After a luminary career in broadcast media, former NBC executive vice president Lindy DeKoven knows all about the intense pressure, outsize egos, and backroom wheeling and dealing that fuel the television industry. Now she's conjured up that high-stakes world in her first novel, Primetime Princess, which follows ambitious TV exec Alexa Ross as she navigates the male-dominated culture at her employer Hawkeye Broadcasting System (HBS). It's a fun read with a sly wit (the names of Ross's shows are particularly clever—among them, Of Corspe She's Alive, Everyone’s Entitled to My Opinion, and The Candy Stripers), and it captures the shark-infested waters of cutthroat primetime broadcasting with glee.
It's also shot through with a sexism-in-the-workplace plot that feels particularly relevant at the moment, what with the news of ESPN cracking down on "sexual shenanigans" at its network, as the New York Post reported Friday. According to the taboid, the sports network is infamous for its "culture of sexual harassment"—and its "lawless frathouse" atmosphere has now spiraled into a PR crisis, with reports of affairs between low-paid production assistants and big stars, as well as alleged trysts in the executive suites.
While Primetime Princess's HBS doesn't exactly sink to those depths, DeKoven is fearless in skewering the broadcast world for its latent sexism. Young female workers endure taunts about their bodies and unwanted advances as part of the job, assuming that if they speak up to complain, they'll be passed over for a prime promotion. And the novel's heroine finds her nemesis in Jerry Kellner, a leering jackal of a man, well-connected and lascivious—once Alexa's former boss, he's now her newest employee and up to the same old sleaze.
DeKoven, who worked on several forward-thinking programs about women's issues during her time in broadcasting—including Sally Field's A Woman of Independent Means and Serving in Silence with Glenn Close—says that as she's been promoting the book, women at all stages of their careers have told her they've identified with Alexa's plight. Check out her interview with The Daily Beast below, in which the author discusses shattering glass ceilings at work and how to draw on the power of other women: