1. Issa Rae
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of the HBO series Insecure. Prior to that, she was known for her web series Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.
What she gave us in 2016: A much-anticipated and critically acclaimed TV debut that is artfully invested in the everyday comedy and drama of adulthood. And the promise of more to come, with her comedic anthology series Minimum Wage in the works.
2. Michaela Coel
Who she is: Creator, composer, lead actor, and sole writer of Chewing Gum, which aired on E4 in 2015 but came to Netflix for the US in 2016.
What she gave us in 2016: Stateside access to a series built on fun raunch and the electric presence of Coel’s own star power. Not to mention production on the eagerly awaited second season, because we already need more.
3. Rebecca Sugar
Who she is: The mastermind behind Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, working as the executive producer and storyboard artist as well as writing the story for the series and most of its music.
What she gave us in 2016: Another thoroughly beloved season of Steven Universe’s particular brand of deeply felt humanity, which was especially needed in a year as bleak as 2016.
4. Ava DuVernay
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and director of Queen Sugar on OWN. You may also know her as the director of Selma, Netflix’s 13th, and the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time.
What she gave us in 2016: A beautifully realized series that employed a crew of all-women directors for its first season. DuVernay also gave the world a devastatingly necessary look at the prison system.
5. Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Who she is: A playwright making waves in television. She’s the creator, sole writer, and star of Channel 4’s Crashing and BBC Three/Amazon’s Fleabag, with a third show in the works for BBC America.
What she gave us in 2016: Two unflinching and brilliant series that mix bawdiness with emotional tragedy better than nearly anything else on TV.
6. Rachel Bloom
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on The CW.
What she gave us in 2016: A mental roller coaster that has its most fun in the brain’s darkest moments. Plus, some great new songs to hum along to.
7. Aline Brosh McKenna
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Previously, she wrote the screenplays for The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, Morning Glory, and more.
What she gave us in 2016: Another season of one of the most unique network shows out there, with enough cringeworthy moments to power a thousand anxiety dreams and enough heart to make it sing.
8. Misha Green
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Underground for WGN America. She also wrote for Heroes and Sons of Anarchy, and was a producer on Helix.
What she gave us in 2016: A tense, thrilling apocalypse drama that also happens to be from our very own history. Not to mention the promise of Aisha Hinds as Harriet Tubman in Season 2.
10. Nahnatchka Khan
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Fresh Off the Boat for ABC. She also created the network’s late comedy Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23.
What she gave us in 2016: A continuation of Constance Wu’s note-perfect insatiable matriarch/queen Jessica Huang. That is a gift to humanity we should never overlook.
11. Sarah-Violet Bliss
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and director of Search Party for TBS. Bliss also wrote on Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
What she gave us in 2016: A dark comedy with incisive instincts, at once suspenseful and irreverent. Oh, and Alia Shawkat back in our lives.
12. Corinne Brinkerhoff
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of No Tomorrow for The CW and American Gothic for CBS.
What she gave us in 2016: Joshua Sasse still employed on our televisions in a carpe diem show all about making the most out of whatever life you’ve got left.
13. Amy Sherman-Palladino
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life for Netflix. Also directed and wrote two of the four episodes of A Year in the Life. Sherman-Palladino also created Bunheads.
What she gave us in 2016: Both a goodbye and a new beginning. Ultimately, an emotional reminder of all that Gilmore Girls was and of what Sherman-Palladino’s creation meant to us in the first place.
14. Lisa Joy
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Westworld for HBO. She was also a writer and producer for Burn Notice and a writer on Pushing Daisies.
What she gave us in 2016: One of the most talked-about shows of the year — and one that’s deeply enmeshed in stories of feminine autonomy.
15. Courtney Kemp Agboh
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Power for Starz. Prior to that, Agboh was a producer on Beauty and the Beast, Hawaii Five-0, The Good Wife, Happy Town, and My Own Worst Enemy. She also wrote for The Bernie Mac Show, Justice, Eli Stone, and more.
What she gave us in 2016: A record number of viewers for the Season 3 premiere of Power. And Anika Noni Rose in a pivotal role, which is always welcome and encouraged.
16. Pamela Adlon
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of Better Things for FX. Adlon is also known for writing and acting on Louie, for her performance on Californication, and for a lot of voice work on shows like Rugrats, Rocket Power, and Bob’s Burgers.
What she gave us in 2016: A compelling portrait of middle-aged LA mom life.
17. Julie Klausner
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of Difficult People for Hulu. Previously, Klausner was a writer for The Big Gay Sketch Show and Best Week Ever With Paul F. Thompkins. She also created Welcome to Our House and executive produced Billy on the Street.
What she gave us in 2016: A second season of the cutting, risky humor of Difficult People, built for the snarky cultural polyglot in your life. Oh, and cameos by everyone from Lin-Manuel Miranda, to Nyle DiMarco, to Tina Fey.
18. Sally Wainwright
Who she is: Playwright and television powerhouse. Wainwright is the creator, executive producer, and director of Happy Valley for BBC. She’s also the creator and executive producer of BBC One’s Last Tango in Halifax, ITV’s Scott & Bailey, and BBC One’s To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. Previously, she created and wrote At Home With the Braithwaites, and served as executive producer on Unforgiven, producer on Sparkhouse, Jane Hall, and The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, and writer on Coronation Street, Revelatoons, Playing the Field, and more.
