"Girls" on HBO, "New Girl" on Fox, and "2 Broke… (HBO / FOX / CBS )
Last TV season, girls just wanted to have fun — and be funny.
The reverberations of last year's hit movie"Bridesmaids"carried over to the small screen. The 2011-12 season launched a batch of foul-mouthed, sharp-edged comedies with female characters at the center and women at the helm, among them "The B---- in Apartment 23" and"Whitney."The sudden influx was so noticeable, it ruffled some industry feathers;"Two and a Half Men"co-creator and executive producer Lee Aronsohn caused an uproar earlier this year by ranting, "We are approaching peak vagina on television."
Among the XX chromosomes floating around in prime time, three new series scored with critics, audiences or both — all of them sharing a common word: Fox's"New Girl,"CBS'"2 Broke Girls" and HBO's"Girls." Since the shine is off Emmy staples such as"Glee,""The Office" and"30 Rock," could the year of the girl be solidified with Emmy nominations on Thursday?
"I think there's a strong comedy field for women," said AOL/Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan. "And that's not always the case, so I hope it translates to a different kind of Emmy race. But I'm not sure there's enough name recognition to make that happen in a realistic, substantial way."
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Among these freshman sitcoms, "New Girl" appears to be the most likely award contender. Created by playwright and movie scribe Liz Meriwether, the sitcom is a showcase for Zooey Deschanel as the winsome and dorky Jess, who moves in with three guys following a humiliating breakup.
Though it started on shaky ground, "New Girl" eventually found its footing and became the breakout hit for Fox among mega-disappointments"The X Factor"(which underwhelmed) and"Terra Nova"(which was canceled). The quirky comedy averaged 8.3 million viewers and a 4.2 rating among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic.
Marcy Ross, executive vice president of current programming at Fox, admitted that the network's heavy-handed promotion of Deschanel could have worked against the show.
"The whole ad campaign was 'She's adorkable!'" Ross said. "And that was very risky because the popular wisdom is that women-centered shows tend to create male aversion. But funny is funny — it doesn't matter if you're male or female."
Even if the series doesn't receive a nod in the comedy category, some are predicting Deschanel will be a contender in the lead comedy actress race and that costar Max Greenfield, who has captivated viewers as Schmidt, the jerk with a heart of gold, could get a supporting actor nomination.
"I'm fairly confident that Zooey Deschanel will get a nomination," Ryan said. "Of all the women-dominated comedies that arrived last season or came to prominence last season, 'New Girl' is a commercial hit and she is a well-known entity and it was a good show, so I think those three elements can push her over the top in terms of nominations."
Not to be overlooked is HBO's "Girls. The half-hour dramedy, which offers a window into young female life from 26-year-old writer-director-actress Lena Dunham, was perhaps the most talked-about new series last season. In addition to widespread critical applause, there was much Internet chatter targeting its sexual promiscuity and lack of diversity. The attention resulted in modest viewership: Its finale was watched by 1 million viewers — a steady growth from its 872,000-viewer premiere.
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Dunham may be less seasoned than most previous nominees — such as Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation," Tina Fey of "30 Rock" and Laura Linney of"The Big C" — but there's no denying the exposure the wunderkind has generated, planting herself at the center of TV discourse last season.
"This could be a show that gets a ton of nominations — and where Lena Dunham alone gets nominated as star, writer, director and producer," said Alan Sepinwall, a TV critic for HitFix.com. "Or it could just wind up with a writing nomination and nothing else."
Then there's CBS' bad-mannered "2 Broke Girls." The series, from "Sex and the City"executive producer Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings (who also stars in her own NBC comedy "Whitney"), centers on two financially strapped roommates from different backgrounds who happen to have a mutual respect for cupcakes and vagina jokes.
Its critical reception has been less hospitable than that of its sister shows, often centering on its overuse of racial stereotypes, which might work against the rookie comedy. The show, which will take over "Two and a Half Men's" time slot in the fall, was the highest-rated new comedy of the season (and the only one that's already scored a syndication deal). But its ratings success doesn't exactly make it a shoe-in for Emmy acknowledgment.
"CBS generally, with the exception of Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") recently, doesn't tend to get much Emmy recognition," said Brad Adgate, an analyst with Horizon Media. "The shows are popular with viewers, but that hasn't necessarily worked in their favor — look at 'NCIS.'"
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