TV's New Darlings

Autumn de Wilde

Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Meriwether, Jane Levy & Emily Kapnek

It's always been sort of a boys club," Kapnek, creator of ABC's breakout comedy Suburgatory, says of the television business. "For a long time there have been shows that center around women that were written and produced by men," says the 39-year-old showrunner. "But now there are shows created by women, run by women and starring women. It's much more genuine, and I think people are responding to that." Indeed, the numbers prove it. After years of male domination on both sides of the camera, the current TV season has served up a refreshing dose of estrogen -- particularly in the comedy sphere, where shows like Suburgatory and Fox's New Girl are enjoying critical and commercial success. The former averages a strong 2.9 rating among the coveted 18-to-49 demo, the latter an even more impressive 3.9 rating, according to Nielsen, and both average more than 8 million total viewers. It helps that these women are actually on the lower end of that younger demo (a majority of the most powerful showrunners are north of 40), which means they fit snugly inside the viewership niche to which their content is marketed.

"It's really gratifying," says Meriwether, the 30-year-old New Girl creator (and TV's youngest female showrunner), of the shifting landscape that is breathing fresh life into network comedy. New Girl received two Golden Globe nominations Dec. 15: best television series (comedy or musical) and best actress for star Deschanel. "I look forward to a time when it's not about 'female comedies,' and they're just comedies," adds Deschanel, 31, who suggests the abundance of lead female roles in front of and behind the camera should have come far sooner. For Suburgatory star Levy, who is newer to the medium, the attention the series has received is the ultimate reward. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'I just love your show,' " says the 21-year-old, grinning. "That we've created something people respond to and want to watch every week is so spectacular. That's been the most gratifying."

Photographed by Autumn de Wilde on Dec. 1 at Milk Studios in Los Angeles


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