Modern historical shows set in the 20th century usually share two of my favourite things that make a tv show (or film) worth watching: feminism and vintage fashion. So I decided to make a list of my top 5 shows set between the 1920s and the 1970s.
Mrs. America (2020)
Set in: 1970s in the United States
Feminist issues: the series follows the political movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the fight to stop it by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly
Fashion: 70s working woman suits, rich housewife dresses, colourful patterns and so many platform shoes
The show follows the two sides of the women’s movement, the conservatives lobbying to stop the ERA, and the iconic feminist figures like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug that fought to pass the ERA.
My review: 4/5
Mrs. America is obviously very politically-focused, but I liked seeing another side to the women’s movement. It was interesting to see all those women hating feminism and all the rights the ERA would afford them. Still, it was also sad to watch them oppose to something they would all benefit from just because they thought it went against their traditional family values.
Also, any show that portrays Gloria Steinem is a must-watch in my book, even though Gloria herself has criticised the show.
Good Girls Revolt (2015)
Set in: 1969-1970 in New York
Feminist issues: the series tells the true story of the women of Newsweek (News of the Week on the show) who sued the magazine for sexual discrimination in 1970
Fashion: tons of mini skirts, braless looks, babydoll dresses, eye-catching patterns…
This is another show based on a true story. In the late 60s, women working in newspapers and magazines were relegated to low-level positions like research. The News of the Week researchers are smarter than most of their male co-workers, the reporters, and even though most of their research and writing ends up on the published stories, they don’t get any recognition, and they’re paid way less.
My review: 4.5/5
I loved this show, it was exciting and funny, and I’m still hurt over Amazon’s decision to cancel the series after just one season. I thought it was great that we get to see so many different female characters and to follow their adventures and career growth in journalism when all the odds are against them. And knowing it’s a true story just makes the show better.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017 -)
Set in: late 50s and early 60s in New York
Feminist issues: a recently divorced woman trying to make it as a stand-up comedian in the early 60s
Fashion: beautiful dresses in pastels and bright colours, turtlenecks, pencil skirts, capri pants and more. Basically, everything you’d expect from a fashion-focused show set in the 60s
Midge Maisel has always been a housewife until her husband cheats on her with his secretary, and she needs to start figuring out life as a working woman. The show follows Midge’s stand-up comedy career and her adventures as a single mom.
My review: 5/5
Amy Sherman-Palladino created this show, and as a huge Gilmore Girls fan, I’ll watch anything this woman makes, and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel doesn’t disappoint.
The characters talk fast and make the iconic funny culture puns typical of all the Sherman-Palladino shows. There’s also the bizarre craziness about the characters that makes this show so funny and worth watching.
The fashion and set design deserve a special mention for being amazing, I thought no show could top Mad Men in terms of 60’s aura, but The Marvelous Mrs Maisel beats it.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012 – 2015)
Set in: 1920s in Melbourne
Feminist issues: a female private detective breaking gender barriers in the 20s. There’s also a lesbian character.
Fashion: glamorous and beaded dresses, flapper chic kimonos and cloche hats
Based on Kerry Greenwood’s historical mystery novels, the series follows Phryne Fisher, a glamorous private detective in the 1920s living in Melbourne. Phryne’s little sister was kidnapped and murdered when they were kids, a haunting event that has turned her into a great detective, famous for her smart crime-solving and fabulous lifestyle.
My review: 4/5
I watched the three seasons of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries in just two weeks. I’m obsessed by the 20’s style, the drama and glamour that follows Miss Fisher around, and her flirty relationship with the detective Jack. I haven’t watched the spin-off yet, set in the 60s, but I’m so looking forward to the film coming out later this year, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.
Marvel’s Agent Carter (2015 – 2016)
Set in: late 1940s in New York and Los Angeles
Feminist issues: a woman working as a secret agent in a sexist and post-war America
Fashion: somber, the women still wear the popular suits they wore during the war with the occasional flowery dress
The show follows Peggy Carter, Captain America’s girlfriend that we met in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger. Peggy works in the office for Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) while secretly assisting Howard Stark, who has been framed for supplying weapons to enemies of the United States.
Peggy is single in a time when being in your thirties and single wasn’t socially acceptable for a woman. So she moves into a residency for young women, and guess what? One of her hallmates is a Black Widow!
My review: 3.5/5
I was very excited when I heard about this show years ago, it started very strong, but some of the episodes become repetitive because most of Peggy’s missions were pretty similar. I loved the introduction to the Black Widow program, and I would’ve loved to learn more about it, but Marvel’s Agent Carter got cancelled after the second season.