Freeform’s new drama, “The Bold Type,” follows three 20-something best friends who live in New York City and work for a women’s magazine called “Scarlet.” The network calls the show its “love letter to modern feminism” because the women are ready to “smash the patriarchy — one selfie at a time.” It does tackle issues beyond fashion and romance but as far as being a “love letter to modern feminism,” it’s not one that’s going to make anyone swoon — more like smile and think “that’s sweet.” And in this case, sweet is also entertaining.
Based on the life of former “Cosmopolitan” editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles, the show focuses on newly promoted writer Jane (Katie Stevens) and her friends Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy). Kat is the outspoken social media director and Sutton is an assistant who longs for more than getting green juice for her boss and answering phones. Their workplace interactions are mixed with personal ones. Jane is starting to date again after a rough break-up. Kat is questioning the strong feelings she has for a female artist and Sutton is secretly dating the magazine’s lawyer Richard (Sam Page). The women speak frankly and freely about sex and there’s a funny scene involving Jane, Kat and a stubborn Yoni egg that is a testament to the strength of their friendship.
The show deals with contemporary issues like internet trolls and sexist attitudes but it’s a lightweight approach where resolutions often come about with pluck, determination and sometimes, an in-episode social media campaign, complete with a ready to repeat hashtag like: #typewithkindness. Lessons are learned, mostly around the theme of being brave and believing in yourself. In one episode, Sutton turns down the life-changing paycheck that a job in the advertising department offers to pursue her dream of working for the fashion side of the magazine. Shortly after her decision, a random opportunity to help a fashion editor appears when his assistant suddenly quits. Turns out she’s good at fashion. Her amazing luck is tempered with a scene where she admits getting the job is a long shot. But really, is it?
It’s easy to look past the fluff though because Sutton and the other characters are likeable as they figure out their work and personal lives (all while wearing great clothes). Friendship is the show’s strongest theme and it’s depicted in a very positive way. So is the boss/employee relationship. Editor-in-chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) is a model employer and mentor who is tough but kind. Hardin plays her as a no-nonsense nurturer and it works because who doesn’t like a caring boss?
The issues Jane, Kat and Sutton face on the job have just enough realism to feel genuine and just enough ridiculousness to keep the show fun. That’s a tough balance to get right and “The Bold Type” does it better than most. The show offers an empowering message to women, particularly about female friendship, with an engaging energy and freshness.
“The Bold Type” is on Tuesdays on Freeform.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.