A weird thing happened on television Monday. On a single night, three series - the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin and Syfy's The Magicians - all mentioned the Bechdel test.
Named for cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who shares credit with her friend Liz Wallace, the test rates works of fiction: If a piece includes two women, preferably with names, who talk about something other than a man, it passes.
It's tougher than it sounds - I'm not sure all the shows that referenced it could pass it most weeks.
But what if the two women talking are cops? And the man they're discussing is a drunk who's threatening to set himself on fire?
That's the kind of womanly conversation you can expect to find in Happy Valley, the British police drama that deserves to be your next great Netflix binge.
All six episodes of Season 2 are now available, and if anything, they're better than the first six, but newbies should start at the beginning and meet police Sgt. Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire, Last Tango in Halifax) the way that would-be fireball does: as a woman in a neon-yellow vest carrying a fire extinguisher and speaking truth to idiocy: "Three seconds in, you'll be screaming at me to put you out. Seven seconds in, you'll be begging me to shoot you."
She then tells him: "I'm Catherine, by the way. I'm 47. I'm divorced, I live with my sister, who's a recovering heroin addict. I have two grown-up children. One dead, one who doesn't speak to me, and a grandson."
And so, even before the opening credits, creator Sally Wainwright gives us the broad strokes of a complicated life, one that won't be made simpler by the return of a felon, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton, Grantchester), with a connection to Catherine's family she'd prefer to forget.
The relationship between Catherine and her sister, Clare (Siobhan Finneran, Downton Abbey), offers more Bechdel opportunities, and could be a show in itself. Happy Valley - no relation to Penn State - takes place in an area of West Yorkshire that has been ravaged by drugs, and Clare's recovery isn't taken for granted.
Lancashire and Finneran are utterly believable as sisters more interdependent than Catherine might acknowledge. Together, they're raising Catherine's grandson, Ryan (Rhys Connah), a child whose very existence inspires some of the show's conflicts.
The stakes are often high in Happy Valley, but it makes even the nuisance aspects of policing seem vital (and perversely entertaining).
As for Catherine, she's as driven, and as idiosyncratic, as Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren), Fargo's Molly Solverson (Alison Tolman), or Broadchurch's Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), to name a few of my favorite TV detectives.