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Women and the Cable Nets That Love Them

*It's Everything's Better on Cable time at Summer TV Press Tour 2007!

Today's Theme: Cable has the richest roles for actresses -- ever!

"This seems to be maybe the richest time for actresses on television -- any theories as to why that is?" one critic asked the cast and crew of Lifetime's new series "Side Order of Life" about a hot young blonde chick who re-thinks her life and her upcoming marriage to Jason Priestly after getting a wake-up call from the universe in the form of an anonymous cell-phoner, a woman with three husbands, the Hollywood sign morphing into a sign that tells her to dump her fiance now -- oh, and her girlfriend with brain cancer who tells her the guy's got to go because he's not a good fit.

"It's been a long time coming" says cast member Diana Maria Riva.

"You know, we have a lot to say," she continues. "You guys are always saying we talk too much. Well, then come and listen because we talk a lot on this show. It's particularly rich in this show."

While critics -- mostly male -- mull the idea that it's the richest time for actresses on television because parts with more words are being written for them, "Side Order of Life" creator Margaret Nagle offers them another theory:

The underpants stuck up on the wall at the hospital on "Gray's Anatomy" opened the door for great roles for actresses because it meant we could all talk about women making mistakes and being flawed and they didn't have to be perfect any more, she said.

Yes, a thong did all that.

"Every time I hear Margaret talk I think, you know, wow! She infuses so much meaning into everything she says," Lifetime programming chief Susanne Daniels chimes in.

Nagel mentions that on broadcast TV, Mary Tyler Moore's character Mary Richards couldn't be a divorced woman, so she had to be single.

"We've come pretty far, you know," Nagel says.

Yeah -- 30 years.

Next up: Lifetime's other new series "State of Mind," a show about the private and professional lives of therapists, attempts to answer the age-old question, "Are psychiatrists crazier than their patients?"

(It was created by Amy Bloom -- a psychoanalyst herself -- in whom the god-complex of the shrink has been tempered with the god-complex of the Hollywood writer.)

"It seems like we are seeing more and more actresses with established movie careers turning to television," a critic tells "State" star Lili Taylor.

"Why do you think that is and what particularly attracted you to do a TV series?"

Taylor says she hasn't thought about "the cultural implications."

"I can comment on my own personal experience, which is I really like doing theater, film, and TV. Sort of what they do in England, you know, they go between the three. And I do theater, I do film, and I do TV."

"What about as a fan?" the critic persevered. "Are there shows or performances that you've seen in the last couple years that you've said, 'Wow, television is offering up new horizons for female actors'?"

"I haven't done enough studying about the female presence in TV," Taylor confesses, but says, "I'll start collecting a little folder, though, with some data."

Later in the day, Glenn Close takes the stage to field questions about her starring role in the new FX series "Damages" in which she plays a killer litigator.

"This seems to be a particularly rich time for actresses on television. Any theories as to why that is?" one critic -- we began to suspect the same critic -- asked.

"I think if the women are -- in this I feel like I really don't know what I'm talking about -- but as far as kind of the Hollywood movie that I think older women or women, you know, who aren't just there to be pretty, as much more problematic," Close says.

Extra points if you can figure out that sentence.

And, in conclusion, Close says, "And so, to find these real, authentic, complex, strong or whatever female parts, I think that kind of writing is being done for television."

Editor's note: For more on the Summer TV Press Tour, read Lisa's TV column: In Conclusion, HBO Honchos Stand Up for Chase's Final Shot and join Lisa for her live discussion today at 1 p.m. ET.

By Maura McCarthy  |  July 13, 2007; 7:39 AM ET
Categories:  Summer TV Press Tour 2007  
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Next: The Smell of Burning Bridge


So what Glenn Close is saying is that there aren't decent roles for older women in movies. Alert the media.

Posted by: anony | July 13, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

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