Canadian television has really stepped up its game over the last few years, writing and producing shows that have quickly become widespread successes, both in their country of origin and on a more global scale. One of the most recent shows to be sold and watched worldwide is Bomb Girls, currently at the end of its second season. The story of female munitions workers in a Toronto factory during the Second World War, created by Adrienne Mitchell and Michael MacLennan and featuring a stellar cast including Meg Tilly, Jodi Balfour and Ali Liebert has garnered a broad audience demographic. Recently nominated for seven Canadian Screen Awards, the show not only roots itself firmly in the Canadian contribution to the war effort, but provides a wealth of well-written, engaging storylines, finely drawn characters and a contemporary diversity which translates well from modern Canadian society to the period drama of the 1940’s.
However, on April 22nd, Global TV announced that they would not be producing a third season of Bomb Girls. They tried to appease fans with the promise that there are plans for a two-hour TV movie intended to tie up any loose ends for the characters, due to appear onscreen in 2014. But fans, understanding that two hours of wrapping up storylines in no way compared to the idea of another 13-episode season, weren’t satisfied.
Since the announcement of the show’s cancellation, Global TV and Shaw Media have been bombarded with emails, postcards, letters and hand-delivered show-related props. Fans were only too willing to both congratulate the show on its quality, but also to explain how much the show has touched them. The show has not only offered a very real experience but also an outlet for shared experiences and the characters, so different from one another yet forming a dysfunctional, close-knit, loving little family of their own, have given audiences many points of identification, sympathy and, in some cases, a view of the past and Canada’s history that many never even considered before.
Not only that, but the show has a legacy in some very real lives. As Season 2 premiered in Canada in the New Year, the town of Ajax, which housed the real munitions factory fictionalized in the series, came together as a community to both celebrate and remember the real life bomb girls. Celebrations and events were held in the local area, with newspaper articles featuring women who did the jobs that Gladys, Vera, Betty and Kate do in the show. From a personal involvement with and attachment to the town, and having been in Ajax at the time of the Season 2 premiere, there was definitely a sense of pride engendered by the show’s focus, and the homes where the bomb girls lived, loved and worked are still standing today. Moreover, the contribution these women made to the war effort, and the focus that the show threw onto Canada’s participation in WWII were seen as a great source of pride. If we take this as one of the positive effects that television can have on the way we view history, our community and the part that we play in it, then Bomb Girls definitely achieved that.
Last week, Save Bomb Girls launched a campaign to make a statement and a plea to Global TV. Modeled after Victory Bond Drives during the war (which the show depicted this very season), the campaign urges fans to “Buy Victory Bandanas!”. Their aim is to collect funds to pay for a shipment of fan-designed blue bandanas to Global TV offices in the hopes that Global – and other Canadian networks – will recognize the need and quality of original Canadian content. Outside of Canada, there is support from Reelz Channel in the US, and ITV in the UK: both influential and far-reaching in their own right.
The fervency of Bomb Girls’ fanbase is without question, but the fundraiser is also having a positive effect in the real lives of people whose experiences are fictionalized in the show. Any proceeds beyond the goal amount of the fundraiser will be donated to the Ajax Bomb Girls Legacy Campaign, a community initiative to build a monument to the real women of the war movement.
In its first 24 hours, the fundraiser surpassed its original target of $1,000 and earned CDN $3,000. If anything shows the enthusiasm, dedication and hope that fans can change the network’s mind, then this result is a wonderful step in the right direction.
Past experiences have shown that fans can and do elicit positive responses from network. Save Bomb Girls is not unusual in that respect, but it does, however, prove that there is strong, determined and passionate support for home-grown Canadian productions, especially ones that have received such critical acclaim, (not to mention being a successful, proven, saleable commodity) as Bomb Girls. It would be a great shame to have these complex, fascinating characters shoved into a two-hour TV movie rather than delicately and thoroughly explored as they have been over the past two seasons. Their relationships speak to us all, and are not limited to the sort of prosaic, clinical treatment that female characters so often undergo on lesser television shows.
Can fans save Bomb Girls? Based on their spirit and conviction: yes. But convincing Global TV and Shaw Media to further invest in what has become a beloved Canadian export is the more difficult task at hand. However, recent history has shown us that fan support can save television shows and there’s no reason to suggest that, given the right motivation, Bomb Girls can’t be included in that number. And the benefits aren’t merely related to producing quality television, either, as there is a very real, living community in Ajax that stands to remember and celebrate their own bomb girls as a result of the campaign’s efforts.
If you want to add your own support and help Save Bomb Girls, visit www.savebombgirls.com to find out more, donate, and keep track of the campaign and other ongoing activities. If you want to look at the real life beneficiaries of donations and the efforts to erect a monument to all the women who gave their all during the war, visit http://honourajaxbombgirls.ca/draft/campaign/.