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Hear (and watch) women roar on fall prime-time shows as females reign in new broadcast fare

This image released by CBS shows Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, the shrewd, determined, newly appointed Secretary of State in

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This image released by CBS shows Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, the shrewd, determined, newly appointed Secretary of State in "Madam Secretary," premiering Sept. 21. (AP Photo/CBS, Craig Blankenhorn)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - "The Good Wife," ''Homeland," ''Scandal," ''Nurse Jackie" and, well, "Girls" are just a few current shows that put women front and centre.

And this fall, even more women are stepping up.

As if TV programmers were in a classroom cribbing off one another's exams, a few common themes emerge. One prevalent theme: the fantasy world of comic books and sci-fi, courtesy of newcomers "The Flash" (CW), "Gotham" (Fox), "Constantine" (NBC) and "Forever" (ABC). Spies and anti-terrorism also remain big in our heebie-jeebie era, with "Scorpion" (CBS) as well as a couple of the shows below.

But strong females are the dominant trend — and dominate in prime time this fall.

— "MADAM SECRETARY" (CBS, Sept. 21). Elizabeth McCord is a loving wife and mother and a brilliant former CIA analyst who is abruptly drawn back into public life as U.S. secretary of state after the incumbent's suspicious death. Tea Leoni plays a woman who has it all — including growing concerns that she, too, may be on the endangered list.

— "THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA" (NBC; Sept. 24). Detective Laura Diamond doesn't flinch, whether it's flouting regulations to nab a bad guy or cooking up a scheme to get her twin boys into a private school. She's always in a frenzy, forever creating waves, and mostly getting what she wants through sheer force of will. As played by Debra Messing, she even manages to be sexy in an offbeat sort of way, in the rumpled raincoat she habitually wears.

— "HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER" (ABC; Sept. 25). She is a thunderous presence in the classroom as she teaches law students how to spring their clients, whatever it takes. And in her law practice, she is a Machiavellian figure leading a team of top-flight students to help her tackle tough cases. As Annalise Keating, series star Viola Davis is powerful and often disturbing, never to be overlooked nor underestimated.

— "BAD JUDGE" (NBC; Oct. 2). Kate Walsh plays a woman who, in the courtroom, makes Judge Judy look like a pushover, then, after-hours, makes Snooki look like a wallflower. This is a woman who doesn't hesitate to announce from the bench her relief that her pregnancy test has come up negative. The only way she could create more of a stir is if she were appointed to the Supreme Court (maybe Season 2?).

— "CRISTELA" (ABC, Oct. 10). This sitcom's young heroine is working multiple jobs to fund her dream of becoming a lawyer. And when she gets slammed by her family for taking so long in law school, or for drinking the last beer in the fridge, she can return their salvos with equivalent gusto.

— "JANE THE VIRGIN" (CW, Oct. 13). Jane Villanueva is a radiant and ambitious young woman whose future is abruptly complicated when she learns that, despite her decision to wait, her virgin status has been compromised through an accidental sperm insemination. Now she faces yet another, very unexpected challenge — pregnancy — necessitating hard choices that will affect not only her life but also many others' around her.

— "STATE OF AFFAIRS" (NBC, Nov. 17). CIA analyst Charleston Tucker is joining such past and present CIA heroines as Elizabeth McCord ("Madam Secretary") and "Homeland" stalwart Carrie Mathison, but with her own specialty: compiling and delivering to the Oval Office the president's Daily Briefing every morning. But Charleston's bond with the chief executive is even tighter than this, since she used to be engaged to the president's son — that is, until he was killed by a terrorist attack. And wouldn't you know it: the president is a woman, too!

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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