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‘Girls on the Bus’ Puts a Fun Twist on — of All Things — Presidential Politics

“Nobody wants to relive 2016.”

That was “Girls on the Bus” co-creator Amy Chozick’s big thought when she found out that Warner Bros. was interested in optioning her 2018 memoir, “Chasing Hillary,” which recounts her time as a campaign reporter following Hillary Clinton’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2016 for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, respectively.

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“I sort of felt like the book was my closure,” Chozick explained about the intense experience of covering (and loving!) a candidate that very much does not love them back. “Then Greg [Berlanti] and Sarah [Schechter] [really loved] this chapter called ‘The Girls on the Bus’ about these found friendships that I made with women [reporters] who I normally would have never [met]. I would never have been very close friends with Andrea Mitchell in my normal life.”

Starring Melissa Benoist (Sadie), Carla Gugino (Grace), Christina Elmore (Kimberland), and Natasha Behnam (Lola), the show, from co-creator Julie Plec, follows four reporters on the campaign trail as they cover an election. The women have different priorities: Lola is a newbie influencer, while Sadie is a grizzled veteran of a stodgy newspaper looking for a comeback. Season 1 encompasses a wild Democratic presidential primary, and while the names are fictional, viewers will certainly notice a few real-world parallels. (Scott Foley plays a nice-guy mayor and Mark Consuelos is a Hollywood icon on a vanity run.)

While Chozick was more than OK with a fictionalized version of her story, she did put her foot down on one all-too-common onscreen journalist cliche: “I broke a lot of TV writer hearts when I was like, ‘No one can sleep with a source to get a story! These people can’t f*ck, sorry.'”

The ‘Girls on the Bus’ living that glamorous hotel life<cite>nicole rivelli photographie</cite>
The ‘Girls on the Bus’ living that glamorous hotel lifenicole rivelli photographie

Of course, this is television, so while that rule was firmly in place, there obviously is an inconvenient romantic interest for Sadie — and plenty of love life problems galore over the course of the 10-episode first season. But the plot points aren’t just romantic: Viewers can look forward to the titular girls dealing with demanding bosses, ethical dilemmas, and even — gasp! — game-changing state secrets.

And thanks to Chozick and other former journos on the writing team, the program actually does a pretty good job of explaining the nitty-gritty of life on the election road: “off the record” versus “on background”; secondary sourcing; the sometimes-intense competition for “scoops.” “Emily in Paris” and its deranged take on marketing, this is not.

“[Greg Berlanti] said to me, ‘You have to read this script. It’s everything you love. It’s women. It’s politics. It’s journalism. And it’s idealistic,’” showrunner Rina Mimoun told IndieWire, noting they have three potential seasons planned out. “And I said, ‘Sign me up.”

As Election 2024 looms in the real-world background, the team had a difficult needle to thread making sure the show had real stakes but also wouldn’t be too heavy for an audience that’s tuning in for a break from Biden vs. Trump vs. oh God, we’re doing this again. No spoilers here, but the team puts their own, typically lighthearted spin on election mainstays like sex scandals and candidate gaffes.

In many ways, the show is a wish fulfillment of sorts for Chozick: An opportunity to script the kind of clashes and understandings between reporters and candidates that simply wouldn’t be possible in real life. “I’ve always said that covering a candidate feels like being in love but there’s no love [there],” Chozick said. “You think about them all the time and they think about you never. For my cold heart, it’s a love story.”

Girls on the Bus” premieres on Max on Thursday, March 14 and will air episodes weekly through Thursday, May 9.

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