Sally Draper, Brienne of Tarth, The Dowager Countess—DAME gives them the spotlight
There’s a lot of fall TV talk happening. Now that we’ve looked at some new offerings, we’d also like to give a shout-out to the unsung heroines who already exist on the small screen—the strong supporting characters consistently outshining their male counterparts. Here’s our wish list of television’s non-leading ladies we’ll be watching carefully this year, and who, we hope, can get some spin-off love come next TV season.
Starring Taystee and Poussey from Orange Is the New Black
If you’ve ripped through the first season of the sublime Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, you know that many of the supporting characters serving time in Litchfield Women’s Prison are just as interesting, if not more so, than its lead. Prime example: Tasha “Taystee” Washington (Danielle Brooks). Yes, Taystee is sassy, but she is so much more, doing time with a joy most folks on the other side will never feel. Her soul-baring, AA-meeting confession was one of the stellar season’s funniest moments: “So, there I am. Topless. Sittin’ on this bulldozer. Like, in a construction site. So, I’m sitting there, barbeque sauce on my titties, and I’m like, What the fuck? Again?”
But it’s Taystee’s comedic chemistry, and beautiful friendship, with fellow inmate Poussey (Samira Wiley) that makes this women’s prison look like a place where we’d actually like to hang out. OITNB’s brilliant storytelling has shed light on how poorly prison prepares women for the outside world. If Taystee and Poussey join forces, we think they’ll do just fine. In Two Broke-Ass Girls, we could watch the twosome support each other through first jobs and first dates, eventually running a music label that produces Rebecca Black–style hit songs for tweens.
Starring Jessa Johansson from Girls
In über-talented Lena Dunham’s Girls—about twentysomethings stumbling through life in New York City—Hannah, the central character, is perhaps the most relatable. However, the most intriguing, at times most infuriating, is her ethereally beautiful, bohemian friend Jessa (Jemima Kirke). She gets invited to the coolest parties, has the best clothes, and though she’s a blast to be around, never has her wallet.
Jessa’s eponymous spin-off would reveal where she goes when she disappears from Hannah’s life for days on end. Certain locales—like an aging rock star’s yacht or an experimental-dance performance in Tribeca—will be no surprise. But her volunteer work at a shelter for suicidal teens would give Jessa unexpected depth. The series, like her life, could be told in a loose, stream-of-consciousness style and be directed by James Franco. Jessa will be highly original and canceled immediately.
Starring Lady Violet, The Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey
If you haven’t yet feasted your eyes on the genteel British period piece of stolen glances, whispered conversations, and tragic deaths that is Downton Abbey—you should. Delighting us with such classic bon mots as “What is a weekend?” Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) is possibly older than Downton itself, yet still the sharpest stick in the jewel-encrusted toolshed. Her snappy one-liners are the only reason this serious, snail-paced show is ever referred to as a dramedy.
On The Lady Violet Diaries, the future Dowager Countess would take us on a journey through her pre-Countess, Victorian-era youth. We’d get to see her act out as a young aristocrat: such as the time she showed her ankle to a handsome stranger and brought gossip and shame to her family, or the scandalous day she walked to a picnic without a chaperone. And count on space-time-continuum-defying adventures with her three gal pals—Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë.
Starring Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones
Nothing gives the pause button on your TV remote an invigorating workout like watching an episode of Game of Thrones—“Wait, who is Roose Bolton?” And our favorite citizen of Westeros is the tough and uncompromising Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). She’d rather take on a man in a swordfight than take his hand in marriage. Brienne is high born, but don’t you dare call her a lady—she’s a knight. More importantly, anyone who can make Jaime “The Kingslayer” Lannister look like a decent guy and spar with an actual bear should get her own spin-off.
On Brienne’s Journey, we’d find out what happens to a warrior when she no longer has nobility to protect. With Jaime Lannister delivered safely to King’s Landing, Brienne leaves the Seven Kingdoms for the Free Cities, where she is embraced and made their leader. She is perfectly content to be a Queen without a King, but a certain one-handed man can’t get her off his mind.
Starring Sally Draper from Mad Men
Mad Men’s seventh and final season is looming, but there’s one character we refuse to say good-bye to. Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), daughter of enigmatic Don and icy Betty, started out under the radar (she was only five years old when Mad Men began!). But by the end of season 6, Sally racked up a rap sheet that makes Pete Campbell’s life look dull. Sally’s had her house trashed by her neighbor Glen, been slipped Seconal by her evil step-grandmother Pauline, walked in on her Dad’s best pal getting a BJ from her other step-grandmother, and caught her Dad with his pants around his ankles with his neighbor Lindsay Weir. Sally has packed in more trauma before the age of 15 than many of us do before 30, so we’re dying to see what her future has in store.
Her spinoff, Mad Woman, picks up around 1980 when little Sally is all grown-up. Rejecting the world of advertising, she instead forges the frontier of television where she steals the stage as a Solid Gold dancer in lame jumpsuits and sparkling leotards. With her Dad’s destructive tendencies and her mom’s cool beauty, we’ll watch Sally rip through the decadence of ’80s Los Angeles with reckless abandon.
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