The Mindy Project and The New Girl — starring two of the most quirky-cool ladies on TV, Mindy Kaling (as Mindy Lahiri) and Zooey Deschanel (as Jess Day) — return tonight on Fox. The female-anchored shows air back-to-back and have successfully maneuvered past their freshman seasons (The Mindy Project is entering its second season, while The New Girl will start its third), garnering fans and award nominations along the way.
While the myth of the manic pixie dream girl is alive and well in film, TV only recently seemed to embrace shows that orbited around a less-than-perfect, idiosyncratic female lead. It’s refreshing to finally see women who are beautiful and flawed and beautiful because they’re flawed: Girls who are Anthropologie sale-section connoisseurs and major klutzes. Girls who have wonderful gal-pal personalities and are at times wildly undateable. Girls who have ambitious careers and want families (someday).
So it’s high time we celebrate the evolution of the quirky girl on TV. Before Mindy and Zooey, there were ball- (and genre-) busting femmes who paved the way for quirky female characters everywhere. Here are 10 of the best quirky female characters ever on TV:
10. Jess Day (The New Girl, 2011-present)
Lady: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is a middle school teacher who moves in with a bunch of dudes after her boyfriend cheats on her.
Favorite Quirk: Jess likes to sing her points instead of speaking them.
9. Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project, 2012-present)
Lady: Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is an OB-GYN who has no qualms about letting the world know she’s in the market for her Kanye.
Favorite Quirk: Mindy will reference a rom-com any chance she gets. She once said to Jaime, “I’m like the Joan Cusack character in the romantic comedy of your life.”
8. Hannah Horvath (Girls, 2012-present)
Lady: Hannah (Lena Dunham) is an aspiring writer living in Brooklyn who can’t seem to figure out dudes.
Favorite Quirk: Her … openness. In a post-coital situation, she becomes obsessed with Googling the “stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms.”
7. Phoebe Buffay (Friends, 1994-2004)
Lady: Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is a masseuse and resident Central Perk guitarist.
Favorite Quirk: Everything! But to pick one, when Phoebe changes her name to Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.
6. Samantha Stephens (Bewitched, 1964-1972)
Lady: Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) is a witch married to an ad executive, trying to live life magic-free in suburbia.
Favorite Quirk: Well, magic.
5. Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls,1985-1992)
Lady: Rose (Betty White) is an earnest-as-can-be Minnesotan who works at a counseling center.
Favorite Quirk: She loves to tell the girls stories and traditions from St. Olaf. “Like we say in St. Olaf, Christmas without fruitcake is like St. Sigmund’s Day without the headless boy.”
4. Mary Richards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-1977)
Lady: Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) is associate producer of the “Six O’Clock News” in Minneapolis
Favorite Quirk: When Mary asks out her boss, Lou, she has trouble calling him by his first name since she has always called him “Mr. Grant.”
3. Liz Lemon (30 Rock, 2006-2013)
Lady: Liz (Tina Fey) is a head writer of a sketch comedy show surrounded by bananas castmembers.
Favorite Quirk: Her dream is to be married looking like a princess — a nerd-worshipped one wearing cinnamon buns on each temple.
2. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City, 1998-2004)
Lady: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a sex columnist in NYC, navigating friendship and relationships.
Favorite Quirk: Carrie once admitted that she likes to read Vogue while standing up and eating crackers spread with jelly.
1. Lucy Ricardo (I Love Lucy, 1951-1957)
Lady: Lucy (Lucille Ball) is wife to bandleader Ricky Ricardo, but finds herself entangled in wacky situations while scheming to become a star herself.
Favorite Quirk: On a plane trip home from Europe, Lucy tries to sneak past the baggage restrictions by posing her cheese souvenir as her baby.
- The rest of the Golden Girls
- The rest of SATC
- Gilda Radner and Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
- Helga Pataki, Hey Arnold
- Laverne and Shirley
PopWatchers, who are your favorite quirky-cool femmes on TV? And what are your favorite quirks about them? Let us know in the comments!