Bridesmaids No More: TV's Women Get All The Laughs

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Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?

She's playing a woman who moved in with three guys after a bad romance. We've seen Deschanel play this character countless times over the last 10 years: quirky, bohemian, earnest and a little dorky. Fox even used the term "adorkable" just to describe her.

But she's also the leading edge of a trend that defined television in 2011: the Funny Female.

Kristen Wiig has played GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Saturday Night Live. Wiig practically defines the year of the Funny Female on TV — and not just because she dominated the funniest skits on SNL this year.

It's also because Wiig's hit movie Bridesmaids gave a boost to two of television's other female MVPs of comedy: Mike and Molly star Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, from NBC's Up All Night.

When other TV shows tanked, Rudolph and Christina Applegate stepped up with their oddball chemistry as a daytime TV star and her executive producer pal, who is also a new mom.

When you consider who watches TV, this all makes sense. Women typically watch more TV than men, and outside of sports, shows with a high percentage of female viewers also tend to be among television's most successful — think American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

Comic Whitney Cummings even grabbed two prime spots on the schedule, as an executive producer on CBS' Monday-night hit 2 Broke Girls, and star of NBC's Whitney.

In January, Cummings' NBC show will be paired with a new sitcom on the life of boozy, sexy comic Chelsea Handler.

That's right: a double-barreled shot of in-your-face females happy to sling sex jokes just like the boys.

It's debatable whether this is such a wonderful leap forward for female's images. But just a few years ago, some critics predicted reality TV shows would kill the sitcom altogether. Instead, the rise of the Funny Female proves network television's future likely comes with a smile — and a pair of snappy high heels.

Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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