Viola Davis is a law professor, Kate Walsh is a judge. Téa Leoni is secretary of state, Alfre Woodard is president.

Women are at the helm of this TV season.

Fall television will bring plenty of superheroes, a few new rom-coms and another installment in the “NCIS” franchise. But more than anything, it brings strong female characters to the forefront.

Of the 24 new shows on the five major networks, seven focus on female stars. Six others have a female and male lead who receive equal billing. And that’s not even mentioning the number of returning shows starring women.

So why the focus on female faces?

Maybe it’s the real-life women in charge providing inspiration for TV writers. One can’t help but see Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice in “Madam Secretary” or even “State of Affairs.”

Maybe it’s the success of previous female-fronted shows, like ABC’s “Scandal” led by Kerry Washington, proving to networks that woman are powerful forces on TV.

Or maybe it’s just the realization that TV audiences want to watch characters that represent them — in gender as well as ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Whatever the reason, shows led by women look to be some of the brightest spots on your TV this fall:

“How to Get Away With Murder” stars the Tony Award-winning and Oscar-nominated Viola Davis as a law professor who becomes involved in a murder case. The show, from uber-successful producer Shonda Rhimes, joins other Rhimes hits “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” on Thursday night.

On “Madam Secretary,” Téa Leoni is a retired CIA agent asked by her former boss (who just happens to be the president) to take over as secretary of state after a plane crash kills the current Cabinet member. The series’ creator, Barbara Hall, was an executive producer of the Showtime drama “Homeland.”

“State of Affairs” stars two TV veterans as women in positions of power. Katherine Heigl is a CIA analyst tasked with providing the president, played by Alfre Woodard, with info on the biggest crises each day.

In “Stalker,” Maggie Q is a fierce lieutenant who works with a detective played Dylan McDermott investigating stalking cases in this already controversial show from Kevin Williamson. Warning: There’s lots of violence.

Anna Gunn and David Tennant star in “Gracepoint,” a remake of the British “Broadchurch.” The pair are detectives investigating a boy’s death in a seaside town.

Kate Walsh has done drama and now is trying her hand at comedy. In “Bad Judge,” Walsh is a tough judge with a wild lifestyle when not on the bench.

Debra Messing is back on NBC in “The Mysteries of Laura,” an adaptation of a Spanish TV show. Messing’s Laura is an NYPD homicide detective balancing work and a messy home life.

“Cristela” was created by stand-up comedian Cristela Alonzo and follows a Mexican-American law school grad dealing with the concerns of her family.

“Jane the Virgin,” based on a Venezuelan telenovela, stars Gina Rodriguez as a religious woman who is artificially inseminated accidentally.

A sitcom remake of “My Fair Lady,” “Selfie” stars Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley (instead of Doolittle). John Cho is her Henry Higenbottam.

Cristin Milioti, the mother on “How I Met Your Mother,” stars with Ben Feldman in the rom-com “A to Z,” which chronicles a courtship from, well, A to Z.

“Marry Me” stars Casey Wilson and Ken Marino as longtime friends who are destined to be together — at least that’s what we think.

In “Manhattan Love Story,” Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman are a new couple whose internal monologues tell their actual feelings.

* * *

What to watch this fall


My most anticipated new shows of the season:

“Black-ish,” ABC: Anthony Anderson is an upper-middle-class black man who wants his family to retain its cultural identity. Lots of laughs and social commentary.

“The Flash,” CW: This “Arrow” spinoff about a forensics investigator blessed with super-speed looks like a lot of fun.

“Gotham,” Fox: One of the most anticipated series of the fall gives us a moody look at Gotham before Batman.

“Gracepoint,” Fox: If you saw the British “Broadchurch,” this will feel very familiar. But if you haven’t, it’s a fantastic crime drama.

“How to Get Away With Murder,” ABC: Yes, I am predisposed to like any Shonda Rhimes show. But one with Viola Davis in it? I would watch that every day.

“Jane the Virgin,” CW: An accidental artificial insemination is a silly premise, but star Gina Rodriguez is charming, and the telenovela style seems fun.

“Madam Secretary,” CBS: Téa Leoni is a no-nonsense former CIA agent thrust into international crises as the new secretary of state.

“Red Band Society,” Fox: Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is the nurse who keeps a ward of sick kids in line in this inspirational show.


Don’t forget about our old favorites. These are the plotlines I’m most interested to see resolved in our returning shows:

“The Big Bang Theory,” CBS: How far did Sheldon get on his cross-country trip? And how will his relationship with Amy move forward?

“The Blacklist,” NBC: Though Liz is still working with Red, she’ll question his motives this season. As will we all.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Fox: The premiere picks up six months after last season’s finale, with Jake having been undercover. How will Amy respond to his declaration?

“The Goldbergs,” ABC: Will Adam take the next step in his relationship with Dana? We bet Beverly will have opinions about that.

“The Good Wife,” CBS: Despite the tease at the end of last season, Alicia won’t run for state’s attorney. But will Diane join Florrick/Agos?

“The Mindy Project,” Fox: Will the sparks still fly now that Mindy and Danny are together? And, in terms of searching for a relationship, is Peter the new Mindy?

“Scandal,” ABC: Where’s Olivia? The ultimate fixer won’t be gone long, of course, but even a short absence will have ramifications for her crew (and the president).

“The Walking Dead,” AMC: The only good thing to happen at Terminus was the gang reuniting. Who will survive the bloodbath that undoubtedly comes next?


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