Every man who has ever shared a couch and a remote with a woman knows that there is a barter system involved. Monday Night Football? That’ll cost you a “Project: Runway” viewing, at least. But we’ve found a loophole – 10 shows made with women in mind that you’ll actually find entertaining or, at very least, painless trade-off viewing.
The fact that people are talking about a show on PBS (they still have that?) should give you some indication that Downton Abbey isn’t just another stuff piece of Masterpiece Theater lite designed to give aging British actors a place to die with dignity – unlike in the U.S., where they die during a strenuous Celebrity Apprentice challenge. So what’s in it for you? Well, the venerable Maggie Smith takes withering putdowns to an assassin-like level every episode, making her Dowager Countess the most talked about TV badass since Omar on The Wire.
The New Girl
The eternally perky Zooey Deschanel may be pushing the “quirky pixie” thing a little past its sell by date at this point, but there’s also a reason she’s been able to milk it so successfully for so long. She really is adorable and funny, but the show balances that by being aware of her overblown preciousness to the point of making fun of it on occasion (usually in the form of Lizzy Caplan, another reason to watch). So you get some self-aware comedy and Zooey’s surprised anime character blue eyes. It’s win-win.
The title sounds like something tossed out during the floundering few minutes of a late-Friday afternoon Maxim pitch meeting, but keep with it. Cougar Town is, after all, run by the same guy who created Scrubs, so there is a certain comedy standard you can expect. And, well, it’s a show about women dealing with the harsh realities of aging that kind of shoots itself in the foot (in a good way for you) by casting the seemingly ageless Courtney Cox. Is it possible she looks better now than she did on Friends? That’s a question you’ll enjoy posing quietly to yourself every episode. (ABC)
On the surface, this made-for-TV All That Jazz is like perfect dude repellant: Musical numbers. Broadway. Actress drama. Musical numbers (yes, again). But NBC is banking on you retaining some residual “McPhever” from star Katharine McPhee’s run on “American Idol” and, well, we’re happy to report that we’re feeling a relapse coming on. Not only can the girl really and truly sing, she looks like she should be stenciled on the nose of a WWII fighter jet. The McTrap set, Smash then goes and hooks you with some surprisingly entertaining backstage cattiness and a solid supporting cast (Debra Messing, Angelica Houston). (NBC)
Originally called “Good Christian Bitches” after the book from which it was adapted, the now more marketing-friendly-titled “GCB” stars Kristen Chenoweth (imagine if Jessica Simpson had aged well) and Leslie Bibb (Ricky Bobby’s wife in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) as Southern-fried babes who backstab first, pray later. Not only is Chenoweth a pint-sized comedic powerhouse with genuine lungs (she was a Broadway musical star first and foremost), but the idea of naughty Catholic school girls tussling with each other has been a male fantasy since the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. (ABC)
This show is supposed to be about cooking, but honestly who can tell over the distracting noise generated by host Giada di Laurentiis’ V-neck shirts as they clumsily droop down each of the 43 times she leans forward during a given segment? (bless you, you Italian Tinkerbell). Can you blame a guy for forgetting that you’re supposed to julienne the carrots first? All we know is, Giada can make hand-rolling gnocchi as erotic as a Skinemax movie, all the while maintaining a “Who me?” innocence that convinces women she actually cares if you’re following her directions. And isn’t “horny and vaguely hungry” a state men are either in or looking to be in every moment of the day?
Are You There, Chelsea?
Yes, we know that Chelsea Handler is the female equivalent of the Three Stooges, in that she has women in hysterics while men kind of raise one eyebrow and go, “Huh? That’s supposed to be funny?” But the real reason to watch the sitcom based on her book (and life) is the strong return of Laura Prepon. Freed from the constraints of That 70s Show – where she was dressed in football jerseys and made to stand next to human gecko Topher Grace – Prepon is allowed to be hot as well as funny and the results are worth checking out.
Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23
Sure, having a swear word in your title when you know you can’t use swear words in your title is an annoying new trend we want to smother with a pillow (you hear us, @!#$& My Dad Says?), but there is cause to give “B” a chance and that cause is named Krysten Ritter. Long cast as the sarcastic best friend (like in She’s Out of My League), Ritter gets her chance to head-up a cast and that’s a cause to support. Plus, the show has James Van Der Beek playing himself in a winking send-up similar to Neil Patrick Harris’ Harold and Kumar outings. That’s worth a few minutes of your time.
A primetime soap about wealthy Hamptonites and their drama-filled lives? Most guys would, rightly, be praying for a few dorsal fins and some tense John Williams music every time one of the pampered twits inched near the waterline. But what will hook you about Revenge is that the main character, played by the gorgeous Emily VanCamp, hates them as much as you do. Maybe more. It couldn’t be any plainer if it were the title of the show. Plus, we welcome the ice-bitch comeback efforts of Madeleine Stowe, who has been off our entertainment radar for far too long.
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The Client List
Speaking of comebacks, who wouldn’t welcome the return of the original J-Lo, Jennifer Love Hewitt? Sure, The Client List will force you to acknowledge that there is such a thing as the Lifetime Network (when did this start?), but the concept of a woman working at a seemingly classy day spa that secretly actually offers back room rub and tugs - <cough> sorry, we mean “all-inclusive relaxation therapy” – is, well, something we just need to believe exists, you know? Just let us have that, and the fantasy that the women who work at these phantom places look at all like JLH.