Working Girls: period piece tv shows about women and their failure to stay afloat

If there’s any show that would interest me on television, it would have to be something of a period piece. The Canadian-made Bomb Girls was that show. It’s a Canadian drama, focusing on a group of women from different backgrounds who worked in a munitions factory during the Second World War. It got brilliant reviews–for a WWII era show, it was complex and different. Its characters had intriguing story lines, and they all gave a fascinating perspective of life in Toronto (yay) during the War, for women who worked in the factories. I thought–and maybe we all did–that the show was doing quite well.

Sadly, after a mere two seasons,  Bomb Girls was cancelled, due to poor ratings. (I also blame that damn reality show Survivor). This  left its many fans saddened and confused–my self, included. Why, oh why, would they cancel a show with so much promise and a part of history that has had so little focus on?? There’s supposedly a tv special to air later on to wrap up ties–while it is better than nothing, alas, it is also not entirely satisfying.

I started this piece a while back because I was sad to see Bomb Girls go. In fact, I still think it has a lot of life left in it. It just got me thinking, with all the male dominated period piece shows, where are the ones for women?

I only know of a few other shows in recent years that have featured working women in different eras (no, that does not include Downton Abbey, unless you count budding journalist Edith Crawley. Besides, DA more about the relationships). Pan Am, for one, featuring stewardesses in the ’60s, was cancelled after only one season. Another would be Land Girls, a show that ran on the BBC for about three seasons, about women working the farm fields during WWII.

Obviously these are only just a few shows I know of. (If you of any others, throw em out there to me.) And sometimes, things just don’t work out: Low ratings, poor reviews, the writing, etc. But If you look at shows such as Mad Men, Murdoch Mysteries (a fictional Canadian show with decently accurate historical background), Boardwalk Empire, Copper, and–oh heck, let’s say Hell on Wheels (ignoring the fact that two of them are on AMC)  they do significantly better, and go on for ages. And if you really want to go further, Ripper Street. Obviously, the writing/acting/directing/networks play a huge factor, and even though it’s only Mad Men I watch (I’m going to use it as a prime example), they all seem to do pretty well.

And yes, Mad Men has some very prominent female roles. But if it was a show aimed at women–focused on Peggy, rather than Don–would it last as long? I’m thinking not likely. If were a show for females, the angle of the show would be entirely different.

 Mad Men is certainly complex, and is certainly more gritty in how it portrays life in the 1960s… But that’s why people like it. (Not to mention it helps being on an award winning network.)

The episodes of Bomb Girls and Pan Am certainly had some complex characters and plot lines–so, what happened? (although I will say for Pan Am, things were a tad glamorized in some parts.)

Right now, amongst other things, there is a significant gap in the number of period piece shows aimed at women. (Actually, are there any?) We should have more historical dramas on tv that are focused on the work women did; whether it’s set in Canada or United States or wherever, these shows highlight historical points in time where women had made significant achievements. The plot lines may be fictional, but the roles these women had in society aren’t. They lived it.

These stories should be focused,  even if it is through something  like a television show.  Or even movies. Besides, it’s kind of fun admiring the costumes.

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