- “Younger” and “The Bold Type” ending leaves no shows about glamorized young NYC professionals.
- This genre, born of “Sex and the City,” is alluring for being both relatable and aspirational.
- It may signal the end of TV’s glam-NYC era – or a new show like it may just look a bit different.
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When the coronavirus pandemic began, I spent every Friday night queueing up the previous evening’s episode of “The Bold Type.” Hanging out with the show’s central trio of best friends – Jane, Kat, and Sutton – was a form of solace when it felt as if the world was ending.
After that season finished, I quickly moved on to the sixth season of “Younger,” which then gave way to watching “Sex and the City” for the first time (yes, I know, I went a little backward on this).
These shows filled a particular demand for me. Amid the worldwide shutdowns and empty Manhattan streets, I was lusting after anything and everything that reminded me of pre-pandemic New York City: high heels, martinis, and sleepless nights.
It was the life of the young female professional in a major city. Exactly the life I had been living – or at least aspired to live.
The pandemic may have prompted my nostalgia, but the enticing mix of relatable-yet-aspirational gave shows like this a cult following long ago
This genre was first perfected by “Sex and the City,” which set the tone for shows about friends working in New York and simultaneously dealing with their messy-yet-entertaining personal lives.
When Carrie ended up with Big in 2004, a slew of other New York City-set shows, like “Ugly Betty,” “Girls,” “Broad City,” and “Gossip Girl” attempted to fill the void over the late 2000s and 2010s. But none quite matched what “SATC” provided so effortlessly.
These would-be successors either leaned more comedic or grungy than “SATC” (like “Ugly Betty,” “Girls,” and “Broad City”) or were more geared toward a far younger demographic (the teen-focused “Gossip Girl”). As something of a connoisseur of this genre, I’ve found that “Younger” and “The Bold Type,” each of which romanticized friendship, love, and ambition, have been the most similar successors to what “SATC” gave audiences.
But with “Younger” ending earlier in June and “The Bold Type” taking its final bow Wednesday night, fans are now left without any escapism in the form of shows about 20-somethings working, living, and loving in a hyper-glam iteration of New York City – and it doesn’t seem as if any show currently airing or set to premiere might fill in that gap.
‘Younger’ and ‘The Bold Type’ spoke to the allure of ambition, love, and glamour in NYC just like ‘SATC’
Many TV shows have capitalized on the allure of New York City, but none quite in the way that the “SATC” niche has. By fulfilling the young adult fantasy of accessing the city, they’ve become a pop-culture fixture.
Set against skyscrapers, taxi cabs, and neon lights, these shows acted as a window into the glamour of a city that many dream about but not everyone gets to live in. This fantasy element was coupled with a peek into the casual, flawed lives of young women as they try to navigate careers and relationships.
Sutton’s drinking bender after Richard left in a particularly heartbreaking “Bold Type” storyline, Liza’s lie about her age to advance her career at the center of “Younger,” and Charlotte’s insulting comments to Harry when he wouldn’t propose on “Sex and the City” all exemplify how messy grappling with adulthood can be. While viewers may not relate to these exact situations, it’s the motives and complicated feelings surrounding them that strike a chord in viewers.
Perhaps most relatable are the female friendships holding it all together – a group of women in each show who have a strong bond not in spite of, but because of, their differences. They consistently champion one another without judgment, holding one another’s hands through a chaotic city and equally chaotic personal lives.
That’s not to say these shows haven’t been without their faults
“SATC” featured a glaringly all-white lead cast and moments that, in retrospect, are rather cringeworthy or straight up problematic, like the time Samantha began using AAVE after dating a Black man. Similarly, in July 2020, the “Bold Type” star Aisha Dee publicly condemned the show’s lack of diversity, as well as the writers’ handling of her character Kat’s relationship with a conservative woman.
“The Bold Type” has also famously been criticized for its unrealistic portrayal of the media industry – Jane really does seem to write only two articles a month, which I can tell you is a level of output for which I’d probably be fired.
And, sure, most of the shows’ characters live unrealistically extravagant lifestyles for people working in a notoriously underpaid industry in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The sprawling Upper East Side one-bedroom and endless shoe collection Carrie somehow afforded on her one-column-a-week salary has been a long-running joke. While not quite as glaring as Carrie’s sweet digs, the girls of “The Bold Type” are always seen Ubering to work – unheard of when you’re on the entry-level payroll in media.
But this nonsensical, pseudo-unrealistic nature is part of the shows’ aspirational quality and their appeal, creating a sense of escapism into the New York high life. We probably won’t ever live a splashy, big-city life like Carrie or Jane or Liza – and that’s exactly why it’s so enjoyable to sit back on the couch and immerse ourselves in the make-believe of it for an hour a week.
Is the NYC-glam era of TV finally over – and do we still need it?
With the back-to-back endings of “Younger” and “The Bold Type,” there isn’t anything on the TV horizon to fill their shoes.
It’s possible that the new “Gossip Girl” series and “SATC” revival could patch the hole in our now glitzy New York City-deprived hearts. But the former is geared more toward teen life, rather than the particular type of 20-something working-woman genre, and the latter is only temporary and focuses on far older women, now in midlife. They’d both have to be done right, anyway – it’s TBD on whether either will pull it off.
There are a few other shows, most notably Starz’s “Run the World,” aiming to fill this niche more precisely, but they’re not quite as popular. Personally, I’m yearning for something to fill the coming void.
The finales of these shows also seem to signal the end of a representation of an NYC in which 20-somethings came in search of the magic they found on TV and in hopes of fulfilling their dreams. It coincides with the real-life migration of millennials and Gen Z to other cities during the pandemic, putting Manhattan’s status as the central desirable and glamorous hub for young adults in jeopardy.
Considering the city is already bouncing back, though, I think New York will always hold an allure for young professionals. And that means there will always be room for a show that romanticizes it with wide-eyed, often naive, optimism.
There’s clearly an appetite for these types of shows.
The “SATC” series finale drew 10.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen data aggregated by Ratings Ryan. While “Younger” and “The Bold Type” never saw such high ratings, most likely because of airing on smaller networks than the behemoth HBO, they still garnered loyal and passionate fan bases.
The season-six finale of “Younger” hit a series-ratings high with 1.2 million viewers, and the fourth season finale of “The Bold Type” was the show’s most watched episode with 200,000 viewers. While “The Bold Type” saw ratings fall as viewers migrated from cable to streaming, it was still considered a brand-defining show for Freeform.
The next “Younger,” “Bold Type,” or “Sex and the City” most likely won’t look the way it once did, considering that NYC itself is entering a new chapter in the 2020s – and that’s probably for the best.
Perhaps there will be less fantasy and more realism. Maybe characters will be shown working remotely, from their sky-high apartments, rather than in the hustle and bustle of midtown offices. Certainly, they’ll be a new generation contending with the particular challenges of their time, but also the very same issues of love and friendship that served as the heartbeat of shows past. Hopefully, there’ll be plenty more racial and sexual diversity.
“The Bold Type” and “Younger” acted as the millennial version of “SATC.” I’ll be patiently waiting for the Gen Z version.