecard (see? It IS a viewing sport). Out of those sixty, fifteen have female writers listed for their pilots. That’s sitting at 25%, which is pretty low, as far as I’m concerned. When you think about it, women make up 51% of the population in the USA. I’m not saying that everyone watches television, and I’m not saying that everyone cares about who writes the content on their screens. What I’m saying is, isn’t television about representation? I know that I connect with shows that I feel represent me, and everyone should have that chance. If only 25% of the new drama/comedy/animation content that’s released in a year is written by women, then that seriously narrows the chances for all different types of women to find something they identify with.
Now, the numbers get a little tricky here, because, out of those 15 female writers, 6 had male co-writers for the pilots. That brings the percentage of new pilots written exclusively by women to 15%.
Again, I’m going to reiterate that not all content I watch is made up of stories about people like me. I love watching shows and films from different cultures, about different subcultures, and about people who have done amazing things. I also love watching absolute rubbish shows that are so bad that they’re brilliant, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I do think that everyone deserves the chance to find something that kind of relates to them. And with a rate of 15%, it really reduces the chance for women to see stories that relate to them on television when you take into account women of colour, women across the sexuality and gender spectrums, and differently-abled women, among many, many others.
If you take into account the number of female EPS, you’re getting a lot more representation, and that is great. It’s important to see women at executive levels in every industry, not just in television. But I am really looking forward to seeing the number of women screenwriters steadily increase over the next couple of years. I’m also really looking forward to Season 2 of How to Get Away with Murder. But that’s neither here nor there.
Another day, I’m going to look at women-related content on our screens, and at the female protagonist in all her glory.
Go watch some telly.