The top two woman contenders for the 1996 Oscar Awards were Susan Sarandon, portraying a nun, and Elizabeth Shue, portraying a prostitute. Sometimes it seems like movie roles for women haven’t come much further than those, but that certainly isn’t the case for TV, which I think is filled with interesting female characters.

Here’s a look at some upcoming projects that combine genres, explore the future, and hopefully create strong and entertaining women for us to invest our time in each week.

“Rain”
— If sci-fi geekdom had a royal family, Katee Sackhoff would be a high-ranking member. Popular for her aggressive, sexy spin on Starbuck in the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot, she even earned a fantasy segment on “The Big Bang Theory.” Genre fans will be excited to hear the actress launched her own futuristic series, along with “Continuum” producers Reunion Pictures.

Possibly inspired by her time on “Battlestar Galactica,” Sackhoff wrote the show as an exploration of what happens after years of pollution, tampering with the environment, and the devastating effects of global warming. I’m interested to see how her writing stacks up to her on screen presence, but the backing of a successful producer is a good sign. The series should find a home soon, as the actress already has a built-in audience waiting for it.

“Scream Queens” — It looks like Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan are combining aspects of “Glee” and “American Horror Story” to bring us the horror-comedy “Scream Queens.” Like “AHS,” the show will be anthology-style, focusing on two new female leads each season. While I can’t help but wish we had at least one female writer on the series, it’s tough to not be excited about the girl power in the cast and the stylistic vibe of early promos.

An immaculately coiffed Emma Roberts (“American Horror Story”) heads this series about a killer loose on a college campus. “Glee” alum Lea Michele and original “Halloween” scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis also star. There will definitely be a nod to the ’80s in this splashy, over-the-top series, with Michele at neck-braced geek levels reminiscent of Joan Cusack in “Sixteen Candles.”

The exciting support cast includes Keke Palmer, Abigail Breslin, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Oliver Hudson, Nasim Pedrad, and Ariana Grande. Here’s a teaser promo for the series, which debuts this fall on FOX.

“Divorce” — Those “Sex and the City” movies weren’t exactly what we hoped for from one of our favorite TV actresses, but Sarah Jessica Parker may have more luck appeasing fans with her latest project for HBO. Starring alongside Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways,” “Wings”) in this half-hour comedy, Parker will play a woman who initiates and then suffers through a long, drawn-out divorce.

If messy break-ups don’t sound appealing, “Saturday Night Live” alum Molly Shannon and “Mad Men” star Talia Balsam playing Parker’s best friends should help. Dare we hope for a few bawdy chat sessions over cosmopolitans? The girl power cred continues off-screen with British actress/writer Sharon Horgan (“Pulling”) writing the script and producing. Parker also gets producer credits, along with Paul Simms (“Girls”) and Aaron Kaplan (“The Mysteries of Laura”).

“Ms. Marvel” — This one is still just a rumor, but the positive buzz it’s generating could easily inspire ABC to make it a reality. With “Agent Carter” in serious danger of being canceled, word is that another strong woman will take her place in the schedule. As another tie-in to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the new series would focus on a young female superhero.

This modern comic book version of Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey who learns she has shape-shifting abilities. With John Ridley, the creator of “American Crime” supposedly on board, we would likely get serious drama along with the superhero action. Kamala would be a groundbreaking character on major network TV, and I hope it will at least find a home as a summer event series, as several sites predict.

Katie Holmes Project — Like Sackhoff, Holmes had a hand in creating this new drama for Cinemax. With a producer and home, it sounds a lot more solid than her previous writing endeavor, a movie about a single mother, which never materialized. This time, Holmes developed characters with producer Mike Daniels (“Sons of Anarchy”) and sold the series to the cable network.

Holmes will star as a victims’ rights advocate who seeks justice after an attack from a stalker. It’s not clear what tone yet this will take, but I’m hoping it’s more “Law & Order: SVU” than Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One.”

“The Signature of All Things” — As a fan of PBS “Masterpiece” period dramas, I shamelessly confess that I’m excited about the idea of a series involving a 19th-century botanist. It focuses on an independent woman, traveling the globe in pursuit of scientific knowledge, and struggling against the limits of the times she lives in. This sounds like a fantastic girl power series to me.

The book the show is based on was penned by the best-selling “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert. I found her famed memoir to be a bit pretentious and the movie woefully miscast, but I have higher hopes for this project. The fictional angle should limit the author’s self-centeredness from the story, and the show will be written by Emily Ballou (“The Slap”), and produced by Rebecca Eaton (“Downton Abbey”).

There’s something in the TV pipeline for every kind of woman and I look forward to seeing how these shows develop. Which will make it to your DVR?

Photo Credit: FilmMagic