Author Jeanine Furino is a self-professed TV fanatic. A few years ago she started a Twitter account devoted to vintage movies and classic TV series. Her popular Retro TV Lovers blog has thousands of followers including actors from classic TV shows, including: Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver), Kathy Garver (Family Affair), Judy Norton (The Waltons), Brandon Cruz (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) and Alison Arngrim (Little House on the Prairie).
All the Single Girls tells the story of the American single woman as she has been depicted on television from the 1950s to 2014, and how she has evolved in response to, and along with, the ever changing world she lives in. The book includes interviews with actresses Sharon Gless, Susan Silo, and others, with over 130 series discussed in detail, some of which include: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day at a Time, Ally McBeal, New Girl and more.
Jeanine Furino chatted with us about the process of writing the book, her favorite TV shows and what she’s writing next. Read on for more.
How did you get the idea to write “All the Single Girls”?
I’ve always loved old television shows and while watching Our Miss Brooks wondered which other shows featured single women in the 1950s. From there I started researching the 1960s and when I tried to find information on the subject, I couldn’t find very much. So I thought, why not write a book about the history of the single woman on TV?
Wow! Such a massive undertaking. You included every TV show that featured a single girl from the 1950s to present. Even the “One Season Wonders”. Did not expect that. From concept to finish how long did it take to complete?
I came up with the idea to research television shows about single women about 5 years ago, but didn’t really start writing until two years later. So, it took five years from conception but really about 3 years to write it.
What television shows or characters were some of your favorites to write about?
Ann Marie of That Girl was always a favorite of mine from childhood. She was the first single woman to declare she was putting off marriage to pursue her career first. Then, of course, Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) for so many reasons, but most importantly, she stood up for her rights and pay as a woman in the workplace. Another favorite was Christine Cagney (Cagney & Lacey). She had a very clear goal to become the first female chief of police in New York City and she very poignantly admitted she wanted to have children, but decided not to, putting her career first.
In writing this book, did you discover any series that you had not watched before that you would recommend?
Absolutely. I had never watched either of the series Weeds or Nurse Jackie and I fell in love with those two deliciously flawed women. Going back to the 1950s, The Betty Hutton Show was really a pretty sweet series, it was well-acted and well-written. For newer series, I’d never watched Jane the Virgin and was surprised at how interesting, clever, and fun a show it is.
How has the portrayal of the single woman on television changed over the years?
She’s evolved on television as she has in the real world. She has many more options available to her. Over time as women became more liberated and started to be able to take control of their reproductive lives, women could take on any job or career. On TV in the 1970s we saw single divorced mothers, followed by single, never-married mothers in the 1980s and beyond. A lot of this had to do not just with the changing times, but it also directly relates to the growing presence of women as heads of studios and heads of programming, creating and writing series about women and for women. With the proliferation of studios owned by streaming services that are not run by advertising departments we are seeing much more freedom and diversity in our television heroines. We are experiencing a little oversaturation right now though. I mean, how many shows can you watch? But it’s a much more inclusive medium than ever before. It’s an exciting time for women and for single women on television.
Explain to our site’s readers, a bit more in detail about the graphic symbols next to the title of each TV show. That’ was a clever touch!
Thanks! Well, I realized that certain “types” of female characters kept cropping up, like: the woman who just wanted to marry (the rings icon); the career woman who had forsaken love (the briefcase icon); or the caregiver (usually a maid or nanny) who had given up on love, taking on her employer as her surrogate family (denoted by the apron icon). As time went on, and the country went through political and social changes, new types of women emerged: we saw the working mother (the Super Woman icon). In the 1950s and 1960s she was a widow (The Eve Arden Show or Julia), in the 1980s she was usually a divorced mother (Kate & Allie), and in the late 1980s onward, she could even be an unmarried mother (Murphy Brown). Retired single women, like The Golden Girls (the rocking chair icon), and the woman who isn’t sure what she wants out of life, like Molly Dodd (the question mark icon) are also represented. Then there is my favorite, the feminerd (Liz Lemon of 30 Rock, or Jessica Day of New Girl) who is expert at her job, but kind of clueless when it comes to love (nerd icon).
Impressive! What are you working on next?
I am researching and writing a book about single fathers on TV called All the Single Dads. There are a surprising number of them as I’m finding. I will cover series not just about biological fathers (like the classics My Three Sons and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), but also those who feature men who took on the role of father (like Bachelor Father). I hope to have the book available by the fall.
All the Single Dads, seems like the perfect follow-up. Will you be keeping the same format, or changing it up a bit?
All the Single Girls needed to be organized chronologically to see the progression of women’s roles and how single women have evolved and adapted to the changing world. I’m not sure yet that All the Single Dads will need to be kept in that format. I’ll have to see where my research takes me before I can make that determination. I’m having fun finding some TV shows I’d never heard of for this new project. So far, things are progressing nicely and I am excited to get this one completed by later this year.