By Heidi Stevens
If you’ve ever toiled away thanklessly while your contemporaries collected the spoils, watch “Good Girls Revolt.”
If you’ve ever lost your patience with the slow march toward progress, one step forward, two steps back, watch “Good Girls Revolt.”
If you’ve ever grappled with the choice between upholding tradition and imploding it, in the hopes that something better will rise from the ashes, watch “Good Girls Revolt.”
Based on Lynn Povich’s 2012 book, “The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace” (PublicAffairs), it’s the fictional story of Nora Ephron and her female colleagues at Newsweek in the late 1960s.
They’re marginalized and maligned in the newsroom, even as they work like mad to make their male co-workers, and their magazine, shine.
The lawsuit actually happened. The show brings to life the back story.
“Good Girls Revolt” is streaming on Amazon Video, where you can watch it for free through Nov. 30, along with a handful of other pilots. The show that receives the most views and best customer reviews will become a full Amazon series.
“It’s the ‘Hunger Games’ of television,” “Good Girls Revolt” writer Dana Calvo told me.
Calvo knows newsrooms. She worked in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, covered drug trafficking in Mexico for The Associated Press in San Diego and moved to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale to cover Cuba, before landing at the Los Angeles Times, where she worked as a staff writer until 2003 and a freelancer through 2005.
“Good Girls Revolt” follows a group of young female researchers at a news magazine during one of the most tumultuous and dynamic periods in our country’s history. While seeking fairness in the workplace, they spark convulsive changes and upend marriages, careers, sex lives, love lives and friendships.
She has worked on one other pilot, 2012’s “Made in Jersey,” which aired on CBS for two weeks, and has longed for years to write a script centered on a newsroom. So when a Sony executive approached her with Povich’s book and said Lynda Obst (“Interstellar,” “Sleepless in Seattle”) was attached as executive producer, she signed on immediately.
“Doing historical fiction gives you so much more freedom than nonfiction,” Calvo said. “Instead of just the facts of the story, you can honor the spirit of the story, which is a bunch of accidental revolutionaries who were supposed to go to the newsroom to attract alpha males and then move to Connecticut and have babies.”
Spoiler alert: They didn’t do what they were supposed to.
The pilot imagines two days in the offices of the magazine, News of the Week. (“I wanted terribly to call it Newsweek,” Calvo said. “Sony legal was quite concerned that we not.”) Chaos has broken out at the Altamont Festival in Northern California, and the newsroom staff is torn between tearing up the magazine to put the musical festival deaths on the cover and staying the course with another Vietnam War cover. (Jim Belushi’s character, hard-charging editor Wick, pushes for the latter; the younger staffers advocate for the former.)
It’s 1969, so women aren’t reporters; they’re researchers. They make cop calls and track down leads and even, in the case of main protagonist Patti (Genevieve Angelson), fly from New York to California to convince a source to go on the record.
But the men get the bylines.
“It’s like you guys are fighting over the lower bunk bed in jail,” Ephron (Grace Gummer) says to Patti and co-researcher Jane (Anna Camp). “Who gets to make the guy writing the story look better.”
The show is brilliant and a whole lot of fun.
It’s also an example of what transpires when female writers and female executive producers create a project and fill it with complex, competent female characters.
“We had so many young, talented women come to audition and ask, ‘Can I read for two or three parts? I so rarely get a chance to audition for a role where a woman is strong or intelligent or proactive,'” Calvo said. “In telling this story, we realized we are living this story.”
Actor Chris Diamantopoulos plays Finn, an editor who is slightly more willing than Wick to embrace shifting cultural mores.
“We knew he was perfect for the part because, first of all, he’s fantastic,” Calvo said. “But also because he walked into the audition and said, ‘This should be called ‘All the President’s Women,’ when he saw all of us sitting there. We just cracked up.”
Even if the show doesn’t get picked up for a series, Calvo said she’s grateful for the opportunity to have taken it this far.
“When you make pilots for anyone other than Amazon, you toil away for weeks, and no one gets to see it,” she said. “I got to tell this story, and people got to see it, and that means the world to me.”
I appreciate that sentiment.
But from one newsroom gal to another, Calvo, I’m hoping this show kicks the pants off the competition.