Before shows like Game of Thrones and Twin Peaks started airing this time of year, the summer was a season for catching up on TV, not falling further behind. If there was a new show, it was a sleeper gem you felt proud to have caught wind of early. It’s been over a year since ABC Family decided to rebrand as Freeform, and I still forget the new name when I flip through channels, but the network’s never been a stranger to premium original content (Middleman, Greek, Bunheads). What’s been the channel’s uphill battle is preventing those shows from being written off as made for teens, not adults (if they’re known enough to be written off at all).
It’s the old CW problem, except the CW’s been slowly gaining success, with its network reach and critically acclaimed roster. These aren’t programs limited to a single demographic, yet their wide appeal gets overlooked by association with “teens” (which why “teen” is treated like a bad word and is a problem for another article).
The Bold Type is this summer’s bonafide sleeper gem. Based in the NY offices of a woman’s magazine, Scarlet, The Bold Type focuses on three friends–Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee), and Sutton (Meghann Fahy)–who started as assistants and now play different roles in Scarlet‘s publication.
Here are five reasons to tune in:
Jacqueline Carlyle, Scarlet Editor-in-Chief
Following the kapow, feminist footsteps of Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant (Supergirl), Melora Hardin’s Jacqueline Carlyle is the tough, female authority figure you want to adopt as your role model. Jacqueline is uncompromisingly confident, ready to support every member of her staff, and on the lookout for signs of emotional distress. All of that strength and she doesn’t reserve it solely for other people. Jacqueline believes in her vision for the magazine and when her new, political direction meets pushback, she doesn’t cave or back down.
For Your (Re)consideration: The Boss-Colleague Relationship
No one’s going to argue this storyline, and all its equivalents (student-teacher; minor-adult), couldn’t use a rest, but having made it clear Sutton and Richard (Sam Page) are committed to having a relationship, The Bold Type has done everything to portray the healthiest version of this coupling. Both parties have the maturity to handle mixing professional and personal, and it helps that they don’t always cross paths. Richard is a lawyer on the board of directors. Sutton’s set-up in fashion. Supportive, and not threatened, by career ambitions, it might go over poorly if anyone else at Scarlet found out, but for now the show’s taken TV’s dating trope and removed the usual scandal.
Sutton’s Aspirations at the Workplace
It’s tough to put into words how encouraging, and gripping it’s been to watch a young woman negotiate for higher pay in the workplace. Enough people say you should value your worth but seeing it done (and how) couldn’t be more important. Here is an actual way of broaching the subject of pay, and that kind of information is indispensable.
Here, too, is recognition of how difficult it is to ask people for money, whether they owe you or not. Sutton supports herself and needs a living wage. She’s asking for what she deserves, but with that comes the fear of losing the dream job she fought so hard to get. It has nothing to do with being ungrateful, and everything to do with being unable to afford accepting a wage cut. That difference can seem small when you’re taking the risk. The Bold Type doesn’t say it’s easy but guides you through the process every young person will face. Jane one time describes Scarlet as a big sister. This is The Bold Type‘s older sibling moment.
Adena and Representation
Introduced in the pilot as a photographer who has second thoughts about Scarlet covering her show, Kat volunteers to change her mind and what could’ve been a one-episode role becomes the most serious relationship Kat’s ever had.
A gay, Muslim woman on TV who practices her faith (through prayer and wearing a hijab) and uses art to promote women’s rights, Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) has a strong handle on who she is and her cool presence forces the show to be mindful of issues that are larger than New York City. A traveler, Adena uses a work visa and her actions effect whether she’s allowed to stay in the country. Adena needs to consider her responsibilities every day and it speaks to privilege, and how, within different constraints, a person chooses to stand by their convictions. Kat, as the social media director at Scarlet, has limitations on what she can say using her platform, but the show promotes creative solutions to ensure limits aren’t mistaken for defeats.
Both Kat, who is questioning her sexuality, and Adena, who is figuring out her residence, live compelling lives of their own, along with exploring their feelings for each other, and are prime examples of The Bold Type‘s value of female voices.
Inside Baseball: Journalism
A big push in journalism has been on finding personal angles to tell a story, but how do you come to peace with putting your sex life in print? As the show’s newly appointed journalist, Jane is our gateway to neuroticism and courage that it takes to be a professional writer. For Scarlet as an outlet, there’s also the struggle to be seen as a credible news source. When Jane writes about fashion being used as a politician’s tool it’s as exciting as the behind the scenes tricks captured in the movie, Broadcast News, and shows how every magazine has the power to break powerful stories.
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays, 9 PM EST on Freeform.