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Group Says Men Still Write, Direct, Produce Most Top TV Shows

August 27, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ While women are moving into more behind-the-scenes jobs in television, men still write, direct and produce most of the top TV shows, according to a study by the private National Commission on Working Women.

With the exception of a few programs - notably ″My Sister Sam″ and ″LA Law″ - women remain clustered in lower-ranking jobs where they have no control over hiring or program content, the study says.

The study looked at jobs from executive producer to writer ″because these are the decision-makers that influence not only the content of a program but who gets hired in the rest of the jobs,″ Cindy Marano, executive director of the commission’s parent group, Wider Opportunities for Women, said in an interview Thursday.

The commission tallied the number of women in six jobs - executive producer, supervising producer, producer, co-producer, writer and director - on 10 randomly selected episodes of each of the 20 highest-rated prime-time programs of the 1986-87 season.

″My Sister Sam″ had the highest percentage of female producers, directors and writers and was the only program where the executive producer slot, which is sometimes a shared position, was solely female, the study said.

″LA Law″ and ″Dynasty″ were the only other programs where women were working as producers, directors and writers.

On three other programs - ″The Cosby Show,″ ″Falcon Crest″ and ″Dynasty″ - women shared executive producer credits with men. Nine shows had women working as some kind of producer.

Fourteen of the 20 shows had no women directors during the episodes monitored, but 17 had at least one woman writer.

″Murder, She Wrote,″ was the only show that had no women as producers, writers or directors in the two episodes that were reviewed.

Though the study did not analyze the content of the programs monitored, Marano said it is apparant that the portrayal of women improves where there is a team of women working on a show.

″It is interesting in ‘My Sister Sam’ that you have a woman running her own business, she has hired other women and is a strong role model for her sister,″ Marano said.

″In ‘LA Law’ you see women working in all positions in the law firm and their characters are developed,″ she said.

″We’re quite sure that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t so many women″ working in key positions on the program, she said.

But based on interviews with industry insiders, the study concluded that ″any woman writer, producer or director who is advancing within the ranks of television is performing a feat as demanding psychologically, emotionally and intellectually as the physical challenge of scaling a snow-covered cliff.″