The Glutton

Tough Gals Take Over TV

Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, and Glenn Close have all the juice these days -- and Dalton's not complaining. Plus: The Five Best Uses of Cowbell, ''Daddy Day Camp,'' and answers to reader mail

SEDGWICK ''She's like Cagney and Lacey rolled into one...Cacey, if you will,'' marvels the Glutton
SEDGWICK ''She's like Cagney and Lacey rolled into one...Cacey, if you will,'' marvels the Glutton

Kyra, Holly, Glenn: loving tough TV gals

TV used to be filled with men's men, who went by snazzy names like Magnum, Walker, and Nash. They were out there kicking ass with silly hats on and providing awesome one-liners along the way. Outside of the occasional Mary Richards or Murphy Brown, males have ruled the TV scene for decades. So what the hell is going on this summer? Everywhere I look, I see women. And not just ditzy Chrissy on Three's Company-type women, but smart, sassy women who look like they could beat me up (granted, not all that difficult). I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous. For the first time in my life, I'm starting to feel like my TV is from Venus instead of Mars, giving new meaning to the term boob tube.

Like everything in life, you can trace it all back to Kevin Bacon. Or, in this case, his wife. When Kyra Sedgwick first busted out her fake Southern accent on The Closer two years ago, she ushered in new breed of protagonist: the hard-as-nails heroine. As deputy police chief Brenda Johnson, Sedgwick illustrates that women can look good yet talk tough. She's like Cagney and Lacey rolled into one...Cacey, if you will. Brenda is intense. She's multidimensional. She uses words like ''malarkey.'' In other words, she's more intriguing than 99 percent of female movie characters these days. Which explains why other film actresses over the age of 40, who can't get a decent silver-screen role, are migrating to TV in record numbers.

Wait? Did someone just say Holly Hunter? Hunter made the move this summer with TNT's Saving Grace, in which she plays a wayward police detective given a second chance at redemption by an angel named Earl. I know, it sounds awful. But Hunter isn't playing a kindly, sensitive soul who winks up at the Lord Almighty after carrying out His good deeds. She's giving viewers a complex, conflicted character who gets sloppy drunk (been there), likes to hit people in the face (been there — on the receiving end), and enjoys posing naked in front of senior citizens (not quite there yet).

And take Glenn Close...if you dare! On FX's Damages, she's a cutthroat trial lawyer who revels in publicly mocking her opponents' manhood. (Been there too, unfortunately.) What are they gonna do about it? The woman boils bunnies! No male TV star can match that. In fact, the dominant male TV character appears to be a dying breed. Bill Paxton thinks he's running the show on HBO's Big Love, but guess what? He's outnumbered three-to-one! Denis Leary used to be the ultimate rebel on FX's Rescue Me, only to now be hilariously undone by his sexually suggestive, beer-swigging, mechanically savvy superior — a woman.

As if there were any doubt left that women are taking over television, they've now even infiltrated one of the last safe havens of dudedom — the military. Lifetime's Army Wives features spouses who kick unruly teens in the groin, practice boxing, and tell off their slacker husbands. One of the titular wives is an actual officer who informs her civilian hubby that she'd rather sleep with her gun in Afghanistan than with him back home. Ouch! What happened to snuggle time? The truth is, I'm happy there are finally real, dynamic female characters that women viewers can love, hate, or even love to hate. It's about time. I just hope they leave a little something for us guys when all is said and done. And According to Jim doesn't count.

THE FIVE

This week: The Five Most Incredibly Awesome Examples of Cowbell in Song

1. Bachman-Turner Overdrive's ''You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet''
Cowbell so strong I can even overlook all the random stuttering taking place.

2. Blue Oyster Cult's ''(Don't Fear) the Reaper''
Nor do they fear the cowbell, judging by the approximately 8,327 times they use it here.

3. Def Leppard's ''Rock of Ages''
What a kick-ass intro. Now if only I could figure out what ''Gunter glieben glauchen globen'' means.

4. Guns N' Roses' ''Mr. Brownstone''
Forget heroin! What GN'R really OD'd on was cowbell, with eight songs from their debut rockin' the bell.

5. EMF's ''Unbelievable''
The cowbell is actually less impressive than the fact that they scored a hit by sampling Andrew Dice Clay.

NEXT PAGE: Obsession of the week, and reader mail

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