This past Monday a new show called The New Normal premiered on NBC. I wasn’t able to catch the pilot, though I did make sure to watch a preview to see what it was all about. You can watch the whole thing if you want, but what I want you to see is right near the beginning:
So at around 22 seconds into the trailer we’re shown that Goldie’s good-for-nothing husband has cheated on her, which becomes the catalyst to her drive across America to begin life anew with eight-year-old daughter.
Last fall two shows premiered on September 19th and 20th respectively. The first was CBS’s 2 Broke Girls:
Summarizing the pilot episode in just over four minutes, the clip I’ve selected shows [at around 3:08] that rich-girl-down-on-her-luck Caroline thinks that poor-girl-down-on-her-luck Max deserves a better man. Cut back to the apartment and Max’s boyfriend is cheating on her, an act which strengthens their friendship and shows Max that Caroline might be right about certain things after all.
The show I’m currently most excited for this month is FOX’s New Girl which really gets right down to it:
Zooey Deschanel’s character Jess arrives home with the intent to give her boyfriend an extremely awkward probably not-very-sexy striptease. He is cheating on her, which is also awkward. This forces her to move out and find an apartment with three hilarious guys, who happen to be the show’s driving comedic force.
Last of all is Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, which premiered in the spring of this year:
June’s new roommate Chloe is horrible. [At 00:46] June catches Chloe having sex with her fiance on her birthday cake. Turns out June’s fiance was cheating on her a lot, causing June to view her horrible roommate with some form of gratefulness and affection.
The video clips speak for themselves, and I turned to the comments section of an article on the A.V. Club and asked about the recent trend. Fellow user Captcha Reader answered my question:
I can see what a break-up can do for a sitcom’s pilot episode. Not only does it show that the [in these cases female] character is strong enough to kick a man to the curb and move on with their life, it puts the audience on their side as well. This character has been wronged, we feel for them and want them to succeed, et cetera.
The fact that the trend is so easy to see, on four sitcoms airing on four separate networks, means that wherever Captcha Reader got his information, he was right on the money.
Female-driven sitcoms have been on the rise within the past year, especially when adding HBO’s Girls to the mix. For the most part [Michael Patrick King’s contribution excluded] they’re very funny, and a refreshing change of pace for television. The issue I see is originality within the premise, and what it assumes about women in general.
Seeing the same situation play out four times is jarring enough in previews and clips, but actually watching it on television causes more than just a little déjà vu. More than that, what does it say about the audience’s assumed interest in female characters, single or otherwise?
Captcha Reader told me that “there has to be a reason why she hasn’t got a man.” A female character can’t be just single, and if she is she needs to be actively looking for someone [see: FOX’s upcoming The Mindy Project]. Nowhere on television can you really see a woman who’s content with being single. Though, to be fair, the same mostly applies for men [Sheldon Cooper excluded, and look where he is now].
I’m not against watching a show where girls are just friends, à la Troy and Abed of Community. What I mean by that is just being people who are content to simply hang out with each other and not constantly talk about their latest date or hunt to find someone. In a way I guess I’m taking the Bechdel Test to television, and we all know how that turned out last time.
The bottom line is, according to the TV people girls “can’t just be singles” and we all know that isn’t true. This may be a way to get us invested in characters and to root for them to meet the love of their lives, but sometimes people are single and it is okay.