Dance is the subject of the latest ABC Family series. Much to my own surprise I have found numerous of their shows some of the most fun that I’ve ever watched – they are what I like to call my “mindless” pieces of television fluff. Most engage the viewer but are rarely all that “deep.” Each of them seem to allow for a rare type of happiness captured on film and most the time there is usually something to think about - whether it is all that "deep" or not. This one seems the less intelligent of the two I’ve watched in their entirety. This pilot episode has promise and I am cautiously optimistic it has enough sparkle to enjoy long-term success.
She is going no where – fast. 30-something Michelle Simms (Sutton Foster) is a classically trained dancer who showed a great deal of promise as a teenage student but on a whim she decided to go to Vegas by invitation with her friend – and she still hasn’t gotten that big break. Tired of partying – of being a showgirl, the allure of Vegas is wearing thin and Michelle is ready for change, especially after she is again rejected for a new show that is casting. Then there is the man who is crushing on her. Middle-aged and generous to a fault, Michelle doesn’t know how much longer she can put up with her admirer Hubbell. After having a bad day, Michelle impulsively agrees to dinner out and one too many martinis later, she finds herself agreeing to Hubbell’s marriage proposal – one that promises a comfortable lifestyle. The following day, Michelle is on her way to the sleepy town of Paradise, only thing is… she didn’t know her new husband lives with his mother!
Fanny (Kelly Bishop) is a former dancer who could have been quite the star had she not become pregnant. Now she owns and operates her own modest dance studio. No one is more appalled that her only son returns home with a bride in tow than Fanny but it isn’t long before the whole town knows who Michelle is – and her occupation raises more than one eyebrow. Among Fanny’s students is the confident Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles) whose personal problems affect her attitude and dancing, and the self-conscious Ginny (Bailey Buntain) who is bothered by her body. Then there is the determined Bettina or “Boo” (Kaitlyn Jenkins). Boo loves dancing but her big-boned structure limits her and finally, there is the outgoing Melanie (Emma Dumont). Michelle’s kindness to her students makes Fanny realize she should perhaps get to know her daughter-in-law instead of judging her… but sometimes life has different ideas.
I have said before that my one reality television indulgence is Dancing with the Stars. I cannot dance worth anything but I love watching the pros dance (it is gorgeous) and if there is a celebrity who I like in the cast, I usually wind up watching half of the season. Because I love watching the elegant competition, this naturally captured my attentions. (Ironically, its teaser spot aired prior to The Avengers. That is a pair, right!? *smile*) I am sure a lot of girls remember a little show about a mother and daughter who were constantly at odds: Here’s a hint, it started with a “g.” Gilmore Girls was a part of teen girls’ weeks for a number of years. Now it may interest any fans still missing it that its creator has something new on television: Bunheads.
In the pilot episode of this new teen series, I found myself vacillating between enjoyment and annoyance at its amusement-turned-sappy dialogue. Unfortunately for the show, I think the script is in desperate need of edgier wit and better writing all-around. Luckily, its opening starts off really well with a brassy big stage number in Vegas that uses a catchy tune but scantily-clad dancers, after that, it hits the skids in suddenly marrying Michelle off – in that regard, things move quickly. I realize we are supposed to “understand” that Michelle has “known” Hubbell for a period of time but for all intensive purposes, they are strangers. He claims to “love” her but knows she does not have the same feelings for him. It seems an uncertain, unwise, hurried move on the writer’s part but I understand they needed a reason to move their main character and get her there all without wasting a great deal of time. Starring Tony-Award winning actress Sutton Foster (a Broadway dancer), I think the show has a strong lead to guide and gain followers while the young stars are relative unknowns. To their credit, they turned in decent performances – all of them showed promise and seemed to bring a unique flavor to their role.
In retrospect, it felt like this show couldn’t find a “fit” on this channel but there were several poignant moments and it was, mostly a sweet, well-rounded pilot episode. I liked the feel of it and of course, the main plot revolving around dance. One scene sets up what I can assume will be a larger role for Michelle mentoring some of Fanny’s students and it demonstrates that she recognizes Boo’s heart for dancing even if she does struggle with it. I do not know how or what will be competing for out attentions further on down the line in the show’s subplots but despite a very predictable (convenient) – or on the surface it was, way to end the first episode (although its ending will have a greater purpose), the series seems to have an infectious sparkle that will keep its target audience coming back. Hopefully, the writer’s won’t abuse their attentions and instead teach the young minds they will captivate that no matter your shape or talent level, hard work does pay off. Flaws or no, Bunheads was a terrific start to an adorable new series. I am rooting for its success.
Catch the series premiere on June 11th at 9/8c. on ABC Family Channel.
(Content concerns: Rated TVPG, there are a number of remarks about body types [Ginny remarks about being big-busted and Michelle claims she couldn’t dance top-less because she is too “flat”]. It is revealed on girl’s father is homosexual in conversation; another married couple is accused of having sex in an upstairs bedroom. One group of Vegas showgirls apparently dance top-less [off-camera]. One conversation reveals an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; there are immodest clothing and costumes. There may be a profanity or two; there is one scene of underage drinking.)