Women’s History Month Screenings: Women Who Make Us Laugh

Wednesday, March 1, 2023 – Sunday, April 2, 2023
New York

Join us at The Paley Museum in New York to watch these shows on the big screen.

Whether starring in front of a live studio audience or working out punchlines in the writers’ room, women have played an active role in making generations of TV viewers laugh. They created unforgettable characters and led some of the biggest shows of the day. But in addition to earning laughs in living rooms across the country, many of these creators questioned the gender norms of their time and openly discussed taboo subjects. Others explored women’s experiences through their relationships with friends, families, and loved ones. Many of these stories were shaped by the women in writers’ rooms, bringing women’s voices from the page to the screen.

We look at some of TV comedy’s biggest names, from Lucille Ball to Issa Rae, and spotlight the work of writers like Madelyn Pugh Davis, who cowrote many a beloved I Love Lucy episode, Treva Silverman, the writer who made the independent women of That Girl and The Mary Tyler Moore Show into household names, and Susan Harris, the woman behind one of the biggest sitcoms of all-time, The Golden Girls. Recent entries like Orange Is the New Black, Fresh Off the Boat, and the reboot of One Day at a Time continue to highlight nuanced stories about women’s experiences. The series includes stories about pregnancy, abortion, breast cancer, dating, female friendships, career aspirations, and the experiences of lesbian and transgender women. All the episodes in the program have at least one woman credited as a writer and star.

This series is just a small sample of the many talented women on-screen and behind-the-scenes who made some of our favorite TV moments. Be sure to visit the Paley Archive library to see more examples from these shows and many others.

Screenings from the Paley Archive are included with General Admission to The Paley Museum. All FREE for Paley Members, become a Paley Member now for this and many other benefits.

Note: There will be no screenings in the Bennack Theater on Thursday, March 9. These programs are available to watch in the Library on the fourth floor. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Women's History Month Online Experience: Watch Paley Events


Screenings in the Bennack Theater

12:10 pm
I Love Lucy: “Lucy Is Enceinte”
Nicknamed the “First Couple of Television,” Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz helmed one of the most popular comedies of all time. Pushing back on executives’ notes to hide Ball’s real-life pregnancy, the stars and their writers, including Madelyn Pugh Davis, incorporated the happy news into the show. (1952)

12:38 pm
That Girl: “The Mating Game”
Setting the groundwork for shows about independent women, That Girl follows Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) as she tries to get her acting career off the ground and make her new boyfriend happy. Writer Treva Silverman was still early in her career when she cowrote this cheeky episode about dating expectations in the 1960s. (1967)

1:07 pm
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: “Assistant Wanted, Female”
Just a few years after Marlo Thomas tried her luck in New York City, Mary Tyler Moore hit the road to Minneapolis to work at a TV station as an associate producer. Treva Silverman wrote more than a dozen episodes of the show, including “Assistant Wanted, Female,” in which an overworked Mary hires an assistant who turns out to be more trouble than help. (1970)

1:33 pm
Maude: “Maude's Dilemma: Part 2”
Susan Harris was only a few years into her career when she wrote one of the most outstanding television episodes of the 1970s. The story followed Maude (Bea Arthur), an outspoken liberal feminist, as she realizes she’s pregnant in her late forties. After talking with her daughter and husband, she decides to have an abortion—a timely subject in the months leading up to Roe v. Wade. (1972)

2:00 pm
The Golden Girls: “The Engagement” (Pilot)
More than a decade after their Maude episode, Susan Harris reteamed with Bea Arthur on a new show called The Golden Girls. It became one of the biggest sitcoms in television history, but it all started in the kitchen of a Miami house shared between Dorothy (Arthur), Blanche (Rue McClanahan), Rose (Betty White), and Dorothy’s mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty). (1985) 

2:25 pm
Murphy Brown: “Ectomy, Schmectomy”
Diane English’s sharp-tongued journalist Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) became a surprise candidate to lead a national discussion about breast cancer after her character is diagnosed on the show. In Janis Hirsch’s episode, Brown works up the nerve to tell her colleagues about her diagnosis. (1997) 

2:48 pm
Girlfriends (Unaired Pilot)
Created by Mara Brock Akil, Girlfriends is a sitcom about four close friends in Los Angeles coping with the pressures of having it all. In Kim Collier’s unaired pilot, the show introduces the group’s dynamic leader, Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), as she’s dumped on her twenty-ninth birthday and forced to ask a coworker to be her date for a party.

3:12 pm
Orange Is the New Black: “Lesbian Request Denied” (Includes mature content)
Jenji Kohan’s show first followed the story of Piper (Taylor Schilling) as she ends up in prison, but soon the narrative branched out to explore the lives of her fellow inmates, including Sophia (Laverne Cox), a transgender woman serving prison time for credit card fraud. Cox became the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy for her work on this episode written by Sian Heder and directed by Jodie Foster. (2013)

4:10 pm
One Day at a Time: “Quinces”
Based on the Norman Lear show of the same name, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce’s remake follows a single Cuban-American mother, Penelope (Justina Machado), raising her two children with her mother. In the first season finale cowritten by Calderón Kellett and Royce, the celebration of her daughter’s quinceañera brings unexpected challenges after Elena (Isabella Gomez) comes out to her estranged father. (2017)

4:40 pm
Fresh Off the Boat: “A League of Her Own”
Brought to prime time by Nahnatchka Khan, “Fresh Off the Boat” took inspiration from chef Eddie Huang’s memoir about moving with his family from Washington, D.C. to Central Florida. Amelie Gillette’s episode “A League of Her Own” follows Eddie’s mom, Jessica (Constance Wu), as she learns one of her son’s friends is a lesbian, and she decides to step up to manage a lesbian bar’s softball team to play against her husband’s restaurant's baseball team. (2017)

5:10 pm
Insecure: “Ghost-Like” (Includes mature content)
Based on Issa Rae’s popular web series, Insecure follows the misadventures of her character, Issa, and her friends, like the career-oriented Molly (Yvonne Orji), and Issa’s on-and-off-again relationship with Lawrence (Jay Ellis). In this episode directed by Regina King and cowritten by Rae and Natasha Rothwell, Issa is struggling to organize a block party and enjoy a drama-free thirtieth birthday. (2018) 

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