With The Bold Type‘s fourth season about to resume streaming on Neon, it’s the perfect time to consider catching up on this show about three twenty-somethings working in the magazine industry (remember that?). If we were a print publication, this piece about the show by Liam Maguren might just have been the cover story.
With its sit-com stylings, squeaky-clean production, and absurdly attractive actors, some may quickly blow off The Bold Type as a dumb guilty pleasure—that would be a woeful mistake. No-one should feel any guilt for watching a show with a heart this open, stories so topical, fashion on point, and a writing team who treat their audience both lovingly and seriously.
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Now halfway through its fourth season, the show centres on the inner workings of an international women’s magazine called Scarlet where three determined twenty-somethings try to make a name for themselves. They’re also living that fast-paced middle-class New York City lifestyle which typically includes, but is not limited to: coffee, apartment hunting, bar hopping, coffee, casual sex, serious sex, coffee—honestly, coffee takeaway cups are more prominent here than the last season of Game of Thrones.
This idealised NYC may not be a 100% realistic representation of the city, but for a show that’s aiming for warm escapism, it polishes the Big Apple with an appropriate amount of “bright lights” romanticism without overdoing it. That gloss also works in tandem with Scarlet itself, an environment loosely inspired by the experiences of Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles. And just like the real Cosmo, or the fictional Scarlet, or any high-profile magazine aimed at young women, The Bold Type maintains a powerful way of staying on-trend.
Naturally, the show reflects heavily on the constantly changing media landscape. There are episodes dedicated to the discussion of print vs. digital, the removal of comments sections, the nervous launch of a new site… there’s even a plot that (somewhat shamelessly) mimics the infamous Sony email hack. Deeper still, there’s the episode that acknowledges how younger audiences are becoming more politically engaged—a topic that brought to mind this 2016 piece on the dissonance between Vogue and Teen Vogue.
And just like Teen Vogue, The Bold Type relies on its fresh and diverse writing team made up of people of colour and hues of the LGBT+ rainbow. Not only is it important for the sake of inclusivity, but their diverse voices add layers of authenticity to the show’s characters and the often difficult decisions they make. There’s a reason why one of the show’s key romances—between a black woman and a Muslim lesbian—hit audiences’ hearts; a reason that’ll be all too familiar to those who have been caught between the demands of a career and the demands of a relationship.
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Smarter still, the show manages a sly way of discussing social issues without pulling up a soapbox or sacrificing its inherent sense of joy. In an interview with Remediality, current showrunner Wendy Straker Hauser described their approach like this: “they don’t feel preachy, but rather like conversations we have with our friends.”
That statement also speaks out to The Bold Type‘s best asset—its on-screen friendships. Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee and Meghann Fahy make for a tremendous trio as the show’s lead characters. As Scarlet employees looking to make a name for themselves, their continued encouragement of one another proves constantly endearing. They turn the company’s fashion closet into their private quarters, filling it with so much goodwill gossip and dig-in-the-ribs banter that it’s hard not to think you’ve actually been there before with your own buds. And it’s not just the big gestures that soften the soul; even small replies hold meaning. When one character struggled to unload a life’s supply of identity baggage, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear the simple but meaningful reply, “Thank you for telling me.”
Yes, it may seem corny to promote the power of friendship in anything these days, but while The Bold Type‘s all about being ahead of the viral curve, it also keenly understands the old mechanics of wholesome television for general audiences. That includes the unashamed joys of dress-up montages, car karaoke, hilariously bad elevator sex jokes (“Going down?”), well-treaded storylines about mother issues and how the truth “is so powerful.”
It’s rare for a show to stay on trend while working with the tried-and-true. Like a gluten-free vegan brownie made from ethically-sourced cocoa, The Bold Type is clever and considered comfort food and a welcome countermeasure to grim-binge telly like Chernobyl and The Handmaid’s Tale.