24 TV shows written by women to look forward to
From Sally Wainwright’s Gentleman Jack to Aisling Bea’s This Way Up – here are the best female-written dramas and comedies hitting our screens
This article was originally published as part of RadioTimes.com’s Women’s Words campaign, a series of content to celebrate and elevate female screenwriters.
For International Women’s Day, we’ve updated it with highlights of the best dramas and comedies written by women to look forward to on television.
- Why are women still so under-represented in TV screenwriting?
- Susan Wokoma: ‘I’m writing for women of colour – everyone else is taken care of’
- How to succeed as a screenwriter: Female writers share top tips for breaking into the TV industry
Written by Sally Wainwright, BBC1, 2019
The mastermind behind Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax returns with a new period drama starring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, a 19th-century Yorkshire landowner often referred to as “the first modern lesbian” who wrote a four million-word diary and was subject to endless abuse for her sexuality.
Written by Emerald Fennell, BBC3, 2019
The smash-hit spy thriller starring Jodie Comer as a psychopathic assassin and Sandra Oh as an MI5 agent is back for a second series after triumphing at the Golden Globes. A new showrunner, Call the Midwife actress Emerald Fennell, is taking the reins from Phoebe Waller-Bridge – but if the trailer is anything to go by, the sequel looks as chilling and stylish as ever.
Written by Lucy Kirkwood, Channel 4, 2019
Sheridan Smith stars as a leading British porn star in this new drama examining the adult film industry and telling a story from the perspective of a woman who has been working in it for the past two decades. It promises to be a timely look at how porn’s influence on mainstream culture has affected our ideas of consent, and is penned by Lucy Kirkwood (The Smoke) who is also adapting her Olivier Award-winning stage play Chimerica for Channel 4.
Back to Life
Written by Daisy Haggard and Laura Solon, BBC3, 2019
Black Mirror star Daisy Haggard and Perrier Comedy Award winner Laura Solon penned this comedy drama starring Haggard as Miri Matteson, a woman who “did a very bad thing” a long time ago and was locked away for 18 years. The series sees Miri struggling to navigate life outside of prison, and promises to show her attempts to rekindle old flames, meet new people and find work, all while hoping the world will forget about the mysterious thing that happened “that fateful night”.
Written by Daisy Goodwin, ITV, early 2019
This royal romp is back for a third series, with Jenna Coleman returning as the British monarch opposite Tom Hughes as Prince Albert. Goodwin bases the historical drama on the exceptionally detailed diary entries of the young queen, and the new episodes are set to kick off with events from 1848 – a time of great unrest in Britain.
Read more: www.radiotimes.com/womenswords
Written by Sarah Kendall, Sky, 2019
Created by and starring Australian comedian Sarah Kendall, Frayed is a bittersweet dark comedy about a wealthy 1980s housewife forced to confront her past when she returns to the town where she grew up. The series is produced by Sharon Horgan’s production company Merman and Kendall, who is based in London, is known for touring as a stand-up comic in the UK.
Written by Charlie Covell, Netflix, 2019
The creator of The End of the F***ing World – returning to Channel 4 next autumn – has written a new, darkly comic Netflix series, Kaos, which is a modern reimagining of Greek mythology. The series promises to explore themes of gender politics and power… as well as life in the underworld.
Written by Daisy Coulam, Channel 4, 2019
Grantchester creator Daisy Coulam is back with a new four-part crime drama which aims to examine the “notion of evil”. Deadwater Fell follows two families in the aftermath of the murder of three children and their mother, and looks at the ripple effect of this horrific crime in the local community. Coulam’s writing credits also include episodes of EastEnders and Humans.
Written by Aisling Bea, Channel 4, 2019
Comedian Aisling Bea is the creator and star of this new off-beat comedy which follows Aine, a woman who is trying to piece her life back together after a “teeny little nervous breakdown". Her sister Shona is played by Sharon Horgan, whose production company Merman is producing the series.
More like this
Written by Anna Symon, ITV, 2019
Mrs Wilson and Indian Summers writer Anna Symon returns with a new female-led drama adapted from Paula Daly’s series of Windermere novels. Anna Friel, Sinead Keenan and Rosalind Eleazar play three women trying to juggle the pressures of modern family life and having to make a series of controversial decisions.
Orange Is the New Black
Written by Jenji Kohan, Netflix, 2019
A seventh (and final!) series of Jenji Kohan’s hit female prison drama is on the way, meaning we’ll once again be peeking behind the bars of Litchfield Penitentiary. We can certainly expect to see more of lovers Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) in the award-winning show, as well as favourites Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Suzanne (Uzo Aduba), Red (Kate Mulgrew) and many more.
