In the wake of the news that just 2 out of The Late Show’s 19 staff writers are women despite Stephen Colbert’s promise to “lean in,” longtime show creator, writer, and producer Nell Scovell – who wrote for Late Night with David Letterman and currently serves as a co-executive producer on The Muppets – wrote a piece for The New York Times over the weekend called “The ‘Golden Age for Women in TV’ Is Actually a Rerun.” It’s a brief but fascinating look at why it’s misleading for critics to label it a “golden age” whenever female show creators win Emmy Awards despite the odds stacked against them. Here’s an excerpt:
Still, whenever I mention that continuing gender imbalance in the entertainment industry, I’m met with two responses: One: Tina Fey. And two: It’s getting better, right? To answer the first: Yes, Ms. Fey’s monumental career has matched her monumental talents. But one individual’s success does not translate to an entire class. (See Obama, Barack; re: racism.) The narrative of “woman as phenomenon” has persisted since TV started. Long before Ms. Fey’s birth, Gertrude Berg created, wrote, produced and starred in the long-running hit The Goldbergs. She even nabbed the first Emmy for Best Actress in 1951. Thirty years ago, Susan Harris owned NBC’s Saturday night just as Shonda Rhimes now owns Thursday on ABC. There have always been women who were successful against the odds. Now we need to change the odds so more women can be successful.