Is 'The Bold Type' Bold Enough?
The answer is an enthusiastic but surprising "Yes!"
Before getting into why The Bold Type works, let's talk about why it is a surprising hit.
Once upon a time, Freeform was a relatively known network named ABC Family. ABC Family was the kind of channel that did not have a clear defined identity, got lost in the shuffle amongst bigger networks, and mostly televised as their name indicated safe family entertainment. More importantly they lacked a hit television show that defined the network and brought in high ratings, new viewers, and had social media impact.
In 2010, ABC Family debuted a new show titled Pretty Little Liars, an adaptation of Sara Shephard's hit book series of the same name. ABC Family's strategy to invest in this particular series was instrumental in gaining new viewers, and cementing the company's new image as geared towards older teens/young adults. The success of Pretty Little Liars spawned other shows catering to the older teen/young adult demographic, and so far removed was the network from what they use to be, that they rebranded and renamed themselves Freeform.
When the conclusion of the Pretty Little Liars tv series was announced a while back, it was to be expected that Freeform would try to fill the void left vacant by Pretty Little Liars. Pretty Little Liars was sexy, feminine, non-fantasy, complicated and dark and none of the other shows on Freeform's roster captured those precise qualities. So when the promo campaign for Freeform's new show titled "The Bold Type" starting making its debut the weeks before PLL ended, it was almost a passing of the torch from one show to the other.
But there was a problem - The Bold Type seemed generic and rehashed.
From what could be learned from the initial The Bold Type promo's was that it was centered around three young women living in NYC, finding out who they are, and working in fashion. That exact premise has been done to death for many, many years. The Devil Wears Prada was a box office hit but more importantly it had such a cultural impact, that so many shows and movies since it came out have tried to imitate the world and characters of that movie if not straight out copy it. Furthermore, The Bold Type is also a pretty 'eh' name, so when it premiered, I felt no inclination to go run and see the show.
After getting over this initial hesitation I finally saw the first episode of The Bold Type, and what I saw was not the lazy imitation of The Devil Wears Prada I was expecting, but instead a show that had its own artistic vision and obvious strength in its direction, topic matter, and acting.
There were times when The Bold Type could have veered into The Devil Wears Prada territory, specifically with the use of the fabulous, perfectionist, drill sergeant from hell editor-in-chief "Miranda Priestley" persona. Many other shows and movies have tried to incorporate their own "Miranda Priestley" but they all fall flat when compared to the character Meryl Streep brought to life. The Bold Type introduced their editor-in-chief persona in a similar fashion as "Miranda Priestley" was introduced, a powerful walk seen by rapid camera shots that focus on the characters strut and clothes until at last the character arrives and we see the great reveal, her face. This is the only similarity between both editor-in-chief characters, because Jacqueline is not molded as the next incarnation of "Miranda Priestley" instead she is affectionate, fair, and most rare of all traits, helpful to her employees.
The Bold Type's surprisingly strong debut it must be pointed out is also because of its incorporation of subject matter that is social and politically conscious. The Bold Type astutely describes Kamala Harris as the next Hillary Clinton, and not Elizabeth Warren. In an episode that merges politics and fashion, a female politician is seen using the publics fascination with bad mouthing women's fashion to her political advantage. We are as well introduced to Adeena, a lesbian muslim artist who wears her hijab as a tool to go against the grain, this subtly yet effectively presents wearing a hijab not as a sign of oppression but of strength. In another episode, the same character is verbally harassed and called a "terrorist" by a stranger. When that scene played out it was clear The Bold Type is not here to just talk about fluff, but are adamant to represent the real world for a 20 something year old in NYC with all the glitter and crud that it comes with.
The show also does a seamless job of building the friendship between the three main protagonists, Jane, Kat, and Sutton. The three ladies are different, and face a wide variety of differing obstacles. This show is a strategic hit for Freeform because it has for years supported shows that celebrate women, friendship, and inclusiveness and this shows ticks all those boxes and them some.
Have I changed my mind about the show's name? No.
Does it matter though? No.
When a show debuts with strong content, and with chemistry amongst its actors that sometimes takes other shows years to cultivate, none of the little things are enough to detract from why you need to watch it. The Bold Type walks a tough line between being a vehicle for discussion about hard hitting topics and entertaining, and it does it with bold strength and style.