21 Shows With Strong Female Leads That You Should Watch ASAP
These female-centric TV shows entertain AND empower.
We live in the golden age of television, and with so many binge-worthy shows accessible with a tap on the touchscreen, it's a wonder that any of us get anything done! There's so much to watch, yet so little time, so instead of just watching any old show that you stumble on, make it an empowering experience by watching female-centric TV shows with strong women in the spotlight!
21 Female-Centric TV Shows Every Woman Should Watch
GLOW's a tightly-written show with an amazing cast of strong-yet-flawed-thus-incredibly-relatable characters. It's a show that lifts the spirits as the girls lift, well, each other — quite literally. Alison Brie's performance here is sublime
and she was robbed of an Emmy nomination yet again and she'll endear you to her character so quickly you wouldn't know what hit you.
(I could go on and on about how much I love GLOW, but we've got a whole list ahead of us and this is just the first item, so I'll shut up now.)
2. Madam Secretary
For years, friends and family have been hounding me to watch Madam Secretary, but I've been putting it off for the longest time because I have a life to live and other shows to watch. But I recently got started, and boy oh boy am I glad that I did.
The gorgeous Téa Leoni plays Elizabeth McCord, the titular character who just kicks ass from episode to episode. She's a powerful woman who, in spite of her imperfections, sticks to her guns and stands up to do what's right — all delivered with a side-dish of sass.
Widely hailed as the best political satire on TV today, it's positively criminal that Veep doesn't have the viewership it deserves. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss plays US Vice President Selina Meyer, who isn't exactly a feminist icon. In fact, one can go as far as calling her a misogynist.
She's selfish, she hates women, and only uses feminism to get ahead. It's a fun watch, but quite sobering as well, because as ridiculous as she seems, Meyer is just too real. And that's what makes satire great, right?
4. The Mindy Project
The incredibly talented Mindy Kaling plays the obnoxious yet lovable Lahiri Kaling in this sitcom that'll actually make you belly-laugh. It's packed with smart one-liners that are come so quick that you'll have to listen closely to every line of dialogue if you know what's good for you.
5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Two words: Titus. Burgess.
But okay, since this list is about strong female leads, Ellie Kemper was made to play Kimmy Schmidt. She's impossibly shiny and bubbly and optimistic, which I would normally find incredibly irritating, but Kemper is so endearing that you can't help but fall in love with her character.
It's not just a show about a mole woman rejoining society, but about growing up and adulting and learning to stand on your own two feet. The show tells us: if you've hit rock bottom, that's not the end. Pick yourself up and let yourself start from scratch.
6. Orange Is the New Black
If you haven't gotten around to watching OITNB, do yourself a favour and start. Though its main character Taylor Schilling does a great job playing the protagonist Piper Kerman, it's the supporting cast who steals the show — pun intended.
The show tackles incredibly difficult issues like race, mental illness, gender identity, and poverty with such sensitivity that you just have to empathize with each one of the characters — no matter how unlikeable you initially thought they were.
7. Parks & Recreation
As I've previously written, Leslie Knope is a treasure and all of us should strive to be at least half the woman she is. She's just a good person who wants to make the world better! Such purity! Such ambition!
Parks & Rec is part The Office, part Arrested Development, part 30 Rock, but with much more joy and hope. If you're ever in need of a pick-me-up, this is the show to watch.
The first season is a little shaky as the show was obviously still trying to find its voice (it was initially conceived as a The Office spinoff, and it shows), but come season 2 you'll understand why Parks & Rec has become a cult favourite.
8. The Handmaid's Tale
This adaptation of the Margaret Atwood classic is set in a dystopian future, but why does it feel incredibly relevant and plausible?
"One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened… nor any technology not already available," Atwood once said. "No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities."
The Handmaid's Tale is a sobering, difficult watch that one needs to emotionally prepare for, but you can't miss it, especially if you don't want this dystopia to become even more real than it already is.
9. Jane the Virgin
Here's the premise: Jane is a virgin (obviously, see title) whose thoughtfully planned out life gets turned upside down when she finds out she was artificially inseminated by accident.
If that sounds ridiculous and over-the-top, that's because it is — Jane the Virgin borrows a lot from classic telenovelas, but that's just on the surface. It's a heartfelt comedy that deals with delicate topics like sexuality and religion in a comedic yet sensitive way and shows us a great example of a woman following her dreams in spite of the difficult cards she's been dealt.
If you like your shows full of drama, cliffhangers, and steamy love affairs, you can't go wrong with a Shonda Rhimes creation, and Scandal is no exception. Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, the ultimate boss babe whose grace and strength most of us can only aspire to mirror.
11. House of Cards
Kevin Spacey's sexual assault allegations may have cost him his job as the lead of House of Cards, but thankfully for the political drama's fans, this didn't spell the end of their beloved show.
House of Cards was always equally Claire Underwood's as it was Frank's, and the show has fully embraced Claire as the show's lead in its final season. We can't wait to see what happens next.
12. Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery is unlike any other iteration of the popular sci-fi franchise, which is why there's been plenty of insufferable whining about how it's "ruined" Star Trek.
But don't listen to the haters — Discovery is a show with solid storytelling and an incredibly talented cast. I mean, we're talking Michelle Yeoh, Jason fricking Isaacs, Anthony Rapp, and Doug Jones aka both fish guys from The Shape of Water and Hellboy.
Sonequa Martin-Green does a fantastic job as the human-raised-by-aliens Michael Burnham, and though most of the crew barely got any speaking lines in the first season, we're expecting to see more jaw-dropping storylines in the second.
It's a situation far too many women are familiar with: you get married, you give up your job to raise your kids, then when you decide to rejoin the workforce, the gaps in your resume make it almost impossible for you to be taken seriously.
Broadway star Sutton Foster plays Liza Miller, whose attempts to reenter the publishing world are rendered futile because of her age — 40. The solution? Simple. She lies about her age.
The resulting show is a fun watch full of fashionable female characters — including, to the delight of Lizzie McGuire fans, Hillary Duff. Even though most of us haven't had to lie about our age to get ahead, pretending to be something you're not just to gain acceptance is something that's familiar to all, and watching Liza navigate her predicament is nothing short of riveting.
When I first started watching Supergirl, I remember feeling incredibly jealous — yes, jealous — of today's little girls because it's exactly the kind of show I would've needed back in the day.
But better late than later, I always say, and even in my late 20s, Supergirl became that ray of sunshine at the end of a really long day at work. Supergirl is full optimism — a rarity in today's dark and gritty superhero fare — and richly layered female characters.
15. Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones is unlike any other female superhero to ever grace the small screen. She's no goody-goody — she swears, drinks too much, and doesn't shy away from a fistfight. But she's not the only strong female on the show — her BFF Trish is a total badass, and she doesn't even need superheroes to be one.
The show deals with difficult themes like rape, substance abuse, childhood abuse, and PTSD, making it perhaps the darkest superhero show in recent memory. Feminists will be pleased to know that there are plenty of women pulling the strings of the show — the second season was directed entirely by women.
16. Big Little Lies
Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern are names that you normally don't associate with television, but the three appear in this HBO series that revolves around a murder mystery and each character's personal dramas.
It's a critically acclaimed show directed by Wild and Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-March Vallée that earned a whopping 16 Emmy nominations.
17. The Crown
We'll never be royals, but The Crown will give us a taste of what the blue-blooded life is like. A fictionalisation of Queen Elizabeth II's life, the show feels so deliciously voyeuristic that even those who are only somewhat interested in the royal family will find it an enjoyable watch.
It's exciting to see well-known historical figures like Winston Churchill, Prince Philip, and Princess Margaret like we've never seen them before. Though not exactly historically accurate, The Crown does make you history feel more real, so much so that you probably won't be able to resist looking events up on Wikipedia after each episode.
18. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
In 1950s New York, being abandoned by one's husband was practically a death sentence, but Midge Maisel turns her despair and trauma into standup comedy, and she kills it. It's a feminist romp that's hilarious and full of heart, plus Rachel Brosnan's performance is amazingly endearing.
19. How to Get Away with Murder
Viola Davis' Annalise Keating is one of the most badass power women to grace female-centric TV shows, and Davis can prove it with an Emmy. She won the Emmy for best actress in a drama — a first for an African-American.
In true Shonda Rhimes fashion, the relationships in the show are complicated and insanely intense. And each episode ends with a cliffhanger, so you're almost guaranteed to stay glued to your screen.
20. Killing Eve
We are #blessed to finally have Sandra Oh back in the small screen. She is a gift to the world, and this time she's gracing us with a brilliant performance as Eve, a spy tasked to hunt down the oh-so-creepy Villanelle, a killer for hire.
The series is a cat-and-mouse chase across countries, which means you'll get to see plenty of beautiful locations, right from the comfort of your couch. It's a psychological spy thriller that'll keep you at the edge of your seat.
21. Orphan Black
This sci-fi thriller has Tatiana Maslany playing multiple clones (with multiple accents and mannerisms), so that performance alone should be enough for anyone to tune in.
And the genetic engineering and manipulation is just the surface — at its heart, the series is all about girl power. Though the clones have different (and often clashing) personalities and backgrounds, they somehow manage to put their differences aside and work together.
Do you have any favourite female-centric TV shows that we left out? Share them with us in the comments below!