Pour One Out for ‘The Bold Type’

Praise for the fashion-magazine show as it steers to a close

Programming aimed at young women tends to be painfully stupid and/or irredeemably farfetched, using fresh-faced characters as proxies for much older adults in a halfhearted attempt to broaden the audience while still pandering to that sweet target demographic. As a network, Freeform is certainly guilty of this practice, but with their consistently solid show The Bold Type, they’ve artfully sidestepped the genre’s tropes and produced a show that not only holds true to its name, but also, elevates the genre.

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The setup is fairly basic. Three Millennial women from diverse backgrounds score gigs in New York City working for Scarlet magazine, which is like the baby Sassy and Cosmopolitan sadly never had. They bond, become besties, and aspire to build their careers while juggling their love lives and personal problems. Somehow, the writers assembled a thoughtfully realized world on top of that utterly ho-hum foundation.

As a writer who grew up idolizing Scarlet’s editor, Jane yearns to set the world aflame with her words, but struggles to find her voice. Kat swiftly ascends the magazine’s ranks due to her social media savvy, though her passion often interferes with her performance. Then there’s Sutton, who possesses a keen eye for fashion, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Though the career trajectories are wildly unrealistic, and the editor Jacqueline’s intense interest in this gang veers towards laughably unlikely, it feels refreshing to see recent grads rely on their brains to get ahead instead of defaulting to success via sex.

Not that there isn’t sex. These ladies can get it, and they do. Often. Though it’s a soapy, lighthearted show on a network aimed at teens and twenties, The Bold Type confidently explores modern sexuality. There’s the sexual spectrum, role-playing, the consequences of hookups, and at least 50 shades of relationship power dynamics. If Carrie Bradshaw wrote a think piece about Millennials in the bedroom, she’d be all about Scarlet magazine’s feisty up-and-comers. Perhaps she’d also question why they want to work for a print magazine in 2021, but out of politeness, would decline to ask.

The Bold Type may not understand print media, but it does get the issues facing its key demographic, and touches on them with appropriate levels of delicacy and seriousness, even if it sometimes feels a little forced. Jane’s mother died of breast cancer, leaving Jane uncertain about getting tested for the BRCA gene, and whether or not to go through with a double mastectomy if she carries it. Kat realizes she’s part of the LGBTQ+ community, and evolves into a fierce community activist, which endangers her job. Sutton grapples with the residual shame of growing up poor with an unreliable alkie for a mom. If that’s not enough, through the guise of “stories for Scarlet,” there are explorations of sexual harassment, date rape, abuse of power, and social justice.

Throughout every scenario, the friends uplift and support each other, and only sporadically wobble into maudlin Grey’s Anatomy-esque moments. The thoughtfulness of the writers and chemistry of the cast makes this light little show distinct and sort of fascinating.  Yes, it’s astoundingly unrealistic and sometimes fails to stick the landing on a story arc. At the same time, though, The Bold Type’s also got a killer soundtrack, gorgeous clothes, and a bangin’ cast. It offers a glimpse into women’s foundational friendships that is at once inspirational, aspirational, and a whole big heap of fun.

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Paula Shaffer

Paula Shaffer cast and shaped storylines for several episodes of Love It Or List It. If you shop for a high-end home in North Carolina or plan an extravagant jaunt to Italy, her words may subtly sway your choices. In her spare time, she crams all possible media into her brain, and intermittently live tweets about “The Bachelor”.

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