Brow Beat

The End of Men, TV Titles Edition

Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele, from a bygone era when men dominated primetime

© 1984 Gene Trindl

Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women catalogs female gains in education, work, and at home. But Rosin somehow overlooked another front in women’s march to gender dominance: TV show titles.

In the fall of 1982, the prime-time TV lineup featured 20 titles that referenced men or male characters. NBC’s Friday night lineup alone offered a three-fer: The Powers of Matthew Star, Knight Rider, and Remington Steele. Meanwhile, female characters were mentioned in just five titles, while six others name-checked both men and women. Three decades later, as we head into the 2012-13 TV season, the balance has changed completely: 14 titles reference women, eight men, and five both genders.*

Are TV programmers girlying up their show names to attract female viewers? If so, I doubt it will work. As Susan Burton noted when a movie based on her autobiographical story turned young Susan into a boy: “girls will go see movies about boys, but boys will not go see movies about girls.” I doubt that adult TV viewers are very different from young filmgoers.

No, it’s clearly another sign of the dude-ocalypse.

Note: Since Tucker’s Witch references both Rick Tucker and his wife, Amanda, it has been placed in the both-gender column. When it was later re-broadcast on USA, the show was renamed The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon, which would’ve put it in the women’s list. Your sexism came back to bite you, 1982!

Sources: For 1982, Wikipedia. For 2012, Page 42 of the Sept. 17-23 TV Guide.

Correction, Sept. 19, 2012: The chart and its accompanying text originally located How I Met Your Mother in the female column. Since the “I” of the title is a man, the show belongs in the mixed-gender list. The Simpsons was also originally missing from that column.