We all have a TV type.
For me, despite having come of age many years ago, I’m still drawn to the teenage, college, early twenties dramas where characters are on a quest to find themselves. Freeform, the artist formerly known as ABC Family, used to be the place for these shows. But lately they’ve gone the supernatural, Marvel, Pretty Little Liars route. So I’m delighted with the network’s latest offering, The Bold Type.
The log line says the series is Inspired by the life of Joanna Coles, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and current chief content officer at Hearst Magazines. Here, her stand-in is Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin), the editor-in-chief of Scarlet magazine. But Freeform is not necessarily a network for women in their forties, so the series follows Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy), three twentysomething women trying to find success in the magazine business. Jane was just promoted to a full-time writer at Scarlet. Kat is the social media director. Sutton is stuck on the assistant desk and dreaming of a fashion career, tired of worrying about getting color-coordinated macarons for a party or whether her boss has gotten her green juice for the day. Who hasn’t been there in some shape or form?
Coles (who makes a cameo in the premiere) is an executive producer on the series, so this is far from The Devil Wears Prada. Jacqueline is kind, encouraging, patient and seemingly always available to her underlings even when she claims she’s busy. Jacqueline is very important. We know this because characters say things like, “Jacqueline, I’ve got Beyoncé for you.” Hardin, who was so hilariously infuriating on both The Office and Transparent, is perfectly cast as the wise, benevolent cheerleader. May we all have bosses like Jacqueline.
Stevens, most recently seen in the dear, departed Faking It, is a terrific entry point to the series: She’s got that relatable everywoman appeal. Even if you never wanted to be a writer, you’ll be able to relate to that feeling of wanting to capitalize on your first big break.
The series can seem archaic—Jane turns in a paper copy (?!?!?) of her article to Jacqueline—yet in the same episode, everyone is instantly alerted via their mobile device when her article gets posted on the magazine’s website. This dichotomy sums up the series, which is reminiscent of the network’s Chasing Life (which co-starred Dee) and Jane by Design: The Bold Type is, in essence, a throwback series with a modern twist. There’s something innocent and timeless about three young women navigating the tricky landscape of their first careers, but in the three episodes available for review, Jane writes an article about never having an orgasm, Kat is cyberbullied and Sutton carries on a secretive romance with Richard (Sam Page), the magazine’s lawyer. The three characters always meet up in the fashion closet. (Like the Grey’s Anatomy supply closets, the room is always empty and available.) At one point, Kat has to pull something out of Jane’s vagina (long story) and, of course, what better place to do that than at work and in a room your co-worker could walk into at any minute.
The Bold Type is also the kind of show that the president might furiously tweet about if he ever watched it (unlikely, since he seems currently consumed by cable news). In the pilot, Kat convinces Adena (Nikohl Boosheri), a lesbian Muslim photographer, to let her photos be part of a spread in the magazine. She also helps Adena smuggle vibrators into her country. Jane struggles to be taken seriously when she wants to interview the senator she thinks will be the next Elizabeth Warren. “Kamala Harris is the next Elizabeth Warren,” Jacqueline tells her. Kat tweets about technology she thinks has a sexist slant (the cyberbullying soon follows).
Amid the timely social stories, there are the story lines that make dramas like this tick. Jane has hinted at mother issues and an ex-boyfriend who dumped her in a train station on her birthday. She’s got a burgeoning romance with Ryan (Dan Jeannotte), a hot-shot sex columnist at a men’s magazine. Kat has conflicted feelings for Adena—she thinks she’s straight but she’s drawn to this woman. And Sutton’s romance with Richard could get her in trouble. Her friends worry that she’s “screwing up,” their chosen term for sleeping your way to the top.
If Game of Thrones is your favorite TV show, The Bold Type probably won’t be for you. But if, like me, you grew up loving Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls or The O.C., you’ll want a subscription to The Bold Type.
The Bold Type premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Freeform.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .