The last five to 10 years have seen a new trend in female-driven TV shows that tell personal stories from the writers’ and/or actress’s lives, and thankfully that trend seems only to be going up. Most of the shows on this list are great examples of women as complex human beings struggling with real issues, and they aren’t afraid to portray those stories honestly.
Here are 12 female written and led semi-autobiographical series that are definitely worth the watch.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote, starred in, and executive produced the Emmy award-winning Prime Video comedy Fleabag, based on her one-woman play of the same name. Though Fleabag only boasts two seasons, it took the TV-loving world by storm thanks to Waller-Bridge’s original, raunchy, and hilarious writing. Fleabag —which is her character’s “name” in the series — struggles to find her place in the world while coping with the loss of both her mother and her best friend. Much of what makes Waller-Bridge’s writing and performance so original is her willingness to lay it all out on the table. In other words, Fleabag isn’t afraid to reveal her dirtiest thoughts or admit that she doesn’t really like or trust herself. Fleabag is a refreshing and comical portrayal of a woman whose personality is less “palatable” than what society expects, and we love her for it. Also, we’ll never forget Andrew Scott as Hot Priest.
Netflix adapted Maid as a limited series from Stephanie Land’s inspiring novel about her struggles living in poverty with her young daughter. In the series, Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a young mother who gets a job as a maid after leaving her abusive boyfriend. Alex’s erratic mother and ex-alcoholic father aren’t really in positions to offer her and her daughter Maddy help, which leaves Alex to fend for them by herself. Alex spends all of her waking moments trying to improve her and Maddy’s situation, saving up as much money as she can to make that possible. The series depicts the hardship that women face when trying to escape abusive relationships – in this case with the added pressures of being financially in need. However, Alex’s perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles gives the series a sense of warmth and hopefulness.
Single Drunk Female (2022-)
Freeform’s recently released dramedy sitcom Single Drunk Female centers on Samantha Fink (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a recovering alcoholic who’s just moved back home with her mom in Boston after being fired from her job in New York City. Creator Simone Finch wrote the series, which is based on her own experiences with addiction. Though the show deals with heavy topics like Samantha’s alcohol abuse and her grief for her father, Black-D’Elia’s witty performance gives it an uplifting comedic flair. The show also has great side characters in Samantha’s friends, like Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington) and James (Garrick Bernard), and boasts a progressive atmosphere. As Samantha navigates sobriety and her rocky relationship with her mother, she comes to terms with her new situation and makes amends with her destructive past.
This Way Up (2019-)
Written by Irish comedian and actress Aisling Bea, This Way Up on Hulu follows the lives of two outspoken, almost middle-aged Irish sisters living in London. Bea’s character Aine is on the heels of a mental breakdown for which she spent some months in rehab, and her sister Shona (Sharon Horgan) is a successful businesswoman who often feels like Aine’s keeper. Aine’s career as a tutor leads her to become the teacher of a young French boy (Dorian Grover), whose shy father (Tobias Menzies) she becomes romantically entangled with, and Sharon struggles with a work/life balance. Though the two sisters are always there for each other, their relationship often borders on co-dependent, and Aine’s emotional difficulties find her struggling to move on from her destructive tendencies. Ultimately, Bea’s heartfelt and clever writing, along with the main characters’ unmistakable Irish charm, make the show unique.
Better Things (2016-2022)
Better Things, a hilarious and poignant FX series that shows what it means to be a working single mom with three rebellious daughters, was created by Pamela Adlon and is inspired by her own life. The series sees Sam (Adlon) juggling motherhood, her career, her social life, and her love life with a uniquely laissez-faire attitude. Sam trusts her daughters Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Alligood), and Duke (Olivia Edward) to make their own mistakes, and hits them with some wisdom along the way. Though the unconventional family of four fight often, they always come back around to being there for each other. We also get a glimpse into Sam’s time on movie and TV sets, as well as her many get-togethers with her closest friends and “lovers”. Though many of the scenarios that Sam and the other characters find themselves in are entertaining on their own, Adlon’s signature comedic talent and unflinching passion create an unforgettable watching experience.
Chewing Gum (2015-2017)
British actress, producer, and screenwriter Michaela Coel created the quirky comedy Chewing Gum on HBO, which was inspired by her play Chewing Gum Dreams. The show follows Tracey (Coel), a 24-year-old virgin whose strict religion has kept her and her uptight sister (Susan Wokoma) from doing the deed. But Tracey is on a mission to change that right from the first episode, where she realizes that her very religious boyfriend may not be the easiest route to getting her cherry popped. Tracey, though sheltered, is a daring and blunt woman who is not afraid to put herself out there in order to learn more about herself, sex, and the world. Tracey must find a way to be who she wants to be while living under her mother’s roof and “following” her rules, though she often strays from that path. Coel’s knack for subtle comedy shines in this irreverent take on coming into womanhood.
I May Destroy You (2020)
Also written by Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You on HBO takes on much darker themes than Coel’s previous work, seeing the main character Arabella (Coel) try to piece together what specifically happened to her on a night out when she was drugged and raped in a bathroom. Though Coel plays Arabella with a similar charm and humor to Tracey from Chewing Gum, Arabella is a much more physically and socially aware woman with an unabashed willingness to call attention to the issue of sexual assault. While struggling with PTSD from her assault, Arabella also tries to finish the book she is writing by the deadline, but repeatedly falls short. The show also focuses on Arabella’s friends Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) and Terry (Weruche Opia), and their experiences living in London. Though Arabella has difficulty figuring out how to cope with her trauma throughout the series, she eventually learns the importance of letting go of the past so as not to allow it to disrupt the present.
SNL superstar Aidy Bryant writes and stars in Shrill on Hulu, where she plays zany but lovable Annie, who works as a journalist in New York City. Annie faces repeated blunders at work, troubles with dating, and body-shaming. Bryant lends her comedic genius to the character, giving her a sarcastic edge despite her mostly sweet demeanor. Annie’s co-workers often get under her skin, especially her self-obsessed boss who repeatedly puts down her writing pitches. But her best friend Fran (Lolly Adefope) is always there to lend an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, and so are her very attentive parents. Though Annie is a writer, it’s hard not to imagine that Bryant was inspired by her career and her experiences as an up-and-coming writer/comedian, because Annie’s journey to becoming a fearless journalist in spite of her critics mirrors Bryant’s success at SNL.
Life & Beth (2022)
Written by and starring Amy Schumer, Life & Beth on Hulu follows Beth (Schumer), and her search for guidance from her childhood memories. When Beth’s mother (Laura Benanti) dies suddenly, she moves back into her childhood home on Long Island after letting go of her boyfriend and job in Manhattan. After meeting the charmingly awkward John (Michael Cera) and spending more time with her sister and childhood friends, Beth rethinks her life decisions. Through flashbacks to her middle school years, Beth comes to realizations about the effects of her trauma on her adult self. She also discovers that her mother is not necessarily the woman she always saw her as, and begins to forgive herself for her mistakes. The series offers a sentimental look at self re-discovery and recovery from childhood wounds, and is Schumer’s best performance to date.
Originally based on Issa Rae’s successful web series Awkward Black Girl, Insecure on HBO is a funny and intelligent series that depicts the intimate lives of black women in their 30s – their insecurities, their romances, and ultimately their friendships. Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) have a fiercely close friendship, and rely on each other for both support and tough love. Even though they disagree on a lot, they show us what pure, unadulterated friendship looks like. Over the course of the series, the two grow as women and learn how to shed a lot of their self-esteem issues in order to live their best, confident lives. Rae’s wonderfully boisterous personality shines through in her portrayal of, well, herself, and Orji proves a worthy co-star. Through their ups and downs, the duo never fail to offer genuine yet entertaining performances.
Somebody Somewhere (2022-)
Set in Bridget Everett’s hometown of Manhattan, Kansas, Somebody Somewhere sees Everett as Sam, a middle-aged woman dealing with the recent loss of her sister. Having come home to take care of her sister before she died, Everett struggles to find her place in the town where she grew up until Joel, an acquaintance from high school, brings her to a “church meeting,” which turns out to be an LGBTQ+ friendly karaoke gathering. After Sam shows off her pipes, she begins to come back into herself and enjoy life again. Despite Sam’s rough relationship with her controlling sister and alcoholic mother, she is close to her father who has a heart of gold, and who helps to remind her that you have to be there for family no matter what. The show is a beautiful example of what it means to find yourself no matter how old, different, or stuck you feel.
New Zealand comedian and actress Rose Matafeo writes and stars in Starstruck on HBO, in which she plays Jessie, an “average” (if exceedingly witty) woman living in London with her best friend and roommate Kate (Emma Sidi). One night after Jessie and Kate hit the club, Jessie winds up having a one-night stand with a very handsome stranger. The next morning, Jessie realizes that the man she slept with is Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel), a major movie star, which causes her to have a bit of a freak-out. However, after repeated run-ins with Tom, Jessie realizes that she actually really likes him. The chemistry between Matafeo and Patel makes for an appealing and bubbly romantic story with a unique twist. Matafeo’s charismatic performance in the series has put her on the map as a breakout TV writer/actor.
The 10 Best TV Shows of 2020
About The Author
https://collider.com/best-semi-autobiographical-tv-shows-written-by-women/ Best Semi-Autobiographical TV Shows By Women, From Fleabag to Insecure