In the aftermath of Bridesmaids, TV networks tried to figure out how to replicate its funny-lady alchemy. NBC went with hard-drinking, dirty-talking shows like Whitney, which still doesn’t have a spot on the fall schedule, and Are You There, Chelsea? which was cancelled. CBS scored a hit with its girls-in-the-recession-through-the-eyes-of-Michael-Patrick-King sitcom 2 Broke Girls. And Fox committed to Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl, plus came back this season with two more female-centric sitcoms in The Mindy Project and Ben & Kate. Yesterday, Fox displayed its continued confidence in the lady comedy by putting a fourth sitcom created by and about women in development.
The latest quasi-autobiographical lady show Fox picked up is Dirty Blondes, a creation of The Office star Angela Kinsey and comedian Rachel Harris. Dirty Blondes is based on Harris and Kinsey’s real-life experiences supporting each other as they went through divorces. While at this stage in the development process, no television show is guaranteed to get on the air, Dirty Blondes has a put pilot commitment, which means that the network has to pay penalties if it ultimately decides not to move forward with shooting and airing a pilot episode of the show.
It’s particularly interesting to see Fox continue to invest in female-driven comedy, and to broaden the age base beyond the twenty-somethings who are the main characters in New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Ben & Kate given that none of those shows are yet significant hits. New Girl debuted with about 10 million viewers and now pulls in about half that, while The Mindy Project, and Ben & Kate are being watched by closer to four million viewers. In previous seasons, numbers like those would have seemed apocalyptic, or at least reminiscent of NBC’s late, critically-adored but disastrously-rated Thursday night comedy block. Now, they’ve been enough to earn renewals, and to have Fox coming back to the same well for more.
It’s the kind of move that suggests a long-term commitment, if not to these particular shows, then to a female audience. Like the upscale urbanites that formed the core of NBC’s real Must-See TV, funny women could be the basis for Fox’s comedy future. Now they just need a hit.