One of the most interesting trends in television today is impeccable television dramas. Today's dramas are making films are growing better than films. There are just two problems, most of the films are completely driven by male lead characters, there are obviously a few exceptions, like The Good Wife, Revenge, Once Upon a Time, and Homeland (to some extent). The Good Wife and and Homeland are praised by critics, while Revenge and Once Upon a Time clean up with critics.
Most of the shows out there center of male leads, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Newsroom, Dexter, Boss, and NCIS. While many of these shows are ensemble shows or focus on a duo most shows still focus on a man at the center. Game of Thrones is the one show on the air which trascends all logic (way to go George R. Martin). Within these male centered shows one of the other trends is the fact that many of the female characters/wives are some of the most unlikable, and fans rage against them in the message boards.
Let's start with my least favorite, Jessica Brody played by the talented Morena Baccarin. Baccarin is a great actress, and she plays the role well, but Jessica Brody is currently the most annoying wife on television. Throughout the first season Jessica was a mild annoyance, from sleeping with her husbands best friend when she thought he was dead to constantly over crying and over emoting her frustration with Brody, I almost used to lose, but then she would nail a great scene, and the character's frustration would come down to a mellow level. Seasons two's Jessica has become this high and might Congressman's wife, trying to impress politicians' wives, calling her husband crazy for being a Muslim. While I understand the fear and adjustment in the character, I never think the character nails these emotions without being melodramatic. I have only finished episode four, but Jessica has continued on the same trajectory so far, and her character has not proven she is changing, her is to hoping they develop her further.
I asked my friends for thoughts on some of the other unlikable television wives out there, and my friend Eric reminded me about Lori on The Walking Dead. Lori is another over the top wife, and granted the situations warrant her going out of her mind, because she's pregnant, being chased by zombies and trying to protect her son. In this case I feel as though the actress is up to the challenge, and the role would have been better suited for someone better. Sarah Wayne Callies is by no means a bad actress, but I never feel as though she is tough enough or up to the challenge her character has to face, this could also be the writing/direction. The show's character development for many of the group have hit a plateau.
Next on the list would be Betty Draper (Francis), while Betty is no longer the wife of Don Draper; she is by far one of the most unlikable television wives and mothers of all time. Jessica Pare plays Don's second wife Megan Draper, and like Betty she is another unlikable wife on this television show. Matthew Weiner and crew know how to write women well though. The writers have constructed three female characters that are incredibly strong in Peggy, Joan, and Sally. All three characters have developed into some strong women, minus Joan selling her body to become partner. Most of the character development seems to based in the cultural milieus of the time, and the roles women had to play.
The last couple of women that could fit on this list are Anna Gunn who plays Skylar White and Betsy Brandt who plays Marie Schraeder. Gunn and Brandt are both solid actresses but their characters have these obnoxious streaks where they become melodramatic about their lives. Skylar's character has had her ups and downs, but Marie has pretty much been consistently a shrill character. While Vince Gilligan is a genius, who has created one of the best shows of all time, does he and his writing team have a hard time writing for the women in the lives of the men in the show. Skylarhas started to her up her game in the last two seasons, and I expect with the end of season 5.1; she she will continue to do the same.
Are writers/producers to blame for the direction of their female characters? Many of these shows have strong female characters, Homeland has Carrie (Claire Danes), Mad Men has the three listed above, and Breaking Bad has improved Skylar, yet these women still seem to be incredibly unlikable. I often wonder why, is it because the shows have large male audiences? Could be, but many of the female viewers dislike these ladies as well. Looking at these ladies is an interesting cross section of television at the moment, and the role women play in these television shows. Hopefully time will prove these women played an important development in television rather than just remaining archetypes of the evil wife.