Today’s Distraction: Age and the Modern TV Network Drama

Prompted by these tweets of the redoubtable (Always Toxic) Laura Hudson’s, and the conversation that followed–really, the fact that deadlines meant that I had to drop out of said conversation–I found myself looking into whether or not TV dramas were skewed towards female leads under 30. The answer, as they say, may surprise you. Or, at least, it surprised me.

I took all the U.S. network dramas from the fall 2014 season–purely because it was closer to hand–and looked up the ages of the female leads in each show. There’re some guesses as to who the female lead will be in some shows–I chose Jada Pinkett Smith for Gotham because her signing was the biggest news, but I’m uncertain whether she’s going to stay on the show past a year, for example–but my guide was generally “which female actor has the biggest role and/or serves as audience POV?” (Hence my choice of Jennifer Morrison for Once Upon a Time, for example). Also, shows that specifically center around the female lead (As opposed to, say, “He’s the hero, she’s the love interest” or whatever) are in bold; in cases where it’s an ensemble or two-hander where the female lead(s) have equal weight to male stars, it’s in italic.

Anyway, the results are below:

Castle (Female lead: 36)
Agents of SHIELD (Female lead: 50)
Forever (Female lead: 38)
Nashville (Female lead: 47)
Grey’s Anatomy (Female lead: 44)
Scandal (Female lead: 37)
How to Get Away with Murder (Female lead: 48)
Once Upon A Time (Female lead: 35)
Resurrection (Female lead: 62)
Revenge (Female lead: 28)

NCIS: Los Angeles (Female lead: 30)
NCIS: New Orleans (Female lead: 40)
Person of Interest (Female lead: 43)
Criminal Minds (Female lead: 35)
Stalker (Female lead: 35)
Elementary (Female lead: 45)
Hawaii Five-O (Female lead: 40)
Blue Bloods (Female lead: 44)
Madam Secretary (Female lead: 48)
The Good Wife (Female lead: 48)
CSI: Cyber (Female lead: 46)

Gotham (Female lead: 42, if it’s Jada Pinkett Smith, which–it probably)
Sleepy Hollow (Female lead: 29)
Red Band Society (Female lead: 44)
Bones (Female lead: 37)
Gracepoint (Female lead: 45)

The Blacklist (Female lead: 31)
State of Affairs (Female lead: 35)
Chicago Fire (Female lead: 32)
The Mysteries of Laura (Female lead: 45)
Law & Order: SVU (Female lead: 50)
Chicago PD (Female lead: 31)
Parenthood (Female lead: 47)
Constantine (Female lead: 27)

What surprised me about the outcome was that I genuinely thought there would be more leads 35 and under — instead, we have 19 (maybe 18, depending on Gotham) shows out of 34 where the female lead is over 40. Of course, now I have to do it for male leads and cable shows, but seriously: deadlines are calling loudly enough already.

Edited to add: I completely forgot the CW, but let’s be honest: They’re all 12 on there anyway.