So far I’ve attended screenings of the pilot episode in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. Sunday night, the episode will play in Times Square, NYC — a venue so astonishingly legendary that I’m having trouble imagining how it will all work out.
In each of the screenings, we’ve had audiences of about 250, 85% of them women. And there’s a pattern I’m seeing in their responses, an enthusiasm based on themes that women really get. It’s not just about women as team players or women as competent human beings. It’s about women as people who can do diverse jobs such as homicide investigator or medical examiner, while still being women.
It’s a theme that I wasn’t consciously aware of when I was writing the books. Since I’m a woman, it was natural for me to write them from a woman’s point of view. I know that women aren’t automatons. We don’t go to work like good soldiers and tackle perps exactly like the guys. We have concerns that men don’t have and aren’t even aware of. Those of us who work in male-dominated fields (and I was one of them during my early days as a doctor) struggle to be “like the guys” in so many ways. Our mantra is: “don’t show weakness. Be strong. Work twice as hard.” But when we leave work and get home, we fall back into who we are: women. And that means families, troublesome moms and boyfriends, getting dinner on the table. And, yes, maybe drooling over a new pair of high heels. We live double lives, and our male colleagues get to see only one side of us.
That’s what “Rizzoli & Isles” stresses – the fact that a female homicide cop is not just a homicide cop. She’s a woman with her own issues. And maybe the only other person who understands her at work is another woman.
At the Philadelphia screening, a number of women who showed up happened to be police officers. And some of them were dressed quite elegantly — in fact, one of them asked why Jane Rizzoli couldn’t be better dressed on the show! What they loved was how Jane took charge and wasn’t afraid to tackle a suspect in a creek with no backup. They loved that she didn’t need a man to rescue her. They loved that in the end, SHE was the one who saved her own life.
And when she collapsed under the weight of fear and the struggle to look brave, she was able to turn to one colleague: Maura Isles, who wasn’t going to judge her weakness.
I know that the female buddy TV show was done — what, 20 years ago? — in Cagney and Lacey. But you have to look hard in this male-dominated TV industry to find another show with that theme of women standing up for each other, even when they may be romantic rivals. I love the fact that this show, from bottom to top, is female driven. I created the characters. The writer and executive producer of the series is Janet Tamaro, a firecracker of a woman who understands what it’s like to be a gal in a male-dominated field. And the stars are two women. It’s an unusual combination, and the women seem to be responding.
Let’s hope they all tune in Monday night.