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10 brilliantly bingeable TV shows with female leads to watch right now

Knowing what your next binge will be isn't always easy, and with so much choice out there, I thought I’d celebrate International Women's Day, by picking 10 brilliantly bingeable series which are available to watch right away, each with female leads.

What's great too is that not only are these great female roles - in an industry still dominated by male leads - but many of these shows have also been written by women.

1. Back to Life

Series 1, BBC iPlayer

Daisy Haggard had a breakthrough year in 2019 with her smash BBC Three comedy Back to Life which she co-wrote with Laura Solon. Daisy stars as Miri Matterson who 18 years ago committed a terrible crime and we now meet her as she leaves jail and returns to her home town, a place she no longer recognises.

Returning to the dysfunctional family home she involuntarily vacated as a teenager, she's back living with her parents who she can no longer hold a conversation with. Following her first few weeks on the outside, Miri, now a determined yet naïve adult, attempts to put the past behind her in order to have a normal life.

But life post-prison is not proving easy. Her parents Caroline and Oscar are presenting a happy and united front despite cracks beginning to show and Miri's attempt to reconnect with her teenage sweetheart Dom opens up a whole new can of worms.

If only she could land a job, that could be the ticket to a new life. But with no money and no driver’s licence Miri is forced to seek work in the small town that remembers her only for what she did all those years ago.

With a second series on the way there's never been a better time to binge the first series.

Read my interview with Daisy here.

2. Better Things

Seasons 1-3, BBC iPlayer

I'll admit, I came to comedy drama Better Things late, but once I'd watched the first episode I was hooked and wasted no time in making my way through the first three seasons.

Pamela Adlon stars as single mother Sam Fox, who tries to raise her three daughters while keeping her acting career afloat. And it's a family you really want to spend time with. The casting is spot on in this show with youngest daughter Duke played by Olivia, her middle daughter Frankie played by Hannah Alligood and eldest daughter Max played by Mikey Madison, not forgetting Celia Imrie who plays Sam's British mother Phyllis.

It's also worth mentioning that the show is in even better shape now that Adlon has taken full control, after her co-writer Louis C.K. was fired by FX after accusations were made against him of sexual misconduct.

Season 4 has just started in the US with BBC Two expected to air the new episodes in the UK in 2021.

3. The Crown

Seasons 1-3, Netflix

The Crown chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to modern times with Claire Foy portraying Her Majesty for seasons one and two and Olivia Colman taking over the role for seasons three and four.

But whether it's Claire Foy or Olivia Colman, The Crown never suffers. Created by Peter Morgan, this really is one of the best television dramas of recent years, consistently stunning audiences with its incredible casting, costume and production design And of course fascinating storylines.

The series begins with an inside look at the early reign of the Queen, who ascended the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, at just 25. As the decades pass, personal intrigues, romances, and political rivalries are revealed that played a big role in events that shaped the later years of the 20th century.

In season three, Queen Elizabeth II and her family struggle to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing Britain as the Royals must adapt to a new, more liberated, but also more turbulent world.

Whilst season four is currently being filmed and expected later this year, it's been confirmed that season five will be the final outing of The Crown as Imelda Staunton takes over as Queen Elizabeth II.

4. Derry Girls

Series 1 & 2, All4 (Series 1, Netflix)

When new comedy Derry Girls burst onto Channel 4 at the start of 2018, no one could have predicted just how successful the series would go on to become, making household names of Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Louisa Harland and Dylan Llewellyn, not just in the UK but also globally thanks to the series being made available on Netflix.

Written by Lisa McGee, the series is a nostalgic tale of four schoolgirls and one bemused English boy, living in nineties Northern Ireland, all trying to navigate their teen years during the end of The Troubles in Derry.

Erin and her friends are used to seeing their country on the nightly news and speaking in acronyms (The IRA, The UDA, The RUC). It’s a time of armed police in armoured Land Rovers and British Army check points but also the time of Murder She Wrote, The Cranberries, MJ and Lisa Marie, Doc Martens, bomber jackets, The X Files, Nirvana and Wayne’s World.

A third series has thankfully already been confirmed with filming due to start soon!

5. Fleabag

Series 1 & 2, BBC iPlayer

What started off for Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a one-woman play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Fleabag was adapted for screen and became one of the most-watched and celebrated TV shows of recent years, winning multiple awards including BAFTAs, Emmy and RTS Awards, not to mention two Golden Globes!

