Following up on the recent talk about women and behind-the-scenes jobs at The Daily Show, Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune looks at the overall numbers of female writers and showrunners in the U.S. TV industry. The percentage of women is low, and it doesn’t seem to have gotten a whole lot better in the last decade (according to Writers’ Guild statistics, the number of female writers only increased by 2% between 1999 and 2007). There’s no one stand-alone reason for this, of course. It’s a lot of interlocking issues, some unique to the entertainment industry, some very much not.
Speaking of which the thing that set off all this discussion was the Daily Show‘s hiring of Olivia Munn. This led to accusations, in that Jezebel piece and elsewhere, that Munn was hired for looks rather than talent. Since then, Munn has improved, and while no one knows if she’ll last on the show, it won’t be because she was any worse than any other new correspondent. With rare exceptions — Aasif Mandvi, perhaps — new Daily Show correspondents always come off as bad in their first segment, because it’s a tough gig: minimal rehearsal time, unfamiliar material, and a viewing audience that will find that person to be a strange interloper. It was a little pointless to write her off based on early appearances; those are tough appearances for anyone, male or female, pretty or homely.