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TV: Mrs America is gripping, fascinating… and (spoiler alert) depressing

© FX/Sabrina LantosRose Byrne plays Gloria Steinem in Mrs America
Rose Byrne plays Gloria Steinem in Mrs America

That age-old narrative of pitting woman against woman has reared its Medusa-style head once again in a glossy, big-budget drama.

Yet this slick series recounts the real gender war waged in ’70s America over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Equality for all sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not for conservative, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, played by the formidable Cate Blanchett, who rallied a legion of homemakers against the ERA.

Watching the fiercely optimistic leaders of the Women’s Liberation Movement, including Rose Byrne’s Gloria Steinem, is a little depressing though as we know how this particular fight for equality ends – the ERA remains unsigned 50 years on.

Thanks to Blanchett’s brilliant acting, the politically shrewd and intelligent Schlafly comes across as frustrated anti-hero rather than outright villain, especially in a scene where she’s asked to take minutes during a meeting with the government.

Mrs America is an entertaining ride, driven by powerful acting. Yet in this cautionary tale of “divided we fall”, neither the feminist libbers nor homemakers triumph, although Schlafly might tell herself differently.

You can guess who does. As Steinem incredulously asks at one point: “Have they finally found a smokescreen for their chauvinism… women?” Sigh.

Mrs America BBC2, Wednesday, 9pm.


Paul O’Grady: For The Love Of Dogs, ITV, Wednesday

Our favourite canine lover returned with a lockdown special of the hit show that takes us behind-the-scenes at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

It was all hands and paws on deck to help as many of its fluffy residents as possible find their forever homes during the pandemic.

As usual, we were on an emotional rollercoaster but that warm, fuzzy feeling we get from seeing adorable puppers get their happy ending was definitely something we all needed just now.