Why Freeform Needs to Renew ‘The Bold Type’

THE BOLD TYPE - "Carry The
Courtesy Freeform

Freeform should renew “The Bold Type.” The sooner, the better.

Since it debuted in July, its overnight ratings haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but we’re long past the era in which most viewers in Freeform’s youthful target demographic — or outside it — watched TV that way. On my social media feeds, every week I see more people discussing their enjoyment of “The Bold Type,” which is understandable. Like the women whose stories it tells, the Freeform series is charming, reasonably realistic, and smart about a lot of different things.

While I’m very much looking forward to the season finale on Tuesday, I don’t want the season (and certainly not the series) to be over. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with fashion assistant Sutton (Meghann Fahy), social-media manager Kat (Aisha Dee) and writer Jane (Katie Stevens) — three striving young Scarlet magazine employees who have supported each other through a series of adventures, romances and professional setbacks.

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It helps that the show isn’t incredibly dumb about how the media actually works, and to be honest, most TV programs are. I grind my teeth every time I see a “journalist” on a scripted TV show fail to use a recorder to document their interviews or a female reporter sleeping with a source. “The Bold Type” doesn’t have time for that nonsense — everyone is too busy.

What kind of pieces are “sticky,” how well something does on social media, what it costs to put out a glossy magazine, who might get laid off, what startup is drawing all the talent — “The Bold Type” is generally clear-eyed and unsentimental about the pressures faced by men and women churning out and promoting content every day. (You know how, on “Girls,” it seemed as though Hannah would live off selling one freelance story every few months? I can picture the characters on this show being fans of “Girls” but rolling their eyes at that.)

It’s truly remarkable how many tropes and boring stereotypes this series has avoided. One of the TV’s most persistent cliches is the female head honcho as a one-dimensional harpy, but the editor at Scarlet is a sharply dressed, capable woman named Jaqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin). Unlike most women bosses onscreen, she’s not shrill, vapid, grasping, cruel, predatory, or some combination of all of the above.

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“The Bold Type” may have overcorrected a bit —  one of the executive producers is magazine veteran Joanna Coles, which may be why, on occasion, Jacqueline’s encouragement and mentoring seem almost too good to be true. That said, Hardin’s performance is layered and skilled, and more importantly, the lofty professional goals of all the women on screen — Jacqueline and her employees included — are not treated as freakish or strange.

Why wouldn’t these women be ambitious? But TV shows rarely feature multiple women with big dreams without setting them against each other. On “The Bold Type,” however, a women’s desire to advance in her career is not treated as something that is vaguely shameful, nor are there any dumb, lazy plots about catfights, betrayals or backstabbing.

I didnt have bosses that were the Miranda Priestlys of The Devil Wears Prada, executive producer and showrunner Sarah Watson told Variety. I had bosses that were the Jacqueline Carlyles, and I had mentors like that. It was just so exciting to get to show that character on television. Also, I feel like theres been this convention thats been on TV for so long, where when you have female friendships on TV, the place youre going to look for drama is them turning on each other, and thats not my experience at all. I have friends who always have my back, they always proofread my email for me or say ‘Yes, send that to your boss or dont. Those are the female friendships I have, and thats what I wanted to show on TV.

It’s not that there weren’t challenges for the lead characters. At one point, a female co-worker took credit for Sutton’s work, and in a different episode, Kat had to fire a young woman who was not doing her job well. Jane views Jacqueline as a mentor, but she also considers a job offer from another publication. At no point were any of these women depicted as villains, bitches or shrews. The entire premise of the show revolves around the idea that women can be good friends to each other as they ascend the career ladder. 

As Watson noted, They were always going to lean on each other in those big moments of life challenges. We found this tone for the show where, even when there are these hard challenges of Jane getting tested for the BRCA gene or Kat getting doxxed, they’re there for each other. There is still this comfort, and it’s not just ‘me against the world,’ it’s ‘me and my squad.’

All three core characters have had varied love lives this season (which included Jane’s admission that she’d never had an orgasm and found sex intimidating), even as they sought promotions and higher professional profiles. This kind of character development of multiple women doesn’t happen nearly enough on TV. Too often in the past, women could be successful, be reasonably good people or have compelling romantic relationships — but heaven forbid all three at once. (Though “Sex and the City” was groundbreaking, it, too, occasionally lapsed into some of these problematic dynamics.) “The Bold Type” may not have Carrie Bradshaw’s Louboutin collection, but it routinely stomps on those kinds of tiresome TV cliches. 

