By Bethonie Butler
The Washington Post
In the first episode of The Bold Type’s second season, a fashion assistant decides to break up with her boyfriend, an older man who works for the board overseeing the Cosmopolitan-esque fashion magazine where she works. “It’s a gamble, but I am putting my money down on my career,” she tells him. “And believing that love will fall into place.”
There’s something refreshing about seeing the women on this earnest Freeform series, about the rising staffers at fictional Scarlet magazine, place more emphasis on their careers than their romantic relationships. It’s similar to what is happening on Younger, a TV Land dramedy that stars Sutton Foster as Liza, a 40-something woman posing as a 20-something book editor.
Although The Bold Type and Younger have comedic elements, they draw more inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw than, say, Liz Lemon or Leslie Knope. Both series are successors to Sex and the City’s unique brand of single-city-girl life, but they stand out because dating partners consistently take a back seat to the 9-to-5 grind for the main characters. Yes, SATC was built around the (successful) career of its heroine, but work always seemed a little too optional in Carrie’s Manolo Blahnik-filled universe. It is central in The Bold Type and Younger in a way that it isn’t in most romantic TV dramas -- particularly those about young women.
On Younger, Liza is a divorcée who discovers the long gap in her work history, years devoted to raising her now college-age daughter, means no one in book publishing is willing to hire her. When she shaves 14 years off her résumé, she gets a job as an assistant at a prominent Manhattan publishing house. While Liza finds love with Josh, a tattoo artist closer to her daughter’s age than hers, and an even trickier connection with her unsuspecting boss, Charles, her work always comes first. By Season 5, Liza and her colleague turned friend, Kelsey (Hilary Duff) have launched their own imprint, dubbed Millennial.
Liza’s inner circle features career-focused women of various ages, including her longtime best friend, Maggie (Debi Mazar), an artist; Diana (Miriam Shor), the senior editor to whom Liza has proved herself indispensable; and Kelsey’s quirky friend Lauren (Molly Bernard), who runs her own struggling PR firm. The show portrays the ups and downs of their careers as much, if not more, than it focuses on their (compelling) dating lives.
The Bold Type follows three friends: Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and the aforementioned fashion assistant, Sutton (Meghann Fahy), who start in entry-level positions at Scarlet and work their way up the various ranks. Kat ascends to social media director. Jane is promoted to writer after being an assistant for several years, but falters a bit when she leaves the magazine for a more prominent byline at an edgy digital start-up -- only to get fired when her first story goes awry.
Jane, Kat and Sutton navigate the early years of their careers while falling in love, getting their hearts broken and beginning ill-advised flings. But the show’s true heart is their friendship, which often involves the trio counseling one another on how to get the careers they want. Jane and Kat encourage Sutton to pursue her dream of working in the fashion department despite her lack of experience. When she lands the job, Sutton renegotiates her benefits package to offset her less-than-desirable salary. Jane, somewhat unrealistically, helps Kat fight to hire an unconventional candidate for her department. Kat and Sutton rally around Jane when she finds herself unemployed.
In the wake of losing her job, Jane spends several obligatory scenes in a Brooklyn coffee shop, but unlike Hannah Horvath before her, she is actually trying to find work. She even goes back to Scarlet, where editor in chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) refuses to give Jane her old job back. “You have some growing up to do,” she tells her. “You need to live in this failure.”
As many fans of The Bold Type have pointed out, Jacqueline (based on Hearst chief content officer and former Cosmo editor Joanna Coles) is a rare breed in the world of fictional (and, perhaps, actual) magazine editors as a demanding and caring boss, who is consistently accessible to her employees. Rarer still are the romantic dramas that place emphasis on the pride women -- even millennial ones -- take in their careers and how hard they work to achieve their goals.