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TV's complex women leave 'the girlfriend' in the dust

(Adds comments by Reese Witherspoon in paragraphs 11-14, edits)

LOS ANGELES, July 13 (Reuters) - Forget playing "the girlfriend" or "the mom." Television is proving an embarrassment of riches for women thanks to complex, original characters and female-centric plots that are attracting Oscar-caliber movie stars to the small screen.

Once regarded as the step child to Hollywood movies, A-list actors like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Susan Sarandon are flocking to TV series, and jostling for this year's Emmy awards.

And there is more to come. Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Penelope Cruz have their first big TV series lined up for next year, while five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams is due to return to the small screen for the first time since 2005 as the star of HBO's "Sharp Objects."

"There is no stigma attached to doing TV anymore, given the opportunities and the writers who are working in television," said Debra Birnbaum, executive editor of television at Variety.

"There is great storytelling with multi-layered, dimensional, rich characters and real women," she said.

While women have long complained about the paucity of good parts for women in Hollywood movies, this year's female Emmy nominees read like a Who's Who of acting.

"Feud: Bette and...