Consider that “The Bold Type” gave the biggest and most overtly romantic arc to Kat and a hijab-wearing photographer named Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). That’s quietly revolutionary. Both halves of the fan-favorite couple Kadena are also women of color, which is still the kind of relationship too rarely round on TV. The actresses turned the ups and downs of the romance into one of the year’s most honest and charming love stories. And the show slipped in a little political commentary when it dealt with Adena’s immigration status and how she was treated when she left and entered this country. 

Of course, there are idealized and romanticized elements to “The Bold Type” — and that’s the expected ABC/Freeform branding at work. But who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too? The time these young women spend in Scarlet’s fashion closet is frequently a delight, not just because the central trio’s chemistry is real and the writing strikes the right balance between banter and confession.

The closet scenes are also fun in part because the women are surrounded by — and sometimes wearing — extremely covetable shoes, tops and dresses. What “The Bold Type” knows is that it’s entirely possible for women to be ambitious, kind, flawed and have great taste in earrings.

I want more of all of that. Freeform should, too.

Danielle Turchiano contributed to this story.

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  1. brooke says:

    Maureen, thanks to your thoughtful passionate twitter recommendations and this article I tried the show and it is SO GOOD!! I had mistakenly thought this was a teenybopper show but I did my mid 30s and it speaks to me about female friendship, ambition, uncertainty mixed with confidence, and a thoughtful take on our political and cultural environment without being heavy-handed. Just finished the season and now I really really wanted to be renewed. Is there someway to help freeform know that the tide is rising on this?

  2. K Juana Bla says:

    This show deals with the Today Woman…Young and Old…Thoroughly find the episodes captivating and compelling…Renew!!!

  3. Karen says:

    Love this show. It never takes itself too seriously but at the same time it doesn’t come across as trivial, with just enough cheeky arch references to current affairs, and just a little taste of outrage but not so much that it takes away from the blissful escapism. I wish it had been around ten years ago, might have been a good ice-breaker for me to come out to my best friends a little earlier :D

  4. Mike Johnson says:

    I 1,000 percent agree. This show has been the surprise of the year. As a 44-year-old white gay man, I may not exactly be its target audience, but I think its target audience is ultimately anyone who enjoys fun entertainment with a message. The three leads are terrific and Melora Hardin steals every scene she’s in as their boss. Great, great show. We lost “Sense8” this year (although we did get an upcoming movie). Let’s not lose another show with characters we care about.

  5. Amy Belle says:

    This is exactly what I’m saying! I was so skeptical of the Bold Type when I first saw commercials for it, but it is definitely my favorite show on TV right now!

  6. Matonsana says:

    I should say this series has a unique taste so different and beautiful. The way they potray the entire plot is super amazing. It’s true also that the relation of kat and adena is extraordinarily genuine, in short, their love story is not a random one but the most lovely one. Wish this series doesnot end here. It will be kind for everyone if the show get renewed soon.

  7. DougW says:

    This series is far superior to “Famous in Love,” which they recently renewed.

  8. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for this article, Maureen (and Danielle). I totally agree! I’m 51 years old, and I LOVE this show! So do friends of mine about my age and colleagues much younger. I think anyone can enjoy it for all the reasons you cite. It really does go against tired stereotypes of female friendships involving backstabbing, of male colleagues being condescending, and of women in charge being mean. In addition to being smart, it’s also really funny! And the entire cast, both regulars and guest actors, are fantastic. The Kadena storyline is groundbreaking, and the writers have publicly stated they will not fall into the trope of killing the lesbian character. I have two nieces, one 23 and one 14. I don’t know yet if they have seen the show, but it’s one I think they would enjoy and, perhaps more importantly, I would feel good about them watching these positive representations about a variety of women. Cheers to everyone involved in the show and to Freeform for taking a chance on it. They need to give the show another season since there are too many stories left to tell for these characters!

  9. I will legitimately be crushed if this series isn’t renewed. I haven’t seen this kind of realistic, nuanced and comforting treatment of female friendship on TV since MTV’s Sweet/Vicious. Let’s all hope that this fantastic series doesn’t suffer a similarly short-sighted fate by a company that could use the critical acclaim to go along with a vocal fanbase. Freeform needs to balance its mildly derivative fluff with quality like The Bold Type. Come Tuesday we had better see a renewal notice to go along with the finale!

  10. Morgana says:

    Thanks for this, important and accurate piece on this amazing show that truly deserves many more Seasons. It tackles só many important subjects… And the Soundtrack os nothing less than Magic :)

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