Mark the day with our collection of excellent TV shows made by and about some of the world’s most talented women
By Becky Gamester-Newton, Writer
International Women’s Day 2023 is upon is, and this year on Wednesday 8 March there’s a focus on the difference between equity and equality.
#EmbraceEquity is this year’s theme, because the goal is not only to ensure everyone has opportunities but to recognise that everyone is in different circumstances – and so opportunities and resources can differ between each person in order to reach the goal of equality.
The women’s rights movement believes that “equal opportunities are no longer enough” and calls for more action from every one of us, including allies, to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, highlight bias and look for inclusion.
One way to get these topics into daily conversation is brilliant TV shows that everyone can enjoy. Whether they’re created by, about or starring talented women, these can be a great tool to help people see things differently.
Our International Women’s Day Collection brings together the shows that celebrate women’s achievements simply by providing excellent entertainment for TV viewers everywhere.
Lionesses: When Football Came Home
Find it in Box Sets > Sky Documentaries
Last year was a real turning point for women’s football – and indeed women’s sport – in this country when England’s Lionesses won the European Championship on home soil. They played to sold-out stadiums throughout, including to an ecstatic 87,000 fans at Wembley in the final, and the image of Chloe Kelly waving her shirt around her head after scoring the winning goal was a truly iconic moment.
But this has not been an easy journey for any of these players. This documentary directed by Poppy de Villeneuve highlights the extra sacrifices the Lionesses and their families have made, and the bias and opposition they’ve had to endure, just to play the sport they love.
Women Who Rock
Find it in Box Sets > Sky Arts
This four-part docuseries features interviews with women pioneers in music, including Janis Joplin, Chaka Khan, Shania Twain, Joan Jett, Sheryl Crow and Tori Amos.
They discuss the frustration of being compared to their male counterparts, dealing with predatory men in the industry, the loneliness that can come with being a feminist and – as Crow puts it – how they “break the boys’ club”.
And Just Like That…
Find it in Box Sets > Sky Comedy
Sex And The City was a trailblazing show in its day, as it followed four career-focused women living on their own terms. It paved the way for a new era of comedy by exploring women’s sexuality in frank, funny and accessible ways.
And now nostalgic fans can catch up with what Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) have been up to, since the sixth and final series ended in 2004 with the sequel And Just Like That… Although the show is no less honest and fearless than its predecessor, it highlights the different issues faced by women now in their 50s – especially the aftermath of the shocking end of the first episode.
Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer or Apps & Games > Prime Video
Created by, written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag is one of the most successful British comedies of the last decade – not least because of its take on modern feminism.
The stress of the mental load many women are faced with, and the pressure to achieve, is represented by Claire (Sian Clifford), while Waller-Bridge’s central character’s does her best to indicate that she doesn’t believe any of that and instead lives up to masculine stereotypes. Both characters believe they are “bad feminists” for wanting a particular type of body image – but is that true? Watch (or rewatch – you will have a different take with every viewing) and decide for yourself… and have a good laugh while you’re at it, because this script is as sharp as it gets.
Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
This funny, action-packed and disarming series is the most unique spy thriller you’ll ever see. Jodie Comer (The Last Duel) stars as Villanelle, a talented killer with a variety of personas and a penchent for deadpan one-liners. As her murder spree attracts attention, she’s hunted by bored MI5 officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy) and MI6 agent Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter).
These three characters are all deeply flawed, but they’re smart, they answer to nobody and they are very much in control of their sexual desires (as you’d expect for a show created by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge). There are four seasons to devour, so you can enjoy each character’s development throughout the many twists and turns.
I May Destroy You
Find it in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
I May Destroy You is a truly unforgettable drama. The show’s creator, Michaela Coel, stars as Arabella, a young writer who attempts to rebuild her life after a sexual assault.
Its overarching theme is consent, with each of the main characters – including Terry (Weruche Opia, Bad Education) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu, The Capture) – suffering unwanted contact at some stage in the series. But it’s also determined that Arabella should not be defined by a single experience, as it explores many other aspects a millennial woman’s lifestyle, career and choices.
Find it in Apps & Games > All 4
Few series can boast a cast as brilliant as this. This female-led anthology sees Vicky McClure (Line Of Duty), Samantha Morton (She Said), Gemma Chan (Eternals), Suranne Jones (Gentleman Jack), Letititia Wright (Black Panther), Lesley Manville (The Phantom Thread) and Kate Winslet (Avatar: The Way Of Water) each star in their own story.
And each of these films explores the experiences of 21st-century women. Whether it’s the coercive control suffered by McClure’s Nicola, the struggles of single parenting devastatingly illustrated by Morton’s Kirsty, the high-anxiety struggles of Jones’s Victoria amid the pressure of expectation, or the stress of parenting a teenage girl who uses social media in Winslet’s I Am… Ruth, these stories will have you talking about today’s big societal issues (and marvelling at the acting).
Back To Life
Find it in Box Sets > GOLD or Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
Daisy Haggard (Breeders) writes and stars in this ultra-dark comedy drama as Miri Matteson, a woman who faces the challenge of returning to normal life following 18 years in prison.
Across its two series, Back To Life has the ability to sweep you from belly laughter to heart-piercing, before-you-know-it-you’re-sobbing moments. The grief of missing so much time is at the heart of this show, but it also makes you question the expectation that all women should be “nice” and therefore are treated with more contempt when they deviate from that.
Girls On Top
Find it in Box Sets > GOLD from Saturday 4 March
Although the past decade or so has seen an explosion of female-led TV, the real pioneers were putting the hard work in back in the 1980s and helping to create an environment in which today’s stars can thrive.
Girls On Top starred Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Tracey Ullman and Ruby Wax as flatmates, and was written by French, Saunders and Wax (Ullman also contributed to the scripts). It was seen as a female version of The Young Ones with less slapstick comedy, focusing instead how these wildly different characters – anxious feminist Amanda (French), mousy Jennifer (Saunders), loud-mouth Shelley (Wax) and lazy Candice (Ullman) – rubbed along together.
Find it in Box Sets > GOLD
Before I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel created the sitcome Chewing Gum, based on her own play Chewing Gum Dreams. Her character Tracey’s hilarious attempts to lose her virginity are the backbone of the show, but the show’s secondary characters – including Tracey’s equally sex-starved sister Cynthia (Enola Holmes’ Susan Wokoma) and their formidable mum Joy (Shola Adewusi) – help give it the authenticity that a top-quality comedy requires. Coel herself has said that the show works because Tracey has no filter, refusing to conform to society’s ideas of what a woman should be.
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