Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Today’s TCA panel on PBS’ documentary Makers: Women Who Make America, which traces the last 50 years of the women’s movement and premieres February 26, featured some powerhouse players in the fight for equality: Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas among them. Both made strong statements about the state of feminism in America in 2013. But one of more telling stories recounted on the panel was not about politics, but rather Thomas’ recounting the struggles behind her 1966-71 TV series That Girl. At age 24, Thomas became both producer and star in the comedy about a spunky single girl and aspiring actress taking on New York City.
At the time she was pitching the series, Thomas had read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and said that after college “I was a bridesmaid 17 times” and didn’t want to get married. She said that every TV script she was reading was all the same: “the women were wives, daughters and secretaries.” She took her idea to NBC programming executive Edgar Scherick, demanding: “Ever thought of doing a show where the woman is somebody?” She said Scherick responded as though “I had been speaking Swahili.” She gave him a copy of Feminine Mystique. His reaction: “I just have one question: Is this going to happen to my wife?” (more…)