'Good Girls Revolt': TV Review

Courtesy of Richard Foreman
Pretty good, but is that good enough?
10/28/2016

Amazon's latest drama has its moments but gets lost in the over-explored 1960s, begging unflattering comparisons to 'Mad Men.'

There's probably a series of real interest buried inside the new Amazon drama Good Girls Revolt (which starts Friday, Oct. 28), and that series revolves around journalism.

The problem with Good Girls Revolt, created by former journalist and current TV series creator Dana Calvo (Made In Jersey), is that it's "inspired by" Lynn Povich's book of the same name, which documented the legal battle waged by female Newsweek researchers in 1970 who were doing amazing reporting but weren't allowed to have bylines (the bylines went to the men, hence the lawsuit and the book and now this series documenting that struggle).

That makes Good Girls Revolt less about the journalism and more about the struggle for equality, and the series ends up rather too often being directly on the nose about how outrageous the injustice was. It wants to guide you by the hand and illustrate that a bad thing was happening, show it happening and then say, "look at how unfair that is" — which is less dramatic and intriguing than prosaic and forced.

It's not that Good Girls Revolt gets too strident, but it ends up having no stakes and almost no drama because it's easy to hate the men who were idiots either in the workplace or in the home. It was 1969, bleeding into 1970, and, well, period pieces about the 1960s are almost always wince-inducing and didactic, bogged down in sexism, racism, Vietnam, hippies, drugs and the sexual revolution — topics covered so extensively in TV and film that almost every version begins to feel like an after-school special, except for the one that ended up being arguably the best drama ever.

Yeah, Mad Men. The other issue.

It would be unfair to compare the two because it's clear Good Girls Revolt is doing something slightly different (swapping in journalism for advertising) and isn't at all in the same stratosphere as Mad Men (few shows are or were), but those comparisons are bound to happen, and there's always an unfortunate end when they do.

It's as if someone should have been in the room when this idea was pitched and said, "The '60s are so very tired, and do you really want to be compared to Mad Men?" That might not have changed Calvo's resolve; she can't change when the Newsweek events occurred or how they were documented in Povich's book.

But Calvo clearly has a real appreciation for journalism and even says so in Amazon's notes for the series: "I created journalist characters from the DNA of good friends, bosses, mentors, coworkers, clerks and newspaper librarians over 11 years in newsrooms all over the country...I hope you watch it knowing that great effort was taken to be authentic and respectful of a public service profession I so dearly admire."

And that much is obvious. There's a wonderful cast here: Genevieve Angelson is a real revelation; Anna Camp is spot-on as always; Joy Bryant will make her mark on those who stick with the show; Chris Diamantopoulos finally gets a role that makes you want to cheer for him; and there's a string of cameos, from Jim Belushi to Grace Gummer, that are impressive. And when the material allows them to shine (mostly when it's not, as mentioned, a little too on the nose for its own good), there's a story worth telling. Could it have been told more compellingly in a more modern setting and untethered to the book and thus the historical event? Definitely. Unless Good Girls Revolt can make the stories it tells more interesting and better paced, it'll just be a pretty good show in a world that's churning out great shows — breaking-news alert — at an awe-inspiring clip.

Studio: Amazon Studios
Cast: Genevieve Angelson, Anna Camp, Chris Diamantopoulos, Hunter Parrish, Joy Bryant, Grace Gummer, Jim Belushi

Creator: Dana Calvo

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine

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