Nearly every lesbian I know has that TV show, or that movie, or that book, or that song. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you’re watching it or reading it or listening to it, and for the very first time everything just clicks into place: “Oh, right. I’m a raging homosexual.” For me, that show was the 1990s UK prison drama Bad Girls. Adding to the personal poignancy is the fact that Scribegrrrl‘s Bad Girls recaps wove such a magic spell around me, infused me with such a sense of wonder and reverence, that I began to dream of a time when I, too, might be able to write recaps for AfterEllen.com.
The show means a lot to me, is what I am saying. So you’ll understand why I had to be borne away to my fainting couch where I wept bitter, anxious tears when I read that NBC has decided to remake the series.
According to Deadline, John Wells — the guy who gave us ER and Southland and also ran The West Wing into the ground after Aaron Sorkin‘s departure — is the executive producer of the project. The writer will be Nancy Pimental whose main writing credit is South Park. And though I’m loathe to repeat it, I need to tell you how Deadline is describing Bad Girls‘ cast of characters: “a scandalous female warden, her new protégé and a host of inmates.”
Helen Stewart: a scandalous female warden? Oh, God. What is happening?
If you’re familiar with Bad Girls, you’re welcome to have a seat and a big bevy-load of drink on my fainting couch while I introduce the show to everyone else.
Bad Girls was a British soap about the G-Wing unit of an all-female prison called Larkhall. The series dealt with all sorts of Bechdel-approved topics, like the exploitation of powerless women, mental illness, motherhood, the glass ceiling, alienation from society, minority rights, the psychology of crime and punishment, and the expansive grey area between wrong and right. It also examined female companionship from all sorts of angles, including one of the finest — and least scandalous! — lesbian relationships ever committed to film.
Helen Stewart is a bit of a wunderkind in the world of prison politics. Just (but merciful!), tough (but tender!), sharp-tongued (but adorably-tongued!), Helen takes over G-Wing in the pilot episode, much to the chagrin of her male colleagues. On her first day, she has a run in with the Nikki Wade, the G-Wing ringleader who is in prison for killing the man who was trying to rape her girlfriend. Helen and Nikki glare and stare and circle each other like lions — and then they fall hopelessly in love. I get that it sounds tawdry on paper, but in reality, it’s layered and sweet and clever and heart-wrenching and perfect, perfect, perfect. Over the course of three seasons, they battle themselves and each other and the system and their inflexible positions as inmate and jailer on the way to Nikki’s appeal and release from Larkhall. (After she’s free, they buy a sheep farm in Scotland and live happily ever after, according to the fan fiction I wrote.)
Dorothy Snarker is the one who broke the remake news to me and Scribegrrrl this morning. The result was me wailing, “Nooo!” for an hour and a half while Scribegrrl shouted, “Scandalous? Scandalous?!” over and over. But Scribegrrrl’s level-headed, optimistic, almost-always-correctly-opinioned girlfriend ducked behind a wall and said she thinks it sounds interesting. Maybe she’s right. Maybe it won’t be another American remake of a British drama that makes everyone die a little inside. Maybe it won’t play Helen and Nikki’s relationship for titillation. Maybe John Wells has learned a thing or two since trying to fly a helicopter into President Bartlet’s White House.
I guess all we can do for now is cross our fingers and hope for the best. To quote the Governing Governor in one of her most agonizing moments, sometimes shit happens.