Binge-worthy businesswomen

Mary Tyler Moore to Murphy Brown: Here's What to Watch Now That You’re Stuck Inside

Thanks to COVID-19, we’re all spending a lot more time at home. For most of us, that means a lot more TV, too. So we made a list of the best movies and shows featuring binge-worthy businesswomen that streaming has to offer. Enjoy!

Remember when I said the end is nigh? Apparently, I was right. Or, at least, it sort of feels like it, as even young, healthy people embrace social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

This means we’re all adjusting how we work, socialize, and relax. “Netflix and chill” no longer refers primarily to Tinder hookups; it’s what we’re literally doing on our couches as we hunker down, work from home, and wait for the time when we can return to the days of responsibly gathering in groups of 10 or more.

But spending more time inside is no reason not to celebrate women’s entrepreneurship, something we take very seriously here at Supermaker. Which is why I teamed up with two other professional binge-watchers to put together this list of the best businesswomen in TV and film you can find all on streaming platforms. Consider this part inspiration, part tool for fighting COVID-anxiety/social isolation cabin fever while you wait for things to return to normal.


Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

This 1991 black comedy stars Christina Applegate as Sue Ellen Crandell, a recent high school grad who has to provide for her slacker twin brother and younger siblings after their babysitter dies while their mom is on an international vacation. Sue Ellen’s climb up the corporate ladder from executive assistant to boss is impressive, but it’s her relationship with company exec Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy) that shines. Rose’s mentorship of Sue Ellen is a perfect example of how a woman who’s already shattered the glass ceiling--or at least cracked it--can leverage her success to ensure that the next generation of women can succeed as well. (Watch on Hulu or Amazon Prime, with Cinemax add-on)

Murphy Brown

When it comes to Murphy Brown’s binge-ability, there’s good news and bad news. The bad: the first ten seasons of the CBS sitcom, which aired from 1988 to 1998, are not streaming online and probably never will be. If you’re not disappointed, you should be. Candice Bergen plays the eponymous brilliant, grouchy, and deeply principled investigative journalist, who is the star anchor of the fictional network news show FYI. She rules the studio like an enfant terrible; one of the show’s running gags is that she fires every secretary the network assigns her (93 in total). The show’s most famous pop culture moment included a contretemps between then-vice president Dan Quayle and, incredibly, the character Murphy Brown, who became a single mother in the 1991-1992 season. Here’s the good news: the eleventh season, a 2018-2019 reboot that sees Murphy getting the band back together to produce Murphy in the Morning, a new cable news show that promises truth and integrity in the Trump era, is available for your streaming pleasure. Murph has a few more gray hairs, but she still rules the studio. (Watch on Amazon, CBS All Access)

9 to 5

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably heard the song. Starring three gay icons, only one of whom is an actual lesbian, 9 to 5 follows three secretaries played by Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin as they struggle against their domineering, sexist boss. It’s maybe a little depressing that 9 to 5 still feels so relevant 40 years since it first came out, but the movie’s funny enough to keep you from thinking about the gender pay gap. And even if Dolly Parton’s actual business practices leave something to be desired, you can’t help but root for her as she and her coworkers fight for safer workplaces, childcare for working women, and fair pay. (Watch on Hulu, Amazon)

Designing Women

In one of her most memorable roles, Dixie Carter stars as Julia Sugarbaker, the southern belle who heads Sugarbaker & Associates, an Atlanta design firm. Carter and her costars--Delta Burke, Annie Potts, and Jean Smart--bear the burdens of personal relationships, divorce, and parenthood on their padded shoulders with grace and humor. On CBS from 1986 to 1993, Designing Women offered a groundbreaking depiction of intricacies of race, class, and gender in the South. Meshach Taylor’s performance as Anthony Bouvier, the formerly incarcerated Black man who starts off as Sugarbaker & Associates’ delivery man and becomes a partner later in the series, helps alleviate the show’s overall whiteness, and its portrayal of southern women as competent, intelligent agents in their own stories are an antidote to other media portrayals of Southern women (see: Daisy Duke). (Watch on Hulu)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

When it debuted in 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show brought to television a new kind of business bitch: an independent single woman. An associate producer for a Minneapolis primetime news show, 30-year-old Mary Richards battles sexism in the workplace and relies on a sisterhood of mouthy broads at home. Though the characters’ demeanors could not be more different, there would be no Murphy Brown without Mary Richards! Outfitted in a lot of turtlenecks and kicky skirts, Mary learns to assert herself over the course of the show's seven seasons, standing up against workplace foils like Sue Ann Nivens (played by none other than Betty White), the retrograde host of the network's The Happy Homemaker. In addition to MTM and White, the show boasts a star-studded cast that should be immediately recognizable to any devoted Nick at Nite fan. Ed Asner is her gruff but gentle boss Lou Grant, and Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman play the members of her urban coven. This cheerful sitcom offers second-wave workplace feminism for everybody! (Watch on Hulu, Amazon)

Gentefied

Gentefied is a new dramedy series that follows the three Morales cousins as they work to keep their family’s taco shop open in gentrifying Los Angeles. The series is sure to make you laugh, but the issues it tackles are serious and nuanced. On top of running the taco shop, Ana Morales (Karrie Martin) works to follow her dream of becoming an artist. Like many makers and aspiring entrepreneurs--and especially LGBTQ and POC ones--the queer Latinx Ana is faced with difficult decisions about how to find economic success without making too many ethical sacrifices. (Watch on Netflix)

Living Single

In her breakout role, Queen Latifah stars as Khadijah James, a magazine publisher who’s living in a ‘90s world and is glad she’s got her girls. For five seasons, Living Single, with its cast of Black professionals--including an attorney, stockbroker, and business owner--was one of the top-rated Black sitcoms on American TV, providing one of the only examples of Black economic success that weren’t directly related to the Huxtables. 20 years later, Living Single’s plot lines still hold up. As do the show’s characters’ fashion choices. (Watch on Hulu)

Claws

Claws has everything you could possible want for an escapist binge session: Niecey Nash (of Reno 911 fame) as a nail salon owner caught up with the mob; unrelentingly violent and openly bisexual crime boss Uncle Daddy; an ensemble cast that always keeps things fun and interesting; rollerblades. It’s peak Florida. Nash’s character, Desna, isn’t just a business owner and boss. She’s also an inspiring leader who’s made a few mistakes (*cough cough* money laundering *cough cough*), but is devoted to her staff and willing to do anything to keep them safe and her shop’s doors open. (Plus the costumes and manicures are great). (Watch on Hulu, Amazon)

Secretary

You don’t have to be an HR rep to know that starting a BDSM relationship with your aggressively unpleasant employer isn’t the best way to pad your resume. But Secretary, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, is the erotic comedy romance drama you didn’t know you needed. (Watch on Amazon)


And if you get through all of these and still need more to watch, Universal Pictures just announced that they’ll be making current theatrical releases available online. Sure, The Invisible Man isn’t technically about a lady boss, but you can pretend Elizabeth Moss’s character is just another version of Peggy Olson.

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