Global TV's latest series brings period-piece drama and Canadiana together
// Angela Espinoza

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CUP) – Only days after the explosive fireworks display that was New Year’s 2012, Global TV premiered their latest series, Bomb Girls.

Bomb Girls focuses on the Canadian women who worked in munitions factories during World War II while the country’s men were on the battlefront. Although Bomb Girls began as a six-part miniseries, it found enough of an audience to be renewed for a second, 12-episode season – which was announced to the public one day prior to the season finale on Feb. 8.

With the combination of heavy self-promotion, the casting of an Academy Award-nominated actress (Meg Tilly), and the public’s need for some fresh TV drama, a second season was inevitable – not to mention well prepared for, if the onslaught of episode six’s cliff-hangers were any indication. But can the success of Bomb Girls be attributed to simple logic, or is there more to this story?


Following the overwhelming popularity of AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, ABC and Global managed to jump on the period-piece bandwagon just in time. But while both ABC’s Pan Am and Global’s Bomb Girls entered the ring as shows focusing on the then-modern woman, only Bomb Girls seems to have survived, as Pan Am is doomed for cancellation.

What made the significantly smaller production come out on top? A better story? Interesting characters? Canadian pride? Co-creator/director/executive producer of Bomb Girls, Adrienne Mitchell, opens up about some of these inquiries.

“Makeup artist Debi Drennan and author Maureen Jennings approached Janis Lundman and I with [the initial] concept,” Mitchell says, on the topic of the show’s history. “What struck us immediately in their research was that if it weren’t for thousands of women like Mina [Ribble – Drennan’s grandmother] and Hilda [Lyall – Drennan’s godmother] who traveled across Canada to work at the factories, the Allies would have never won the war.”

“We didn’t even know the extent to which Canadian women played such a pivotal role in turning things around for the Allies,” she continues. “And all this was happening even before the Americans joined the war. So it was a slam-dunk for us that this story had to be told and had a populist appeal.”

That settles the question of Canadian pride, but is that pride based on favouring an original Canadian series, or on our actual history?

“What astounds me is how many people didn’t know about this part of our Canadian history, ourselves included,” Mitchell says. “The Canadian women munitions workers were on full alert – no one knew if the world would be the same. So they lived in the moment, pushed boundaries, and experienced a kind of independence they had never experienced. There were stories of women crying over their first paycheque because they had never in their life earned one.”

“I have been totally touched by the audience response from viewers discovering that their grandmothers or great aunts worked during the war in munitions factories, and how they were learning about their family members in a way that they never knew before,” she explains.

For someone as close to the show’s production as Mitchell to express such gratitude towards viewers influenced by our otherwise little-known past, there is relief in knowing where the show’s audience stands. However, one glaring question remained, if only because most young women often forget the answer: is there a place for a series like Bomb Girls to exist in a time and nation where men and women are supposedly equal?

“Well, I guess it’s all about how you define ‘equal,’” says Mitchell. “One has to ask if women are truly equal to men if current statistics reveal that women still earn 74 cents for each dollar a man earns for work of equal value, which qualifies them for less social security and pension; women are five [times] more likely to encounter domestic abuse; women continue to be vastly underrepresented in politics. Bomb Girls is trying to show that women can make important strides forward, [and] that men played an important role in that, but as it reminds us about the struggles in the past it also alerts us to those same struggles in the present. So yes, I feel [Bomb Girls] is incredibly relevant now, in spite of the gains that women have made.”


Bomb Girls’ popularity isn’t based on history alone. While it’s important to keep our country’s past at the heart of it all, awareness can’t be raised without a compelling story to push things forward. Part of what made Bomb Girls’ season one viewers return week after week were the characters’ own battles.

One character in particular, Betty McRae (portrayed by rising B.C.-based starlet Ali Liebert), attempted to shed light on the topic of homosexuality during that period. While in Los Angeles on the day of Bomb Girls’ season finale, Liebert offers a few words via phone.

“Initially, I liked her survival skills – her tough exterior, her tactics, [and] her breathiness,” Liebert says of being drawn to Betty’s character. “I found the way she functioned in the world to be pretty interesting.”

To paint a clearer picture, Betty is a high-ranking worker at the munitions factory where Bomb Girls takes place. Over the course of the first season, Betty’s tough-girl attitude is gradually revealed to be an aspect of her closeted lesbianism, something that grows to be more difficult to hide as she falls for a fellow munitions worker named Kate Andrews (Charlotte Hegele). Liebert, who has portrayed lesbian characters before in works such as The L Word and Sook-Yin Lee’s Year of the Carnivore (2009), said her experience working on Bomb Girls has been “creatively fulfilling.”

“The producers and creators of the show really made sure to treat all the actors respectively, and they respected our opinions in terms of character development,” she says. “I’d just never worked on a show where they were so open to our suggestions and our feelings.”

You can catch Liebert later this year in the films In the Hive, Foxfire, and, of course, in season two of Bomb Girls.

//Angela Espinoza, The Other Press (Douglas College)

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: