With the burgeoning progressiveness of peak TV, Amazon’s newest drama “Good Girls Revolt” should’ve been a real standout. Created by “Narcos” co-executive producer Dana Calvo and adapted from the book “The Good Girls Revolt” by Lynn Povich, the show has all the workings for a great television program: it contains an unexpectedly great cast, glossy production values and several inspired moments. Additionally, “Good Girls Revolt” features feminist overtones, including strong female leads who pass the Bechdel test and subvert trite depictions of female TV characters. The problem is that “Good Girls Revolt” squanders its potential by turning a powerful true story into something that is less so.
Though “Good Girls Revolt” succeeds in some aspects, its promising premise is unfortunately poorly executed, suffering from sluggish pacing, scattered storytelling and middling dialogue. The Amazon show is definitely on the right track to work its way up the very steep ladder of streaming television programs, but it has a while before it can reach the dramatic heights and emotional depth of its ’60s drama counterpart “Mad Men.”
Technically, the plot of “Good Girls Revolt” is based off an actual sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against Newsweek in 1970. But the show alters the story slightly, instead following a group of female researchers at the esteemed New York magazine News of the Week in 1969, headed by Don Draper lookalike Finn Woodhouse (Chris Diamantopoulos, “The Three Stooges”) and the irritable Wick McFadden (Jim Belushi, “Show Me a Hero”). “Good Girls Revolt” includes only two real-life characters, screenwriter Nora Ephron (Grace Gummer, “Mr. Robot”) and American Civil Liberties Union activist Eleanor Holmes Norton (Joy Bryant, “Parenthood”), but the fictitious characters are surprisingly more compelling.
At the forefront of the cast are the hippie, peace-loving Patti (Genevieve Angelson, “Backstrom”), the stuck-up but confident Jane (Anna Camp, “Pitch Perfect”) and the mousy photo copier Cindy (Erin Darke, “Don’t Think Twice”), all of whom showcase a passion for journalism, especially when Ephron takes a stand against McFadden in a pivotal scene at the end of the pilot episode. While each actor gives admirable performances, specifically Camp and Angelson, there remains some hollowness to the show.
With each episode ranging from 45 to 54 minutes, “Good Girls Revolt” drains many of its positive qualities with a cluttered, unfocused narrative. Interesting plot developments, such as Patti’s on-and-off romance with her co-worker Doug (Hunter Parrish, “Weeds”), are downplayed and overlap with mediocre plot points. The other romances between the characters feel cliché and overdone, showcasing an overt amount of sexual tension that will make your eyes roll.
Scenes that involve female empowerment come off as somewhat preachy, especially when Bryant’s character, who is one of the show’s only women of color, is delegated to playing a slight stereotype of the wise Black woman offering advice to white, privileged women on how to stick it to the man.
That being said, “Good Girls Revolt” addresses office sexism and discrimination in a complex, nuanced way, propelling the trio of female researchers toward combating their domineering male counterparts with a drive to succeed in the world of journalism.
“Good Girls Revolt” could have been transcendent, had it cut out a lot of its familiar elements — its too-obvious 1960s references, lengthy sequences of dialogue and predictable romantic entanglements. Still, with the rise of female voices on television, whether through writing, directing or acting, “Good Girls Revolt” represents a fine, albeit flawed example of the kinds of gripping stories that can be told through a female perspective.