Reelz Channel bills Bomb Girls as an original series, much as Soap Net took credit for the originality of Being Erica. Both are actually Canadian shows, lacking some of the sheen of more mainstream fare but with their own charm nonetheless.
The Bomb Girls pilot introduces us to a group of women working in a Canadian bomb factory during World War II. It opens with a series of very short scenes, quick brushstrokes that show us three women each under the thumb of a man. One expressing a desire to “go a little further” with her fiance is told to cool it. The next one is chastised by her husband for serving pot roast, a luxury he claims they can’t afford. The third is singing in a street choir and has the audacity to notice a passing man. Her preacher tells her with a firm hand squeeze to stay focused.
As we follow the women to the factory, we find out where each one fits in to the war effort. The newly engaged Gladys (Jodi Balfour) is a socialite starting work in the office against her family’s advice. The choir girl becomes known as Kate (Charlotte Hegele) as she adopts a new identity and flees the confines of her cult to work the factory floor and live in a rooming house. The older woman, Lorna (Meg Tilly), is in charge of the assembly line. Any timidity she showed at home evaporates inside the workplace.
Betty (Ali Liebert) is the tough bottle blond (or chemical blond; they tell us that handling the munitions bleaches everyone’s hair) who instructs the other women in their work. She’s also Kate’s neighbor in the boarding house, so she voices much of the pilot’s exposition.
We all probably take for granted that we know our WWII history, but it’s easy for us Americans — who associate the war effort with lots of stars and stripes and Captain America and whatnot — that the Canadians fought alongside us. A major source of tension on the show is the fear that, any day, Hitler’s troops may land on North American shores. Knowing that never happened, as we do today, lessens the effect somewhat, but just imagine; what if you were living with the fear of imminent invasion by the most evil dictator the world has ever known?
We always hear about how WWII infiltrated every aspect of people’s lives — what they ate, what they wore — but according to this, the rich still managed to got about their business as usual. Gladys’ father and fiance are almost dismissive of it. “This war will end. It will all go back to normal,” insists Gladys’ fiance, James (Sebastian Pigott, in a role diametrically opposed to the one he played on Being Erica). Betty is quick to call poor little rich girl Gladys out on her silk stockings; a further reminder that war may not be the same experience for the rich as it is for the rest of us.
The show is not a history lesson, however. It’s clearly the story of these women’s personal journeys and they ways they intersect. Gladys rises to the surface in the pilot, but it’s a fair assumption that later episodes will focus on different characters, each in turn.
There’s also room to develop Marco (Antonio Cupo), a factory worker whose Italian American father is in an internment camp; Marco’s presence makes Lorna more than a little jumpy. An episode about these two suspending their suspicions and learning to accept one another would not be unexpected.
This episode meets all the expectations for a well-crafted pilot. That may be a mite boring in this day and age, but it tells a story and tells it solidly. I barely noticed it existed, but now that I’m in, I’m interested to see where it goes.