American Woman Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Liberation

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Will American Woman sweep the Emmy awards any time soon? No. But is it worth watching this summer? Sure it is.

On American Woman Season 1 Episode 1, we're introduced to Bonnie Nolan, her family, and friends. Played by Alicia Silverstone with hints of the clueless young girl she once was, Bonnie is a married woman with two children living the carefree life of early '70s Hollywood.

Her husband, Steve (the every-husband these days, James Tupper) thinks she and all other wives have life pretty good. He's about to ruin that for her so Bonnie's story can begin.

Take Care of Your Man - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

There were three episodes available for critics to watch, and I enjoyed every one of them. 

Overall, the series is on the periphery of what's going on today. It's a reminder that women have spent a long time trying to get out from under the shadow of men, and truthfully, the progress has been ridiculously slow going.

There are some other great slice of life moments American Woman portrays that made me long for the freedom of my childhood. Yes, I grew up long, long ago in a land very foreign to you. 

An Amusement Park Ride - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

Becca: Mom! Slow down!
Bonnie: You always want to go on those ridiculous amusement park rides that throw you around like a rag doll. Well, this is just like that, and it's free!

We didn't have cell phones or use seatbelts. Our parents smoked, and worse, they did it in the house and in the car (with the windows rolled up!). They had house parties where all the parents in the 'hood got together and smoked and drank to the point of getting drunk.

We kids would all stay together in a room and watch the action, wondering what it might be like when we grew up and could do the same. Most of it, it turns out, is no longer allowed. Go figure.

So, yes, there is a lot on American Woman that's interesting for reasons outside of the "hey, poor women" thing. 

Kids in the Back Seat - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

Something as simple as the quote above referencing the kids not being belted into the backseat and then seeing Becca and Jessica in what was the permanent position of backseat riding tickled me. 

There wasn't entertainment in the back seat nor were there booster seats. If you sat back, you couldn't hear the conversation in the front nor could you see out the windows. Hanging over the front seat was the place to be!

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There are a lot of nuances that American Woman gets right, even if they might feel trite by today's standards. The question is, does every show made today have to think like today to be watchable? I don't know the answer to that for the masses. Not for me.

While my mom didn't dress up in a gown (nor did we have the groovy, high-end '70s decor set designers love so much), it was on my list every evening to grab a beer for my dad, so when he got home, he was made comfortable.

Bonnie took care of her man. In response, Steve criticized her choice of television and told her how great all the wives in the world had it.

Steve: Are you watching this?
Bonnie: Not really. I just had it on.
Steve: Do you understand what she's talking about? Because I don't.
Bonnie: I think some women want to work and have a career like Diana's doing. I don't think it's that crazy.
Steve: Yeah, I guess, but it's no picnic out there in the real world. I mean, I feel like you women have it real good. I mean, why complain?

A man's dream of a homelife was being taken care of by someone else and lounging around all day. Those were the days when women didn't necessarily talk back (good God, that term) to their husbands to remind them of the many jobs a wife and mother had to do to keep a house running and a family clothed and fed.

In fact, not all women were aware, either, as was evident by one of Bonnie's best friends, Kathleen.

Women Can Start Businesses Too - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

Kathleen came from a fountain of money. She could toss it around and do whatever she wanted. As a beautiful woman, she was also the target of young, penniless men who knew how to treat her well.

But when Bonnie admitted she had to let go of her housekeeper and garden, Kathleen was dumbfounded. She quite seriously didn't understand who would their jobs in their absence.

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Even young women didn't understand marriage and its complexities. Bonnie may have been living a similar life with Steve for 20 years, but she was appalled upon hearing young Paul tell his wife she had a better ass than Linda Rondstadt in proper company or that Margot would get an abortion to please her husband.

The times were changing AGAIN as what they called the second wave of feminism was raging.

No Gossip for Bonnie - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

At least Bonnie wasn't going to stand back and allow her husband to treat her like an idiot by accepting his infidelity and rolling with it. She was feeling the rising tide of subliminal messages around her and made what was for her a bold choice.

She couldn't let her daughters grow up believing what their daddy did to their mommy was a good thing.

Your father is with another lady, and he's probably not coming back. And I wish I didn't have to tell you this, but I want you to know the truth because I love you, and I don't want to lie to you. A liar is the worst thing you can be. A stripper is also bad.


It's too damn bad in real life whatever the story is didn't protect her real children from future heartbreak and self-torture. Kim Richards, at least, was tested as life went on and everyone watched her spiral out of control on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Diana is the only one of the three friends with a real job, and she doesn't share the best outlook for Bonnie's future.

Best Friends - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

It's another realistic position Diana's in because many women were first accepted at banks before any other business. I'm unsure why they were so willing to accept women into their lower positions, but beginning as a teller was something many women did at the time.

Diana's story of a good day meaning she doesn't cry too often in the bathroom was hardly uplifting, and the sexual innuendos we know are still occurring to this day. It's a shame, isn't it?

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In real life, Richards' mother wouldn't have been forced to go hand-to-mouth if her father left. Sister Kim was already a working actress by the time of their parents' divorce. There wasn't any indication the kids in this story would be taking up that particular mantle.

The Kids - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

The only nod to the real-life actresses was when Bonnie introduced her daughters as the real stars in the family. That may change as the series progresses, though.

I also enjoyed how Bonnie didn't take any time to break down after what she discovered about her husband. Yes, she had her moment on the night she tracked him down with the girls in the car, but all through that, she was relatively solid.

It wasn't until she was getting ready for the big party she was throwing for Steve's birthday that she had a moment to herself and we got a peek at how she might be feeling inside.

Letting It Sink In - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

Busy mothers and friends don't get time to be maudlin. They do that in the privacy of their bathrooms and bedrooms when nobody is looking. Otherwise, they're always made up and putting on a brave face.

She's going to have to try very hard since bad went to worse at the end of the not-birthday party. Steve wasn't even there and he still ruined it for Bonnie. What an arse!

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The music throughout the premiere was fun, even if they didn't dig deep into the archives to grab anything spectacular to drive any points home.

There is a lot more Richards could have done with the series to give it some more heft, but she stars on RHOBH for goodness sakes. Why would anyone expect a masterpiece right out of the gate?

Dance Time - American Woman Season 1 Episode 1

Instead, American Woman is a good time. It makes light of some heavy situations but doesn't make fun of them. There isn't a lot of new material to be discovered here, but comparing and contrasting then and now with the way back machine is a nice way to spend a warm summer evening.

It's always a pleasure to see Silverstone, Mena Suvari is a doll, and Jennifer Bartels is here to win our hearts as Diana. All trussed up in the '70s on a Thursday night? Make yourself a Manhattan and enjoy the show.

What do you think? Will you be sticking around? Hit the comments to share your thoughts.

Liberation Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.5 / 5.0 (28 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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American Woman Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Steve: Are you watching this?
Bonnie: Not really. I just had it on.
Steve: Do you understand what she's talking about? Because I don't.
Bonnie: I think some women want to work and have a career like Diana's doing. I don't think it's that crazy.
Steve: Yeah, I guess, but it's no picnic out there in the real world. I mean, I feel like you women have it real good. I mean, why complain?

Kathleen: Now I got a man, and I'm doing everything I can to keep him.
Diana: Why are you worried you're gonna lose him?
Kathleen: Well, I'm not WORRIED. Greg is great. He's so sweet and attentive, but there's just no spark. Sometimes I think I just might not be his type.
Bonnie: Well, what is his type?