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Good Girls Revolt Amazon Review

Good Girls Revolt Review: Well, Not Every '60s Show Can Be Mad Men

grade_C-As acclaimed as it was, Mad Men was never a breakout ratings hit — which makes it all the more strange that so many ’60s-set clones have popped up since its debut. First came NBC’s The Playboy Club and ABC’s Pan Am, both cancelled after a single season. And now comes Amazon’s newsroom drama Good Girls Revolt (debuting this Friday), which unfortunately is closer in quality to those two misfires than the original. It gets the period clothes and music right, but forgets to include any of the insight and emotional complexity that made Mad Men great.

The year is 1969, and we’re swept into the busy newsroom of News of the Week, a weekly print magazine in the mold of Time and Newsweek. Despite all the generational change swirling outside, the office is still starkly divided along gender lines, with female researchers like Patti (Backstrom‘s Genevieve Angelson) doing all the legwork and male reporters like her boyfriend Doug (Weeds alum Hunter Parrish) getting all the published credit. (The women are even literally seated lower than the men, in a sunken sublevel of the office referred to as “The Pit.”)

With the help of ACLU lawyer Eleanor Holmes Norton (Parenthood‘s Joy Bryant), though, the women begin to recognize the injustice of their situation — and band together to file a landmark sexual-discrimination lawsuit against their bosses. The show’s premise couldn’t be more timely, with the wage gap still an issue and one of our presidential candidates declaring war against “nasty women” everywhere. And the hustle and bustle of a magazine newsroom is a smart place to set a TV show, with new storylines streaming in each week.

Good Girls Revolt Patti AmazonBut instead of immersing us in what it felt like to actually live through the 1960s, Good Girls Revolt looks back with all-too-perfect hindsight. In the pilot, Patti is chasing a story about the infamous concert at Altamont, and she immediately grasps what a watershed cultural moment it will become, even as it’s happening. Vietnam and Charles Manson are name-dropped with thudding self-importance. It’s reminiscent of the worst aspects of The Newsroom, where our heroes were always magically on the right side of history.

And despite the cast’s best efforts, Revolt‘s characters are flat symbols, rather than three-dimensional human beings. Patti is the free-spirited hippie who blasts “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in the newsroom. Jane (Anna Camp, wasted here) is the prissy virgin who blanches at any hint of sex talk. Editor Wick McFadden (Jim Belushi) is the blustery old relic who still worships Eisenhower. Everyone says exactly what they’re thinking, with no room for nuance or ambiguity. Patti actually complains to her boyfriend in the pilot, “I want to tiptoe through the tulips. You want to put me in a box.” Sure, she might think something along those lines… but would she really say those words out loud?

Good Girls Revolt Amazon CindyThe most intriguing, and least stereotypical, character here is photo caption writer Cindy (Love & Mercy‘s Erin Darke), a giggly introvert who’s looking to break out of her dull marriage. There’s potential for her storyline, thanks to Darke’s appealing performance, but it gets drowned out by obvious dialogue and history-book milestones. And the show’s main hook — the sex-discrimination lawsuit — doesn’t really get going until the third episode, so Revolt ends up feeling like a two-hour film that’s been artificially stretched to last a full season.

Amazon clearly sank a lot of money into this show: The period detail is impressive, and all the iconic ’60s songs on the soundtrack had to be expensive. (Although they’re too obvious as well. The pilot actually ends with the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.” What, was the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” not available?) But it’s a lot of money spent in service of a show that’s not very good. It’s well-intentioned, but Mad Men already chronicled this era with much more skill and subtlety. After this, can we just set fire to all the tie-dye and declare the ’60s off-limits for a while?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Good Girls Revolt has a quality cast and a timely message, but it’s short on complexity and character depth.  

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17 Comments
  1. cuius says:

    “debuting this Friday” – says it all really – the death-spiral night

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      It’s a streaming show, almost all of which release on a Friday. –Mgmt.

    • Simon Jester says:

      You mean, the same day of the week as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Black Mirror premiered?
      .
      Yeah, don’t quit your day job.

  2. Aw, this is disappointing. I’m still going to watch since I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile. I really like the cast and the subject of the series.

  3. Umad says:

    “The show’s premise couldn’t be more timely, with the wage gap still an issue and one of our presidential candidates paying her female employees significantly less than her male employees.” There, fixed. You’re welcome, Dave.

  4. Steven says:

    Does every 60s show now have to compared to Mad Men? Do we look back at American Dreams and say “It was ok, but it was no Mad Men”? I watched the pilot and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the show. I tried watching Mad Men, but it was not for me.

