The Museum of Television and Radio has kicked off its 'She Made It: Women Creating Television and Radio' program, a three-year initiative acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishments of women in the entertainment field.
Co-chaired by trustees and founding benefactors Loreen Arbus (Loreen Arbus Productions) and Kay Koplovitz (USA Networks), the initiative was launched at the Museum's New York location on December 1 during which time the 2005 honorees were named and the project's web site, www.shemadeit.org, went live.
Honorees for 2005 are Mildred Freed Alberg, Debbie Allen, Christiane Amanpour, Lucille Ball, Gertrude Berg, Fanny Brice, Marcy Carsey, Julia Child, Joan Ganz Cooney, Barbara Corday, Ellen DeGeneres, Suzanne de Passe, Donna de Varona, Diane English, Tina Fey, Phyllis George, Terry Gross, Susan Harris, Catherine Hughes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Susan Lacy, Geraldine Laybourne, Mimi Leder, Debra L. Lee, Ida Lupino, Pat Mitchell, Mary Tyler Moore, Sheila Nevins, Agnes Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cokie Roberts, Marlene Sanders, Cristina Saralegui, Diane Sawyer, Susan Stamberg, Anne Sweeney, Lela Swift, Nancy Tellem, Marlo Thomas, Dorothy Thompson, Ethel Winant, and Oprah Winfrey. Programs for each honoree are available to watch or listen to at Museum facilities in both New York and California.
From Marlo Thomas' 'That Girl' to Jenji Kohan's 'Weeds' the evolution of female-led television has an interesting story. As the California Museum's curator, Ron Simon, explains it, 'Women have left an indelible mark on radio and television programming. They created several genres crucial to the broadcasting industry, including situation comedy, the soap opera, and, most recently, reality.'
At the core of "She Made It" is a 2,000-hour collection of programming, part of which will be drawn from the Museum's extensive holdings. It will serve as an invaluable resource for scholars, industry professionals, and the public. The "She Made It" collection and the many Museum programs and events designed around it' including the web site, seminars, and screenings' will "pull the camera back" to view the accomplishments of women within the framework of television and radio history, including the history being made today.
The Museum's California (Beverly Hills) location kicked off its program with a satellite seminar entitled 'Taking the Lead: Women and the Changing Face of Television Drama.'
This event featured a panel moderated by Cynthia Littleton, Deputy Editor of 'The Hollywood Reporter,' and included actresses Jane Seymour ('Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman') and Jill Hennessy ('Crossing Jordan'), businesswoman Susanne Daniels (President, Entertainment, Lifetime Entertainment Services), and creators/writers Jenji Kohan ('Weeds') and Barbara Corday ('Cagney and Lacey').
The informative evening began with clips from some favorite shows with female leads, including the Loretta Lynn Show (1956), The Nurses (1963), Cagney & Lacey (1985), Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (2001), Desperate Housewives (2004), Weeds (2005) and Crossing Jordan (2005).
Prompting discussion about a time when television featured few female leads, Littleton's highly insightful and creative questions brought about thought-provoking discussion of the kinds of roles- and dearth of them- for women.
'Much of television featuring female roles was for a long time 'giggle TV drama,' like Charlie's Angels,' Jenji Kohan opined. 'It was (not serious), more like winking at the audience.'
'There has been a kind of 'disconnect' about how a male might write female's lines,' Jill Hennessey agreed.
'After 'Sarah, Plain and Tall,' (Hallmark made for television movie) 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,' was just a test,' Jane Seymour said about her much-loved and long-running television show. 'The network didn't believe in it.'
The panel discussion was augmented by a question-and-answer period with call-ins via satellite from campuses around the country. Callers queried the panelists about many things, and some great advice was offered.
A caller from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York asked how women can best break into the business. Kohan had this tongue-in-cheek answer, 'Sleep with the male executives.' Hennessey took her playful lead, offering, 'be sure to be aggressive and fudge your resume.'
Perhaps the best advice came from Kohan: 'keep going.' She speaks from experience since she wrote some 15 pilots before one of her stories was picked up.
Other events are joined by debut of a unique collection of radio and television programs, including companion screenings and listening series highlighting women who have influenced the television and radio industries. Topics for screenings include 'Women Directing for Television' (January 13 to February 16, 2005), 'She Made It On Her Own' (February 17 to March 23, 2006), and 'Theatrically Speaking' (March 24 to April 30, 2006).
'She Made It' Executive Committee members include Geraldine Laybourne, Dawn Ostroff, Nancy Tellem, and Marlo Thomas. Steering committee members include Wallis Annenberg, Karey Burke, Judith G. Clabes, Betty Cohen, Joan Ganz, Barbara Corday, Suzanne de Passe, Mary Desjardins, Susan Douglas, Tracey Edmonds, Patricia Fili-Krushel, Ann Fudge, Joan E. Gerberding, Mona Golabek, Bonnie Hammer, Christie Hefner, Michele Hilmes, Michele James, Debra L. Lee, Francine Lefrak, Dolly Lenz, Susan Lyne, Judy McGrath, Carol Mendelsohn, Dina Merrill, Patricia Mitchell, Sharon Patrick, Lynn Picard, Abbe Raven, Terri M. Santisi, Cristina Saralegui, Susan Stamberg, Hannah Storm, Carolyn Strauss, Anne Sweeney, Linda Kaplan Thaler, Pamela Thomas-Graham, Sarah Timberman, Dana Walden, Rosalind P. Walter, Mimi White.
Sponsors of the 'She Made It' initiative include AETN, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Disney ABC Television Group, James & Co., Lifetime, MTV Networks, CBS, BET, Harry Winston, Dolly Lenz, Martha Steward Living Omnimedia, The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, USA and Sci Fi networks, the Kaplan Thaler Group, Playboy Foundation, Terri M. Santisi, Barbara Walters, Carole Black, and BMI.
With this initiative, the Museum hopes to encourage women now working in the television and radio industries, and those who will do so in the future, to experience "She Made It" and be inspired by the many dramatic, funny, moving, and surprising stories it tells.
The Museum of Television and Radio is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 120,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.
The Museum of Television and Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m.
The Museum of Television and Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52nd Street, is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Both museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggest contribution: Members are free; $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for senior citizens and students, and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles.
The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available.
For more information please visit the Museum's web site at www.mtr.org or call (310) 786-1000 in the Los Angeles area or (212) 621-6800 in the New York area.
Images, used with permission, courtesy of the Museum of Television and Radio
Text copyright 2006 M. D. Caprario
M.D. Caprario is a free lance writer working in NY, LA, and San Francisco.