Period television: Good Girls Revolt, Season 1

Based on Lynn Povich’s book of the same title, Amazon’s original series Good Girls Revolt tells the story of a stagnant environment in a time of social change: the newsroom workplace in New York, 1969. America was experiencing a cultural revolution, but the women working as researchers for the country’s largest news magazines were less lucky, putting in most of the work but receiving none of the credit.

(Image via Sidereel)

(Image via Sidereel)

Inspired by a real 1970 lawsuit in which a group of Newsweek employees alleged gender discrimination, Good Girls Revolt transfers the fight to the fictional “News of the Week.” Researchers Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson), Jane Hollander (Anna Camp), and Cindy Reston (Erin Darke), along with a growing group of co-workers, choose to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the magazine when their boss (Chris Diamantopoulos) refuses to let any of them work as reporters or gain story credit.

When I watched the pilot of Good Girls Revolt, I knew I’d continue watching, but wasn’t sure if I’d end up liking the season. The pilot is overall enjoyable, but has its problems. The episode follows largely the same structure as those that follow, focusing on both the characters and News of the Week‘s big story of the moment. This structure works better in later episodes, once our investment in the characters has been established.

It also tries a bit too hard to paint Patti as a rebel, opening with her having sex in the office infirmary and later giving her a conversation with editor Finn (her boss) about getting high. This “young, scandalous, music-obsessed, free-lover” characterization seemed tired and to be completely honest, I was sure I’d be annoyed by the character the whole way through the season. But by episode three, “The Futures,” I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters, including Patti… and I was totally hooked on the show.

My favorites are Jane, who makes a great transformation throughout the season and is expertly portrayed by Anna Camp, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the pulled-from-real-life lawyer supporting the women in their legal battle. Joy Bryant as Eleanor has a stunning scene with Betty Gabriel (“Denise”), a conversation about the importance of intersectionality (episode 6, “Strikethrough”), which is probably my favorite moment of the entire season.

The pilot did a good job of introducing all of the many varied characters of the newsroom and beyond, as well as establishing the newsroom environment and culture itself. The first episode’s portrayal of sexism in the newsroom and in the reporting that is published in News of the Week allowed the rest of the season to focus on the women’s preparations for the EEOC complaint, while also highlighting their personal lives and professional work. Despite the real and imagined strides that have been made in workplace equality in the past half-century, some of what these women face is sure to strike a chord with many of today’s women.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Genevieve Angelson as Patti and Grace Gummer as Nora Ephron (Yes, that Nora Ephron! The one and only!) in a scene from the pilot episode (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The national magazine newsroom setting stems from the real-life legal battle that inspired the show, and it benefits the storytelling, allowing for interesting historical moments to be explored. As the researchers’ wish to become reporters grows, so do their frustrations over watching their male co-workers take big-name bylines on stories covering the conflict in Vietnam, the Black Panther Party, and the counterculture.

The show’s aesthetic (including all of that glorious late ’60s/early ’70s fashion) and music are on-point as well, capturing the period in a way that seems neither too glossy or artificial, nor too modern.

The women of Good Girls Revolt have a lot to accomplish in the second season (should the show get renewed), season one having ended with the women’s press conference announcing their EEOC complaint. The show has a lot to accomplish, too. I’d like to see it go a little bit bolder in message, see Betty Gabriel’s talents better-utilized, and see a continued focus on the stories of all of these women (rather than narrowing the focus to a select couple of “favorites”). Regardless, I’ll certainly be tuning in!

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Anna Camp as Jane and Genevieve Angelson as Patti, in a scene from the pilot. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

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