What she gave us in 2016: New seasons of not one but three shows, each dealing in different modes — revenge, marriage, etc. — but each also managing to grab audiences by the head and kick them in the gut.
19. Mindy Kaling
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of The Mindy Project for Hulu. Before that, she was one of the writers and stars of NBC’s The Office. Kaling is also currently filming roles in A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s Eight.
What she gave us in 2016: Another enjoyable season on Hulu, with a great guest arc by Bryan Greenberg and a performance by Kaling that continues to somehow ground a show with such an ungrounded main character.
20. Tig Notaro
Who she is: Comedian and creator, executive producer, and star of One Mississippi for Amazon. She previously wrote on Inside Amy Schumer and directed her comedy special Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted for HBO.
What she gave us in 2016: The harrowing and eternally memorable story of her illness and the loss of her mother, as translated into a semiautobiographical series.
21. Diablo Cody
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of One Mississippi for Amazon. She also created and executive produced United States of Tara for Showtime, and she casually has an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Juno.
What she gave us in 2016: The TV version of Tig Notaro’s incredible aforementioned story. It’s her first executive producer role on TV since Tara, which ended in 2011.
22. Sharon Horgan
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and star of Catastrophe for Channel 4/Amazon. She’s also the creator and executive producer for the HBO series Divorce, as well as the Channel 4 one-off The Circuit and the BBC’s The Motherland. Additionally, Horgan is executive producing Bliss for Sky, scheduled for 2017.
What she gave us in 2016: Sarah Jessica Parker’s return to TV, and so much more of that gut-busting dialogue she’s known for.
23. Shonda Rhimes
Who she is: Queen of ShondaLand and all it produces. She’s the creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, as well as the executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder and The Catch. In addition to owning Thursday nights on ABC, Rhimes also has a number of projects expected in 2017, including Show and Tell, Starcrossed, Lawless, and an untitled Dana Calvo project.
What she gave us in 2016: The 13th season of Grey’s, the fifth of Scandal, the third of Murder, and the debut of The Catch — all with the breakneck pace and practically patented melodrama acrobatics she built into a TV empire.
24. Dana Calvo
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Good Girls Revolt for Amazon. She’s also the creator and executive producer for that as-yet-untitled project for ShondaLand expected in 2017. Previously, Calvo was the executive producer for Narcos and a producer for Greek, Covert Affairs, Franklin & Bash, and Made in Jersey.
What she gave us in 2016: The debut season of Good Girls Revolt, which follows the fight for women’s rights at a newspaper in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
25. Jill Soloway
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Transparent and I Love Dick for Amazon. Previously, Soloway was a producer on Six Feet Under, Nikki, Grey’s Anatomy, United States of Tara, and more.
What she gave us in 2016: Season 3 of one intensely critically acclaimed series, and the premiere of another. Not to mention arguably the most trans-inclusive space on television, behind the scenes and onscreen.
26. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Sweet/Vicious for MTV.
What she gave us in 2016: The debut of her first series, which follows two young women who decide to act as vigilantes against young men on their college campus who’ve been accused of rape.
27. Jenji Kohan
Who she is: Creator and executive producer for Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, as well as for the upcoming Netflix series G.L.O.W. She previously created and executive produced Weeds, and acted as a producer on Gilmore Girls, Tracey Takes On…, Mad About You, and more.
What she gave us in 2016: A continuation of Orange Is the New Black’s ballsy attitude, including some no-holds-barred storylines that ripped out our hearts.
28. Abbi Jacobson
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and co-star of Broad City for Comedy Central.
What she gave us in 2016: Another season of her and Ilana Glazer’s beloved antics, including storylines that dove deeper into the characters’ backstories and their emotional sore spots.
29. Ilana Glazer
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, and co-star of Broad City for Comedy Central.
What she gave us in 2016: Season 3 of Broad City’s wonderful wildness, complete with a cameo by Hillary Clinton.
30. Amy Seimetz
Who she is: Creator, executive producer, writer, and director of The Girlfriend Experience for Starz. She also appeared in the series.
What she gave us in 2016: The debut season of an anthology series that lives the coolness of floor-to-ceiling windows, law-student-by-day-call-girl-by-night escapades, sex, sex, and — you guessed it — more sex.
31. Michelle King
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of The Good Wife for CBS and its spin-off, The Good Fight, for CBS All Access. Also creator and executive producer for BrainDead for CBS. She previously created and executive produced In Justice.
What she gave us in 2016: An end to a beloved series and a captivating main character. The finale slapped us right across the face, and we won’t stop talking about it for a long time. Especially with that spinoff coming around the bend.
32. Ali Adler
Who she is: Creator and executive producer of Supergirl for The CW. Previously, Adler was executive producer on The New Normal, Glee, No Ordinary Family, Chuck, Emily’s Reasons Why Not, Commander in Chief, and Life as We Know It.
What she gave us in 2016: One of TV’s most steadfastly sunny shows, reborn on The CW — and this time, bringing us a coming-out story and a queer romance that’s got viewers leaning forward in their chairs and wishing for more.
They’re out here, making our TV . Here’s to so much more in 2017.
Hit the comments to tell us more of your favorite women who worked behind the scenes on TV this year.
For more Best of 2016 content, click here!
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