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Fall TV Pilot Trends: Tough Working Women

It's TV pilot season, when hopeful writers, directors, and actors give the networks glimpses of what could be their next big hits. Few pilots will ever make it to air, and the odds might be especially long over on ABC, which has already renewed many of its current shows. Still, there are some gems, and over the next few weeks, I'll be looking at the pilots and trying to spot the trends that could be coming soon to a TV near you. First up, the Tough Working Women shows.

Back at the Golden Globes, I mused that there were few dramas led by strong female characters. It's interesting, then, to see how many of the network pilots focus on women in powerful roles. Here's a sampling:

  • "Lipstick Jungle": This NBC pilot is already one of the most buzzed-about of the year. Based on a novel by "Sex and the City" writer Candace Bushnell, the show centers on three powerful, unapologetic women in cutthroat New York City. The show stars Brooke Shields as a movie executive desperate for an Oscar and Kim Raver (formerly of "24") as a tough magazine editor who wants to make CEO; Lindsay Price is set to play their third friend, a designer hoping to find Mr. Right. NBC has already invested a lot of resources in the show, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it on the fall schedule.

  • "Cashmere Mafia": Starring Lucy Liu, Frances O'Connor, and Miranda Otto, this ABC pilot has been called the next-generation "Sex and the City." The plot revolves around four executives who have been friends since college and rely on each other as they juggle their careers, families, and personal lives in — where else? — New York City.

Four more, so

  • "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office": While "Cashmere Mafia" is billed as a drama, "Nice Girls" is ABC's comedic spin on a similar premise. Based on an instruction manual of sorts for women who want to get ahead, the pilot follows Angela, a sunny real estate executive (Jayma Mays, whom I loved recently on "Ugly Betty") who realizes she needs to change her crowd-pleasing ways if she wants to make VP. I love the casting of Jane Curtin as the secretary who helps Angela embrace her dark side, but I'm curious to see if ABC will have to choose between this and "Cashmere Mafia." Especially because the network is also developing ...

  • "See Jayne Run": Another ABC comedy, "Jayne" follows an investment banker (Heather Locklear) who returns to her male-dominated Wall Street firm after having a baby. Life as an executive and a single mom doesn't go as smoothly as she expected, of course, with challenges including working with a former love interest and firing her nanny.
  • "Canterbury's Law": This pilot from part of the team behind "Rescue Me" (including executive producers Denis Leary) tells the story of Elizabeth Canterbury (Juliana Margulies), a defense attorney who takes on risky cases, often at the expense of her home life. She's surrounded by a "House"-style crew of junior attorneys who serve as her conscience and her adversaries. As if her career weren't enough, Elizabeth is also haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her son. This show sounds like it's right on the edge of melodrama, but with such a good pedigree, it could work.

  • "I'm Paige Armstrong": The CW joins the tough-women trend with this show, which focuses on a young congressional aide who gets so fed up with her boss' questionable political maneuvers that she decides to run against him in the next election. Jaime Ray Newman (most recently of "Veronica Mars") stars as Paige, and "Commander in Chief" alum Will Lyman has been tapped to play her boss.
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