The female-focused Lifetime cable network has never been a critical darling. While HBO and AMC are consistently lauded for their programs, Lifetime’s offerings are frequently dismissed as exploitative, derivative junk. But the channel’s many detractors should consider this: Over the last quarter century, Lifetime has maintained an excellent track record of hiring women to write and direct its original TV shows and movies. That is among the revelations in Laura Goode’s piece for BuzzFeed, “How Lifetime Became One Of The Best Places In Hollywood For Women.” To dismiss Lifetime as mere “trash TV” or to label its shows as “guilty pleasures” is to miss the point, Goode says. Here, in a male-dominated industry, is a place that hires women not just as actresses but as writers, directors, and producers, too. Most importantly, Lifetime is interested in telling the kinds of stories women want to hear.
Critics may quibble with Lifetime’s offerings all they want, but the numbers speak for themselves. The brand is worth nearly a billion dollars, and Lifetime’s shows and movies are some of the highest rated in cable television, eclipsing such buzzed-about series as Mad Men. Part of the channel’s success story is its inclusive politics. The network has specifically sought to create shows and movies that would appeal to younger women, and it has also shown “more commitment to producing films focused on black women.” Goode argues that Lifetime’s Army Wives reached “a powerful, if often unheralded, demographic” with its depiction of military life. The network is well aware of its campy reputation, too, and has fun with that through such self-aware films as A Deadly Adoption. But Lifetime is no joke. Through decades of movies about breast cancer and domestic abuse, Lifetime has emerged a powerful, feminist force in Hollywood.