Wiles in TV Land

By John Nathan

Since its earliest days, women and their wiles have been responsible for some of the most entertaining and memorable moments in television.

Who didn’t delight every time the “Golden Girls” honey-throated belle “Blanche Deveraux” reduced a man to mere putty in her hands? Without question, the entire crux of the beloved “I Love Lucy” series revolved around “Lucy’s” ability to coerce “Ricky” or “Ethel” (and oftentimes, both of them!) into one outrageous scheme after another. And in the 1970’s crime classic “Charlie’s Angels,” the Townsend Agency’s elusive “Charlie” relied completely on his “angels’” ability to beguile criminals with their beauty and wits in order to crack each week’s case.

The list of fabulous Wiles women from television history could go on and on, and so could the debate about who’s worked their wiles the best. I mean, think about it, I haven’t even touched soap opera divas or vamps from reality shows, yet! So, since it’s impossible to list them all, let’s take a quick moment, instead, to relive just a few of our favorite Wiles moments in TV Land!

I LOVE LUCY: During an era when most women and people of color undeniably “knew their place,” Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz broke barriers, partnered, and became one of the most powerful and successful comedy duos who ever lived. In this unforgettable “Equal Rights” episode, “Lucy” and “Ethel” use their feminine wiles to exact revenge on “Ricky” and “Fred” for, dare I say, treating them like “men.” The hilarious twist of irony is that just when you think Lucy’s plan has blown up in her face, her femininity seals her victory in this battle of the sexes!

In the decades that followed “I Love Lucy,” television and society began to evolve. The images of traditional, doting housewives like “June Cleaver” and “Harriet Nelson” gave way in the ‘60’s and 70’s to portrayals of ambitious career women like “Mary Richards” on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Diahann Carroll’s groundbreaking “Julia Baker” on “Juila” and Marlo Thomas as “Ann Marie” on “That Girl.”

By the 1980’s, post-Civil Rights era cultural and socioeconomic advances were being regularly reflected in prime time. Not only were the doors of television opened to characters who were professional women and, in every way, their husbands’ equals but shows boasting affluent, educated people of color in leading roles became a reality. In fact, in the case of the hit sitcom “The Cosby Show,” they actually became mainstream.

THE COSBY SHOW: More than 25 years after it premiered on NBC, “The Cosby Show” still remains a fan favorite across various demographics. And we’ll forever be grateful to its creators for introducing audiences to one of the most formidable Wiles women of all-time: the elegant, effervescent, no-nonsense “Clair Huxtable.” In this clip, the show’s irrepressible matriarch lays down a silver-tongued lesson on equality in marriage to her future son-in-law “Elvin.” She unleashes a perfect storm of eloquence, power and femininity all at once on the poor boy – without batting a single eyelash!

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: In the new millennia, women and their wiles on television have obviously come full circle, as a little show ironically called “Desperate Housewives” remains one of the highest-rated shows featuring female leads. In a cast filled with over-the-top, equally desperate divas, Eva Longoria commands our attention as “Gabrielle Solis” – the spoiled, narcissistic vamp of Wisteria Lane.

In this tender moment between Gabrielle and her husband Carlos Solis, Carlos explains to the self-absorbed stunner the true meaning of beauty; illustrating how sometimes, being that self-deprecating girl who doesn’t take herself too seriously is actually what a man finds irresistible.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our fantastic voyage through TVLand and the unforgettable women we’ve visited along the way. So now, we’d like to hear from you. Did your favorite Wiles woman from TV Land make our favorites list?

We want to hear from you, so please “Like” us on Facebook and join other Wiles readers as we continue the discussion there!

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