    • herman1959 says:

      Thank you; this show is based on real events that happened to real people in the 60s. As such, it is told from the POV of young females attempting to make their mark in journalism in an atmosphere that did not welcome them. It’s about the women, not about the 1960s. I think the interviewer missed the point.

  5. Esmith says:

    FYI, “The Playboy Club” never aired its entire first season. They shot 13(?) episodes but only ended up airing 4 or 5 of them. The rest have yet to see the light of day.

  6. Raul J says:

    It seems like a reboot of “The Name of the Game”, which was done in the 60s and was Susan St. James first co-starring role, with a rotating cast of leading men.

  7. HAP says:

    As I recall from the pilot, there is considerable nudity in this show.

  8. Ruth Ellen says:

    Don’t kill this one off w bad reviews! It holds a lot of promise. Allow it to evolve. The characters and plot already eclipse Pan Am n Playboy Club. After all, It’s not supposed to be Mad Men, never was either.

  9. Kerk says:

    Yeah, men should not review this show.

    • Indeed that is just what I thought while reading he seems to have missed a lot, he could probably benefit from a class on gender studies

    • Thea says:

      I was debating on commenting the same thing. If this isn’t life imitating art, I don’t know what is.

      I just finished the show. I found all the characters to be compelling and the story genuine. I really hope Amazon gives it a shot at a second season, cause I’d love to see what happens after the conference and the girls head back to NotW.

  10. duendeheart says:

    Couple things:
    1. No mention of the fact that this is based on the book, The Good Girls Revolt, written by Lynn Povich and discusses actual events? I would have loved to see a comparison between the book and the show.

    2. Can’t get someone from the target demo to review this show? I’d hazard a guess that this is geared towards women, not men, and that might be a reason this reviewer didn’t enjoy it so much. I think it paints a very different perspective to hear from a woman about a show addressing sexism, workplace equality, and women’s rights.

    3. Setting it in a late ’60s New York workplace does not mean it is similar enough to compare to Mad Men. This show is more about women fighting for equal rights in the workforce, and extends far beyond the stereotypical “era show”.

    4. I’m not sure how a show can have both a “timely message” yet be “short on complexity”, especially given the fact that this show is tackling very complex topics– women’s rights, workplace equality, sexism, litigation– which has yet to be completely solved still today.

    5. I’ve never seen the use of good, iconic music as being a negative. “Oh no, this music is too on point, the shame!”

    6. “It’s well-intentioned, but Mad Men already chronicled this era with much more skill and subtlety.”– I think this is an unfair comparison. You are comparing 92 Mad Men episodes against 3 (I think, or possibly just the pilot) from Good Girls Revolt. This show hasn’t had the time to craft skill and subtlety to a level anywhere near Mad Men. Also, like I stated above, this is different subject matter, and not something that Mad Men really addressed. Lastly, Mad Men ended in the year 1970, and Good Girls Revolt starts in 1969– they really only have 1 year of crossover, not an entire era.

    7. “Which makes it all the more strange that so many ’60s-set clones have popped up since its debut… And now comes Amazon’s newsroom drama Good Girls Revolt (debuting this Friday), which unfortunately is closer in quality to those two misfires than the original.”– Good Girls Revolt is not trying to be Mad Men! I think that preconceived notion is clouding your review. Executive producer Dana Calvo has even said in a few interviews that this is not Mad Men, its tonally different, addresses different issues, and set at the end of Mad Men from a chronological perspective.

    TLDR; Your review hasn’t swayed me. I’ll reserve judgement once I’ve seen it myself. I’ve read several reviews that are counter indicative to yours so I’m remaining open-minded to Good Girls Revolt.

  11. Lauren says:

    Wow, I feel like this review is the one that’s tone deaf. You are denigrating a show that is based on actual events and real people by comparing it to a totally fictionalized show that is centered entirely around men and their problems. Yes, the men in the show do evince the aura of Don Draper but I don’t think that that is going to last very long once the stuff hits the fan with the lawsuits. This was a period of awakening for women. Very different than the setting for most of mad men. This would be the next step in women’s rights it’s not the same time frame as Mad Men. I’ve only seen the pilot so I’m not claiming that is an amazing show or anything but it has a lot of potential and reviews like this will cut it off at the knees without giving it time to develop. There are really incredible women whose lives this is based on and I think they deserve the chance to represent their stories.

  12. Catherine says:

    Really disappointed with this review.

    I loved the pilot so much I watched it twice and have been checking for months for the show’s full first season.

    Recommend others give it a try and decide for themselves!