Period television: Bomb Girls

(Image: impawards.com)
(Image: impawards.com)

One thing that I love watching just as much as classic films is period pieces. Film, television series, miniseries… I’ll watch any of it, especially if it’s a 20th century period piece.

One such series that attracted my attention is Bomb Girls, a television drama from Canada. Bomb Girls began as a six-part miniseries and was then picked up for a full second season on the Global tv network. It premiered on Global in January of 2012, first airing in the US in September of the same year on ReelzChannel and in the UK in November.

The series follows four women working in a bomb-building factory during World War II.

Lorna Corbett (Meg Tilly) is the Blue Shift supervisor. She’s married but has a strained relationship with her husband. Her children are all involved in the war effort, with her two sons seeing combat and her daughter working as a nurse’s aid.

Betty McRae (Ali Liebert) is the Blue Shift’s best worker and is in charge of training the new girls. She’s a tough, tomboy-ish lady who harbors secret insecurities, masking them with an exoskeleton of steel.

Gladys Witham (Jodi Balfour) comes from a very wealthy family but is desperate to do her part for the war effort. She initially takes a job in the office of the munitions factory, but joins the Blue Shift when another girl is injured in an accident at the factory.

Kate Andrews (Charlotte Hegele) is living with an abusive, manipulative father who worked as a street preacher when we first meet her. She decides to run away and change her name (her real name is Marion), taking a job at the factory and moving into a boarding house where Betty also lives.

My favorite performance comes from Jodi Balfour as Gladys. She’s nothing like you’d expect a “rich girl-turned-factory worker” to be. She’s outspoken and strong-willed, going beyond the duties of her work to push for better working conditions and fair treatment of the women in the factory. She works hard to push past the “princess” persona the other girls see in her, proving herself as a hard worker and a strong person.

(Image: cdn.tvwise.co.uk)
(Image: cdn.tvwise.co.uk)

Global made the incredibly stupid decision not to renew Bomb Girls for a third season, but fans of the series are pushing back. (Visit Save Bomb Girls on Twitter for information on how you can help keep it alive.) The first season was recently added to Netflix, which will hopefully spike the popularity of the series.

It is certainly a series worth saving. Bomb Girls is nearly on par with Mad Men and Downton Abbey (which are two of my favorite period series) in terms of quality. The writing and character development are stellar, the acting is solid and the series tells an important story that is often ignored by the entertainment industry: that of female factory workers during World War II. Plus, fabulous costumes/hair/makeup and music from the likes of Jill Barber… what’s not to love? The series effortlessly mixes the melodrama of these women’s personal lives with the true dangers of the war and of factory work, providing the viewer with episodes that are both entertaining and of historical importance.

(Image: blogs.canoe.ca)
Liebert, Balfour, Tilly and Hegele in a promotional photo for Bomb Girls. (Image: blogs.canoe.ca)
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7 thoughts on “Period television: Bomb Girls

  1. Thank you for bringing this series to our attention! I thought I kept up on what television period drama is out there pretty well, but this series has escaped me so far. This sounds fascinating, and it makes me wish Canadian TV were easier to locate in the US. Without Netflix, it won’t be easy for me to start the show from the beginning, but do you think it’s set up in a way that I can catch a random episode on Reelz and be able to follow it, or is it heavily serialized?

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    1. Reelz seems to only be running episodes from middle/late season 2 right now, which I haven’t quite yet caught up on. (I just discovered the series on Netflix a few days ago!) I’m not sure if season 2 has gotten more complicated but if you catch any of season 1 I don’t think you’d be too lost. Each episode kind of centers on a different major event (an accident at the factory, Armistice day, etc.) so I think they’d stand alone okay as long as you could keep the characters straight. I wish there was a way to get around geographic restrictions, because all of the episodes are up on Global’s website!

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    2. I agree that Canadian TV needs to be more accessible in the US. You think with all the channels offered out there that could be done!

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      1. I know, right? On the bright side, I didn’t realize I had ReelzChannel until I started looking for the season 2 episodes, and now I know haha. I’m hoping a US network will smarten up and grab the rights to this and continue production for at least one more season.

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  2. WOW! This looks like a great series! I love the WWII period so this looks right up my alley. I’m so glad you discovered it & are sharing it with the rest of us.

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