Written by Laurie Nunn, Netflix, air date TBC
After the huge success of this comedy about a teenage sex therapist starring Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield, Sex Education is back for a second run. Written by newcomer Laurie Nunn, the show became a big talking point for its all-American feel and 1980s throwback style, and launched the careers of a whole roster of young actors.
Written by Bash Doran, Channel 4, spring 2019
A thriller set in the aftermath of the Second World War, Traitors (formerly entitled Jerusalem) stars Clique’s Emma Appleton as an ambitious 20-something woman who is tasked with spying on her own government. The starry ensemble cast also includes Keeley Hawes and Luke Treadaway. Writer Bash Doran is known for penning episodes of the period drama Boardwalk Empire and co-wrote Chris Pine's new Netflix movie Outlaw King.
Flesh and Blood
Written by Sarah Williams, ITV, air date TBC
Flesh and Blood centres around three adult siblings whose lives are thrown into disarray when their recently widowed mother announces she has fallen in love with a new man. Written by The Long Song’s Sarah Williams, the four-part series has been pegged as “no ordinary relationship drama” because someone in the family will be dead by the end of the story – but who?
Written by Gillian Flynn, Amazon, 2019
A remake of Dennis Kelly's British drama Utopia is on the way from Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer Gillian Flynn. It follows a group of young adults who meet on the internet and are hunted down by a dodgy deep state organisation after they stumble across the key to an international conspiracy.
Written by Sally Rooney, BBC3, air date TBC
Sally Rooney is adapting her bestselling novel Normal People for television. The story follows two Irish teenagers from very different backgrounds who embark on a secret, on-off romance in school, before they both attend Trinity College Dublin, where they meet other partners and their own relationship is put to the test. Element Pictures, which made Oscar-winning film The Favourite, is producing the series.
Written by Gurinder Chadha, ITV, 2019
Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi – just before the British ruled the region – Beecham House, a series penned by Bend It Like Beckham’s Gurinder Chadha, depicts the complicated lives of those living in the titular mansion. It stars Vanity Fair’s Tom Bateman as John Beecham, an enigmatic former soldier who buys the house to escape his old life and begin a new one with his family.
Written by Katherine Ryan, Netflix, air date TBC
British-based Canadian comic Katherine Ryan is writing and starring in The Duchess, a new sitcom in which she will play a “fashionably disruptive” single mother whose daughter, Olive, is her greatest love and who is debating whether to have another child with her greatest nemesis, Olive’s father.
Written by Samantha Strauss, Sky Atlantic, 2019
Australian writer Samantha Strauss’s new series stars The Crown's Harriet Walter and Mr Selfridge actress Frances O’Connor. The End follows one family’s struggle with euthanasia and tackles a key question of the modern age: how to die with dignity. Strauss is best known for creating the hit ABC teen drama series Dance Academy.
Written by Naomi Alderman, Amazon, air date TBC
Naomi Alderman is adapting her best-selling 2016 novel The Power into a ten-part series. The story, which has been compared to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian hit The Handmaid’s Tale, is set in a world in which women suddenly gain the ability to electrocute people. At first, the ability is treated like a disease, but then women become empowered by it, sometimes killing the men who stand in their way.
Written by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, Netflix, 2019
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling will be back in the ring for a third series of Emmy-winning Glow on Netflix. Its lead stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Britney Young and Marc Maron are all expected to return for the new episodes, which look likely to be set in Las Vegas.
The Dublin Murders
Written by Sarah Phelps, BBC1, 2019
Sarah Phelps – who is known for her Agatha Christie dramas And Then There Were None, Ordeal by Innocence, The Witness for the Prosecution and The ABC Murders – is back with this psychological crime thriller adapted from Tanya French’s bestselling novel series Dublin Murder Squad. Phelps is also set to write another Christie adaptation, The Pale Horse, as well as a sequel to 2018 hit A Very English Scandal following Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll.
Written by Marnie Dickens, BBC1, next year
Thirteen writer Marnie Dickens has penned a new noir drama that tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a much younger man, and the impact of their relationship on her already-fractured family. It stars Julia Ormond as the wealthy 60-year-old and Ben Barnes as her young lover, who is 26 years her junior.
Written by Alice Bell, Amazon, 2019
Alice Bell is adapting Janice Y K Lee's book into an Amazon series and Nicole Kidman is on board to executive produce. The story follows a close-knit group of women expats in Hong Kong. The series sees the friends "persevere through struggles with marriage, career, parenting and unimaginable loss" and is already being compared to Big Little Lies.
Read more: www.radiotimes.com/womenswords