Written by and starring Waller-Bridge, Fleabag centres around the character simply known as 'Fleabag' who's angry, pervy, outrageous and hilarious. She arrives with a bang at the start of the first series as she spins through the city grasping at anyone and anything that might keep her head above water.

The series also stars Olivia Colman as her Godmother, Sian Clifford as Claire, Bill Paterson as her Dad, Brett Gelman as Martin, Jenny Rainsford as Boo and Hugh Skinner as Harry. Whilst Andrew Scott joined Fleabag for series two to play 'The Priest' or as fans affectionally refer to him as, 'Hot Priest'.

Series two picks up a year on from the end of series one and takes Fleabag to hell and back as old wounds are still there to unpick, alongside new ones which need dressing.

Read my interview with Phoebe for series one here.

6. GameFace

Series 1 & 2 plus Pilot Episode, All4

GameFace, written and created by Roisin Conaty, is one of the most laugh-out-loud comedies of recent years. Launching in 2017 off the back of a successful pilot three years earlier, the series stars Roisin as Marcella, a 30-something aspiring actress with a chaotic life and big dreams.

The first series saw Marcella grapple with her career, overcome heartbreak and deal with her eccentric family, all with her questionable life-coach, best friends and long-suffering driving instructor by her side.

Whilst series two began with Marcella on the brink of yet another driving test and with her acting career at a new, humiliating, low. But as her friends and family move on with their lives and relationships, she can’t ignore the sinking feeling she’s being left behind. But will she be able to turn her luck around?

And despite there being no news yet from Channel 4 about a third series, I'm keeping everything crossed that there will be one.

Read my interview with Roisin for series two here.

7. Killing Eve

Seasons 1 & 2, BBC iPlayer

Much like Fleabag, there are very few awards that Killing Eve hasn't won, which isn't surprising considering Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s involvement. As well as being Executive Producer, Phoebe wrote the first season and has created a pass the baton process for each new season so that a new female writing voice can assume the position of lead writer.

Emerald Fennell lead the writing for season two before passing the baton on to Suzanne Heathcote who now passes the baton on to Sex Education's Laura Neal, who will serve as lead writer on season four.

Killing Eve sees Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh star as two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, who go head-to-head in an epic game of cat and mouse.

Jodie plays Villanelle, who possesses a cold brutality under her innocent looking exterior, brilliantly. With an appetite for killing groaning in her gut, she is a living, breathing, shopping, killing psychopath. Whilst Sandra is perfect in the role of Eve Polastri, an agent working for British intelligence who after investigating a string of assassinations across Europe, grows fascinated with Villanelle.

Season three will air in the US in April whilst the UK is expected to have to wait until June for the boxset to drop on BBC Three.

8. Pose

Seasons 1 & 2, BBC iPlayer

Mj Rodriguez plays black transgender woman Blanca Rodriguez in Pose, the groundbreaking US series about the underground world of 1980s ball culture, set at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Blanca works at a nail salon by day and serves as a member of the House of Abundance by night. After receiving a life-changing medical diagnosis, she becomes determined to open her own house, starting by taking in 17 year-old Damon, a talented dancer.

Pose made television history, for featuring the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series including Billy Porter, Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore.

A third season has been given the go ahead and is expected this summer.

9. Russian Doll

Season 1, Netflix

Co-created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, Russian Doll is a Netflix original which follows a young software engineer called Nadia who finds herself reliving her 36th birthday party in New York City over and over again.

Nadia, played by Lyonne, gets caught in a mysterious loop where she dies at the end of the night, only to wake up the next day unharmed as if nothing had happened.

It's funny, it's sharp and one of the finest series to come out of Netflix in 2019. It's no surprise that the first thing Lyonne has ever written for television will be returning for a second season following four Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

10. Shrill

Seasons 1 & 2, BBC iPlayer

Shrill snuck onto BBC iPlayer towards the end of 2019 but already the second season has been made available to UK viewers, allowing us to watch the series at the same time as Hulu viewers in the US.

It stars Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant as Annie, an overweight young woman who wants to change her life, but not her body. Trying to start her career as a journalist, she juggles bad boyfriends, a sick parent and a perfectionist boss.

UK rising star Lolly Adefope also stars as her best friend and roommate Fran who helps her figure out who she is and what she wants from her life.

In the second season, Annie starts the season feeling pretty good with boyfriend Ryan by her side until she realises that hastily quitting her job and jumping into a relationship with someone who is, well, a little less career-focused may not have been the best idea.


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