"The Bold Type is the best television show since Mad Men," is something I recently posted in a Slack group of former coworkers. Typing those words, I tried to feel the irony deep in my bones. But a funny thing happened: I read back the statement and realized I believed it wholeheartedly. Shut the door. Have a seat. The Bold Type deserves an Emmy nomination.
Let me pause here to already clarify: The Bold Type doesn't necessarily need to stand alongside Game of Thrones and the other drama series earmarked for the Television Academy's top category (even though I'd put the third season of the Freeform drama well ahead of HBO's final run of Thrones episodes). But there are a lot of Emmy categories! And The Bold Type is a show that should get some Academy recognition for how it so accurately depicts modern millennial work culture and the media landscape writ-large in such a heightened, delightfully entertaining fashion. What I'm saying is, give The Bold Type a nomination for writing, or music supervision, or costume design, or casting — or even acting (FYC Peter Vack, who we'll get to in a moment). Game of Thrones' final season may have been watched by, on average, more than 40 million people per episode, but it didn't bless us with this Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens) quote: "I don't write for The Dot Com. Unless Jacqueline asks for something specifically for digital."
If you're not in media and haven't worked at a legacy publication like the one depicted on The Bold Type (the show's Scarlet magazine is a stand-in for Cosmopolitan; former Cosmo editor Joanna Coles is an executive producer of The Bold Type and provided the "previously on" narration for Season 1 and Season 2), that line of dialogue might not read as legendary. But, reader, let me tell you: it's as perfect as Don explaining to Peggy what the money is for — memorable, dismissive, and shatteringly real. Like so much of the third season of the show, the dialogue on The Bold Type crackles with authenticity when it comes to the print-digital divide. This season added The Dot Com — which, as The Cut has noted, is perhaps the best character on the show and thus deserves its status as a proper noun — and Vack's Patrick, a slippery web pirate who says things like "plus it up," uses "namaste" to end conversations, and tries to mine the staff for content at every turn. He's both a villain one mustache shy of a twirl and an empathetic cog in the content wheel. (Nora Ephron once said "everything is copy," and she didn't have a website to populate each day and Chartbeat to monitor.)
"I think some people see Patrick as a villain and that is sometimes what happens when someone comes into a new environment with a strong sense of themselves and a strong sensibility," Vack told me before the season finale, which left Scarlet in seeming tatters and set up the potential of a Patrick takeover in Season 4. "They can ruffle feathers. But it was always my intention to not come from a place of malice. Patrick is sometimes unintentionally aggressive but it never comes from a place of anger, it only comes from a place of excitement for him. Sometimes people like that don't know when they're bulldozing over other people, and they still do. But if he ever is that way, he's not aware of it."
As the head of a dot com myself, one who once had a manager compare the process of putting out web content to stocking the shelves at Target, Vack's fully realized portrayal of Patrick on The Bold Type fills my heart with joy. Vack is a revelation on the show, mining sympathy where none should exist. His entire performance reminds me of what Trent said to Mike in '90s relic Swingers: "I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated-R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet." Patrick exists on the fringe, with a rictus grin that's part Joker, part Lumbergh from Office Space. It's maybe not the best guest-star performance of the year, but it's definitely among the most compelling and nuanced. Give him a damn award.
But forget about the opinion and tired references of this Gen X web editor. Where The Bold Type really thrives is in the empowerment, honesty, and respect it shows its trio of leads: Jane, Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Kat (Aisha Dee). The show takes them seriously, doesn't pull punches when they're making a mistake (this is usually a Jane thing, but The Bold Type deftly avoids making her the joke), and allows them to exist as millennials in full bloom. It's aspirational content. As Jia Tolentino wrote for The New Yorker, "One of the most pleasurable things about The Bold Type is the way that its characters' professional choices are shown to be as intimate and complex and important as anything else about them." What she said.
But back to the raison d'être of this piece: the Emmys. Since the dawn of awards, what constitutes an awards-worthy project has been marked by a level of perceived gravitas. The weightier the material, the better. Recent winners in the Best Drama category include Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Lost, 24, and The West Wing. The only series with a female point-of-view to capture Best Drama since 2000 is The Handmaid's Tale (which won the honor in 2017), but even that show fits neatly into what may be the category's unofficial requirement for winners: What If Men Are Bad.
By contrast, when pop culture is pitched toward women, the shorthand to discuss it is often "guilty pleasure." As writer Dana Schwartz explained in a 2018 op-ed for the Washington Post, "So, what does it mean when we call something a 'guilty pleasure'? There's a faux aura of empowerment around that phrase. ... But it's 'empowering' only in the same sense that the phrase 'not like other girls' is empowering: It's a way to elevate oneself above mockery or the negative associations' people have toward women. ... It does nothing to dispel the notion that the show or book is associated with stupid or shallow people and simply sets you apart from them."
The O.C. was considered a guilty pleasure. So was Desperate Housewives. So was Gossip Girl. So is Outlander. So is Grey's Anatomy. So is your favorite reality show. Rarely do these series receive recognition from the Emmys. When it does happen, as with the case of Desperate Housewives, the show is pushed into the comedy category. (Did Desperate Housewives have more drama than a typical season of 24, a perennial drama nominee? We can discuss that in another post, but yes, it did.) It doesn't matter that Game of Thrones was such a clown hour during its final episodes that a coffee cup snuck into a shot that featured the actual creators, no one was out there undercutting its bona fides as Serious Television even as it was being dragged across the coals.
I've created a bit of a straw person here: I don't know that anyone associated with the Emmys has called The Bold Type a "guilty pleasure," but that's likely because, as Don Draper said to Michael Ginsberg, they don't think about The Bold Type at all. Too bad. It has plenty of coffee cups. Just not enough dragons, I guess.
The Bold Type is streaming on Hulu. Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 16. The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Fox.