Monday, June 11, 2018

TV REVIEW: Freeform's 'The Bold Type' - Season 2

Freeform's The Bold Type returns for its second season on Tuesday, June 12 at 8/7c. with a two-hour premiere. The drama stars Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, Sam Page, Matt Ward, Nikohl Boosheri, Stephen Conrad Moore and Melora Hardin.

Read on for my thoughts on the new season after screening its first two episodes.

The Bold Type was such a pleasant surprise last summer. It was the perfect embodiment of everything that Freeform was striving to become with its new original scripted programming directive. It centered on three women in their 20s experiencing the growth and challenges in their careers and personal lives. The cable network wanted to become the channel for young adult stories that spoke to that particular audience and give a voice to the issues and causes that are most passionate for them. Not only was The Bold Type important for its depiction of female friendship in the workplace but also for the types of topics it wanted to explore. It was such a topical show that saw the importance in speaking out on a multitude of issues. The first season told stories about breast cancer screenings, racism throughout the country and sexual assault. It was so important for those stories to be included because they showed just how challenging the world can be while still needing the spotlight in order to move the conversation forward. It was a miraculous feeling when Freeform announced that it had picked the show up for two additional seasons. Sure, each year would be capped at 10 episodes apiece. Gone are the days of Freeform releasing ten episodes in the summer and another ten in the winter. But that renewal also came with the announcement that Amanda Lasher would be replacing series creator Sarah Watson as showrunner due to creative differences. That's such a vague statement that could mean anything. It meant that the show could dramatically change in between seasons in the hopes of appealing to a much broader audience. It's definitely a show that could use some growth in the ratings. As such, interest is probably high to see what The Bold Type becomes under new leadership in its second season.

As such, I can safely report that if you loved The Bold Type in its first season then you will continue to enjoy it in Season 2. Lasher doesn't set out to change anything about the formula of the show. In fact, she seems to be exploring the same story possibilities that Watson talked about in several interviews after the season finale aired. That means Jane has moved her career over to Incite, Kat followed Adena around the world following her visa problems and Sutton was caught in conflicting romantic feelings for both Richard and Alex. Now, some of these stories are more important than others. The relationship between Kat and Adena is still so special and powerful. It appears onscreen as much as it did before even though Kat is quickly back in New York and at work for Scarlet. In fact, it starts such an open and honest conversation about the kinds of intimate conversations that sexual partners must have with each other about what one likes and is willing to do for love. Meanwhile, the show actually explores what it's like for Jane to be working for a business that is very different than Scarlet. She made this move for her career. She saw it as the best opportunity for her right now. And the show adjusts appropriately to that by showing that it's harder for the three best friends to have chats in the fashion closet but are still as close as ever before. Even though they are no longer all working in the same office, their friendship is still strong. They are willing to support and uplift each other no matter what. And a lot does happen to all of them throughout these opening two episodes. They have some big decisions to make about their careers and love lives. In fact, Sutton finds herself needing to make a personal decision about love that is left completely up to her own feelings and not because of some corporate policy preventing her from actually exploring what she's feeling. That makes her story much more enriching and rewarding even though the resolution may surprise some fans.

Furthermore, the show continues to tell very topical and important stories. It still resides in the world of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. As such, all of the relationships and dynamics have to be viewed through a new perspective. Everyone is forced to reckon with their behavior in the workplace. It's an important story to tell for this show while also not needing to bring a whole lot of attention to it either. It's there and reflected in the stories. But the show doesn't absolutely hit the audience over the head with it either. Instead, the show decides to shine a light on the accessibility of female hygiene products in the first episode and the struggles of a biracial person in the second. Both are important conversation starters. At times, it feels like the show is just introducing a topic to get the audience to think about it. It's this abstract issue that needs some more attention on it at the moment as well as the various resources and businesses making a difference in the world. It's a way for the audience to be better informed and actually do some research on their own time. Other times, it feels like these topical stories are just a way to reveal new insights into the individual characters. Kat is a biracial woman. As such, she is confronted with the idea of labeling herself in order to be seen as a role model to young women of color to show that they too can have opportunities like this. It's a very interesting story that becomes so personal to Kat because it also brings in her parents and the way they wanted to raise her. It's a story so specific to her. And yet, it's also so universal with the message that it sends out to be received by the audience watching.

And so, I can confidently say that The Bold Type is just as strong in its second season as it was last year. There is absolutely no reason to worry about the creative side of things with the new episodes. Nor is there any real reason to worry if the ratings aren't spectacular for Freeform. The cable channel has really been struggling as of late to develop a new lasting hit. It's fazed out a lot of its successful shows from the ABC Family era - Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, Young & Hungry, etc. It may be trying to exploit those familiar properties in order to rebuild itself as an outlet for bold original programming - with spinoffs coming from Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters. Plus, the network is banking on Marvel association with new drama Cloak & Dagger and hoping to stand out with an immigration-focused remake of Party of Five (which is only in the development stages at the moment). But it's also important to note that the network already has a bold and original idea in The Bold Type that is a perfect show to build its brand around. It made an investment in its future with a two season renewal. That was possibly made to give the audience the certainty that it's a show worth checking out. That may have been able to build a new audience over the hiatus. But if it just returns steady, the show still has two seasons of story left to tell. And I will be here for the entire journey because this is a world filled with characters I'm very invested in and would like to see grow in this business.