What is the Future of Good Girls on NBC?
Like a few other shows on NBC, Good Girls is on the chopping block. As of the day this was published there has yet been no announcement about cancellation or renewal. The show has been on air since spring 2018. It gets a little chatter here and there, especially when it hits Netflix and gets that streaming bump. One reason could be that it doesn’t perfectly fit into a TV genre usually found on network channels. Maybe it’s good ole fashioned sexism; the leads are women, the writers are predominantly women, and the show does an excellent job at portraying what actual women would probably do in insane scenarios. Often that means turning to each other and getting a job done no matter what. In the sole healthy romantic relationship on the show, Ruby (Retta) and Stan Hill (Reno Wilson), it means they often communicate and find strength in each other.
The show didn’t seem like it would eschew traditional gender roles or challenge typical television tropes. It looked like it might be a bit of fun; three women decide to rob a grocery store because they need money for their families but ‘lo and behold, the grocery store is a part of the local Detroit gang’s money laundering scheme. Hasn’t this been done before? Kind of – Sugar & Spice, a 2001 movie based on the real-life tale of a group of cheerleaders who rob a bank certainly sounds like it has a similar premise. However, Good Girls isn’t like other shows on network television at the moment.
The show has continually improved since season one, growing in quality, which is a rare feat seen in television. It even has scores of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for seasons two and three. Not that Rotten Tomatoes is an infallible beacon of quality, but it’s a good indicator that the show has a lot more going on than meets the eye. The show’s leads, Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman, all veterans of long-running network sitcoms and dramas themselves, have excellent chemistry onscreen, as well as off-screen. The show’s creator and writer/producer, Jenna Bans, who worked on Desperate Housewives and a few Shondaland projects, crafted the show around a group of housewives and moms, but unlike Desperate Housewives, it doesn’t dip into soap territory. It hovers somewhere in the dramedy space where the leads get to show their acting chops, particularly Hendricks, and a lot of witty and sly commentary on the difficulties families face in lower socio-economic brackets.
After the grocery store robbery, when Beth (Hendricks), Ruby, and Annie (Whitman) discover the grocery store is a front to launder money, Rio (Manny Montana) enters the show. He’s the neck-tattooed leader (or maybe not as audiences learn in season four) of the gang who consistently reminds the women what it really means to engage in criminal activity: hassling people for money owed, guns, more criminal activity, and even murder. He also brings a hefty dose of sexiness and forges a romantic relationship with Beth. Sometimes the show flirts with the idea that Beth and Rio could be equals in this criminal enterprise because Beth is pretty good at it all. Knowledge and skills garnered from years of mothering, running a family, and just being a woman is useful here. At one point, Beth, Ruby, and Annie figure out the best way to print off fake money is with a specific nail polish color.
The women go through a lot over the seasons: entanglements with the FBI, sick children, custody battles, sexual assault, cheating, and more. The writers shine new light on some of these storylines seen in television, such as coming out stories, and handles them with grace and care. When Annie’s son Ben (Isaiah Stannard) came out as trans on the show, Annie quickly showed Ben support and love. The show moved forward with everybody using the correct pronouns and embracing Ben just as they had done previously. Fans responded positively, partly because coming out stories are overwhelmingly portrayed as traumatic and/or negative. The main concern in season four around Ben, was if he was becoming a douche lacrosse player at his private school. Spoiler: He wasn’t. Something else was going on with Ben’s father, Gregg (Zach Gilford).
The absurd and traditionally female-filled world of multi-level-marketing schemes even has a moment in season four when Beth’s husband, Dean (Matthew Lillard), becomes incredibly bored at home and joins a local bike-riding dad group. It’s an excellently crafted B-plot and makes it very easy to see how somebody can be quickly seduced into spending thousands of dollars to join an MLM and get trapped in a cycle of debt. When Ruby and Stan’s son Harry (Danny Boyd Jr.) starts acting out in school, the teacher assumes that he has a learning disability. Ruby and Stan get him tested and find out he’s just bored in school and is practically a genius. It’s a smart way to frame the ever-present systemic racism found in the education system; his teacher thought he had a learning disability. Nope, he’s brilliant.
The show isn’t without its faults. For one, Annie’s tendency to engage in relationships with inappropriate men is frustrating. It makes sure the audience knows that too though and overall, there’s a lot more good than bad. The writers, cast, and crew deserve to continue telling the Good Girls story, especially as it pursues ways to re-frame a lot of the traditional stories seen in media about housewives, mothers, and women in general.