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The Toronto Star,
July 15, 1995

Women toughed it out in '95 OPENING LINES

By Antonia Zerbisiasr

and the viewing is reruns, repeats, retreads and rejects.

That's okay because it's a great opportunity to catch up with the 1994-95 TV season, the best since I've been watching TV professionally for The Star.

But, despite the quality bonanza, last season was, over-all, not a good one for women.

Last month, Starweek's cover portrayed seven "Super She Shows" - VR.5, Under Suspicion, Earth 2, Sliders, Star Trek: Voyager, Sweet Justice and Cybill. All have strong women leads, women with guts and spunk and brains. Leaders. Bosses. Top guns. But, no sooner was Starweek on the street than the first four shows were cancelled, although there might be a reprieve for Sliders, which really stars three men and a girl anyway.

And what about My So-Called Life, which showed that, despite their obsession with cute guys and bad hair, teen girls actually think?

True, females shined in sitcoms such as Grace Under Fire and Roseanne. But, in most shows, women rarely have the importance or status of the men.

In The X-Files, FBI agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) plays Tonto to agent Mulder's (David Duchovny) Lone Ranger. In NYPD Blue, female cops are lushes, sluts or fifth bananas. The only women doctors prominently featured in Chicago Hope either ended up dead - or as spurned females trying to strip hero Dr. Jeffrey Geiger (Mandy Patinkin) of his licence.

Even Homicide, my favorite, can't-miss-an-episode show, which has both a female captain and a female detective, treats women delicately. They never get into the edgy rat-tat-rap that the guys do, their storylines rarely go beyond

their love and family lives. And, if you're still not convinced, look what happened to newswomen this year. Connie Chung was offed by CBS. Pamela Wallin was manhandled by CBC-TV News management.

After a needlessly humiliating experience with CBC Prime Time News, where Wallin merited equal billing with anchor Peter Mansbridge, she's landed on her feet thank you very much with a prime spot on Newsworld's fall schedule.

Chung was different. She never belonged there even-steven with veteran Dan Rather and her recent bungles, including her inept coverage of the Oklahoma bombing, underlined that. The irony, of course, is that while Chung, who is very telegenic, probably rocketed so high in the first place because she was a woman - and a visible minority at that.

Which reminds me how bad a year it was for black, Asian and Hispanics as well. Under One Roof, for example, a promising drama about an African American family, barely debuted when it was dropped. Fox's House Of Buggin' suffered the same fate.

But don't get me started on that . . .

Antonia Zerbisias is The Star's media reporter.