What Do Women Really Want To Watch On TV?

Is Maggie Q, starring in the CW's new series 'Nikita,' the kind of heroine women want to watch on TV?  (CW)

Is Maggie Q, starring in the CW's new series 'Nikita,' the kind of heroine women want to watch on TV? (CW)

Tell us, what do women really want to watch on TV?

An interesting discussion cropped up over the long weekend.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, female viewers are done with cheesy romances. They want more blood and action. They want to unwind by watching strong heroines who kick butt.

Case in point, the CW’s new series ‘Nikita,” which premieres Thursday, September 9.

"The show reflects new thinking among television network executives," the Journal said. "Their core audience - female viewers - want to see a woman take down the enemy, preferably with a little bloodshed along the way. The approach overturns years of belief that violent shows turn off women who prefer to watch earnest nurses, headstrong housewives or quirky career women."

The Journal also cited the summer hit ‘Covert Affairs,’ and the new series ‘Chase‘ and ‘Undercovers‘ as examples of shows that are meant to supplant the ebbing viewership of such stalwarts as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’ One might also point to the disappearance of daytime soaps as more evidence of the changing taste of female viewers.

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According to the Journal, the CW last spring commissioned a study to find out what women in their 20s and 30s wanted to watch on TV. They found women preferred action sports over sunbathing, liquor over wine, and an athletic image over prissy models. They also snickered at the new male prototype represented by Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan.

The conclusion?

Women are stepping up “and feel like they need to take charge and be the hero,” the Journal quotes the president of the firm that conducted the survey.

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Is this a new idea? A redefining of traditional roles?

Not according to Jennifer L. Pozner, the executive director of Women in Media & News.

“Women want to see complex, strong female characters living self-defined lives, standing up for themselves and one another, and contrary to what the WSJ and network execs claim, this is not a particularly new desire on the part of female viewers,” she wrote on the WIMN blog, citing ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Xena: Warrior PrincessBuffy the Vampire Slayer‘ and more recently ‘The Closer‘ as popular shows centered around strong women.

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"The problem with the WSJ article - and with the network programmers who decide what entertainment options we get to choose from - is that they don't realize that the options they've given female viewers are profoundly limited," she continued. "When we can't seem to find many examples of strong, interesting, well-defined female characters outside of action and procedural crime genre shows, we'll watch these over obnoxiously-written sitcoms, dramas and reality shows. This doesn't mean we want more violence: it means we want more female agency."


One might point to a range of strong, complex women on TV, including Tina Fey on ‘30 Rock‘, Julianna Margulies on ‘The Good Wife‘, Angie Harmon on ‘Rizzoli & Isles,’ Jenna Fischer on ‘The Office,’ and Mary-Louise Parker on ‘Weeds.”

And what of complex women from past TV seasons – among them Mary Tyler Moore, ‘Rhoda,’ Veronica Hamel’s Joyce Davenport on ‘Hill Street Blues,’ Jill Eikenberry on ‘L.A. Law,’ the women of ‘thirtysomething, and Lorelai Gilmore of ‘Gilmore Girls”?

But then there’s the new TV season with it’s emphasis on butt-kicking babes.

So who got it right? Pozner? The Wall Street Journal? TV execs?

What do women really want to watch on TV? Is it different now than in the past? Are there more or less choices on today's schedule? Let us know. We want to hear from you.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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