When I thought about making this list, various women in comedies came to mind, but I realized that many are supporting actresses: either related to or intimately involved with the male lead(s). However, whether they’re leads or supporting actresses, various women on television have made an impact on their respective generation and have certainly impacted me. I have definitely not watched enough sitcoms to make this list, but I believe that I have compiled a list of some honest, badass and real women on television (in no particular order).
10. Elaine Benes, Seinfeld
Elaine’s iconic ’90s outfits, sarcastic humor and witty remarks make her one of the most remarkable women in comedy. Throughout the series, Elaine’s regard for societal norms dwindles, resulting in truly embarrassing and humorous moments of neurotic or self involved behavior. Besides that, she’s also open about her sexuality, having various partners and actively talking about it as the men on the show. I believe she was truly ahead of her time.
9. Rachel Green, Friends
Rachel’s progression from spoiled brat to hardworking executive at Ralph Lauren is perhaps the greatest character development out of all the friends on the show. Her on-again off-again relationship with Ross Geller was unfortunate and quite toxic, but Rachel’s identity goes far beyond her relationship with Ross. She goes through numerous jobs, works her way to the top, and goes through motherhood practically alone. Just like her hair, Rachel evolves throughout the show.
8. Deandra (Dee) Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Yes, “Sweet Dee” is certainly not a role model, but she’s one of the realest women on TV. In the early seasons, she is the female voice of reason to a bunch of old idiots and has relatively few lines. Her character later becomes involved in the gang’s shenanigans, however, and that is where we see a morally wrong woman who honestly gives zero f*cks She’s not put together or talented, but she is a hilarious, incredibly anxious, hot mess.
7. Tia and Tamera, Sister, Sister
Growing up, Tia and Tamera were perhaps the first POC female leads in a television series that I saw and I couldn’t get enough of the reruns. They were polar opposites of each other, which made a fun dynamic, and the chemistry overall between the family was one that seemed concrete, as if I were there going through adolescence with them. The theme song is an added joy.
6. Jackie Burkhart, That ’70s Show
Jackie could be self involved, narcissistic and petty, but her confidence and character development places her as an admirable, semi-relatable character. Jackie’s decisions are carefully calculated and although they sometimes fail, she rises above any hurdles, such as breakups, or pursuing a career in television. Her friendship with Donna is heartwarming even though she mocks her. You know that in the end, Jackie does care about others.
5. Detective Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Diaz’s no-nonsense personality shines through in this silly sitcom. Her Latinx identity, along with fellow detective Santiago, aren’t used as comedic tropes, but rather each has their own distinct personality and are humorous in their own ways. Her coming out as bisexual added another dimension to her overall mysterious persona and created the representation that TV really needs.
4. Pam Beesly, The Office
As with the the other women on this list, Beesly progressed throughout the seasons. Her shy, timid self shed as she found true love, pursued her artistic dreams and became more comfortable in her own skin. Although not nearly as weird or dysfunctional as the rest of the office, she definitely has a quirky personality of her own and cares deeply for those around her.
3. Eleanor Shellstrop, The Good Place
Shellstrop’s imperfection makes her stand out in a sea of female characters who always wish to “do good” and fit into the molds of female perfection. Although occasionally in the wrong, she realizes her flaws, works on them and tries to have empathy for others. She shows us that it’s never too late to improve who you are.
2. Sabrina Spellman, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
As a kid, I was extremely jealous that Sabrina had a talkative, sassy black cat as her companion. I digress. Spellman goes through adolescence as a witch, causing chaos in her life, but with the help of her aunts, she manages to try to understand her supernatural life. It’s a show full of female empowerment and family friendly comedy.
1. Lana Kane, Archer
As with Diaz, Lana Kane is completely badass. In every season, she puts characters in their place, calls them out on their sexist or racist bullshit and embracing her sexuality. She’s a hardworking, intelligent agent who deserves far more recognition than she gets.