Bunheads: Home Improvements

Bunheads S01E04: "Better Luck Next Year"

This week’s episode of Bunheads was all about fixing things up, so it seems fitting to talk about the show’s improvements. We’re still not at Gilmore Girls levels of perfection—and let’s be honest, it takes a while to get there—but this series is already shaping up to be an ABC Family standout.

It feels like the pace is picking up: The dialogue this week was even sharper and faster, and the story continues to move forward. I liked the way we got a self-contained episode that also tied into the larger stories (the Joffrey auditions) and overarching themes (the feeling of professional failure). If the first few episodes were about establishing the story and the town of Paradise, now we can really jump into the plot.

Which, okay, Bunheads is just not going to be a serious, plot-driven show, and that’s fine. What’s important is that it never feel stagnant. There have to be problems here, past the conflict between Michelle and Fanny (as much as I enjoy it). It doesn’t have to be high drama, but it does have to keep us engaged, and this episode showed Bunheads is definitely capable of that.

Fanny’s need to fix up the studio floors without having the money to pay for it is standard TV terrain, but the writing on this show helped elevate it past the cliché. And of course, any story involving Michelle and Fanny working together—or bickering with each other—is going to be the episode’s highlight. The banter is just so rich: Think Aaron Sorkin, if he were better at writing female characters. At one point, Fanny snapped at Michelle, “We have got to get out of this Mobius strip of conversation or I’ll scream.”

But for once, the ballet students’ side of the story worked for me, too—thanks largely to the focus on Boo and Sasha, the strongest of the girls. Boo is clearly becoming the third lead of this show, and I’m fine with that. She’s obviously the most insecure of the girls, and that makes her the most relatable. (Her desire to go to town on some cake helps with that, too.) While I hope Bunheads expands to show us more of the other girls, I think a narrower focus is wise for the time being.

The other reason the Boo and Sasha story worked is that it was properly integrated into the episode. The stories converged—Michelle and Fanny worked to fix the floors before the Joffrey auditions, while Boo and Sasha worked to fix Boo’s confidence before the Joffrey auditions. This is the kind of parallel storytelling that Bunheads needs to maintain. In the last episode, everything involving the girls felt shoehorned in. Different plotlines are fine, but they work best when they’re moving toward a common endpoint.

Other things that worked for me: more Truly. I love this character. She’s weird and sad, and there’s clearly more to her than we initially realized. Her scenes with Michelle were great, because she wasn’t just being adversarial—and now it’s even clearer that her hostility comes from some deep personal issues. (She knows how to help everyone, except for herself.) If Truly can continue to develop as more than Fanny’s sidekick, I think she could fast enter “fan favorite” territory.

Oh, and Michelle sang! She sang! Sutton Foster fans, myself included, had been waiting for that moment since the pilot. Yeah, it was a dream sequence, which is probably the laziest way to work a song into a show, but really, who cares? The result was Sutton Foster singing, and that is always a good thing. Besides, it seems as though Michelle is haunted by her inability to make it as a star, so there’s a good chance she’ll try to rejuvenate that career. Well, as much as she can from Paradise.

QUESTIONS:

1. How can Bunheads incorporate more singing, outside of the occasional dream sequence?

2. Can Michelle and Truly ever really be friends?

3. Did Boo’s mom do the wrong thing by getting her that cake, or was she just being practical?

Comments (31)
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Funny, whenever i see an Aaron Sorkin drama, I think he is like Amy sherman palladino
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My last post should have said not, not now. I'm sure people could have figured it out but I'm a bit of a perfectionist and had to say something.
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After now being blown away by the first two episodes I'm really starting to enjoy it. I'm a HUGE Gilmore Girls fan so I actually had a hard time getting into this. I kept thinking how Gilmore Girls was better in every respect and how Sutton Foster was no Lauren Graham and the show just didn't click nearly as well for me. But while it's still not in the same league as GG I really liked these last two episodes. Found them very funny and the show is starting to find its footing..
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1. They'll have to walk a fine line with incorporating more singing/dancing--ie, I don't want it to turn into a Glee-type show. Nothing against Glee, but Bunheads just isn't that show. Personally I'd rather not see more than 3 or 4 "numbers" like the one in the dream sequence in a season.

2. I think they could. Michelle seems willing to be friends, so it all depends on whether Truly can work through enough of her personal problems so that she doesn't feel the need to hate Michelle. At the moment, her hatred is justified internally, but in the reality of the show it's not justified.

3. Boo's mom didn't do the wrong thing in getting Boo that cake... but she did make a mistake by bringing the cake home. I'm not 100% sure, but can't you special order a cake and WAIT a couple days to bring it home? So in that sense, yeah that was stupid and didn't seem to fall in line with the sensitive portrayal of the mother in previous scenes. Then again, that was a major plot point that allowed Boo and Sasha to bond a little bit, so there you go.





In response to "ktfahel" in regards to the Game of Thrones reference -- that's just the style of writing. I don't have a problem of course if anyone doesn't like those kinds of reference, but you'll have to get used to it. Gilmore Girls was teeming with references, many of which I didn't understand... but generally if it was referenced on the show and I didn't know what it was, I looked it up and usually liked it. And when something obscure was referenced that I already was into, it always felt nice and I think that's part of the reason they leave those things in. I doubt the show "assumes" that EVERYONE knows every show, it's more that they want to acknowledge the things they like and hope that certain people will appreciate the references that don't show up on other shows.
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Personally, the "Game of Thrones" reference was completely lost on me (if they hadn't said GOT, I would not have gotten it at all). There was another reference I totally missed as well, but I can't remember it (it wasn't the "Godfather" one). Personally, shows that assume that EVERYONE watches certain shows bug me to no end; it makes me feel outside of the joke. I also found Truly and her "I know what everyone needs except me" bit annoying. I could TOTALLY stand to see more singing, but can't think of a feasible way to do it. Even dream sequences would wear thin after a while. I liked Boo's mom SO much last week; the cake bit crushed me. Any mother who would be so supportive as to completely change (or attempt to) eating habits for her daughter would never do something so defeating as that cake.



While I'm loving this show (it definitely makes me laugh...and WITH it, not AT it), I'm finding the inconsistencies disconcerting.
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Actually to just answer your 3 questions:

1. It appears they can do anything they want because they're that good.

2. Absolutely - if Amy Sherman Pallidino deems it. It's a very interesting situation actually.

3. DUH. My big question is how did Boo's mom get knocked up in the first place.
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Your snark is duly noted.
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This was not a good episode and proved that Kelly Bishop and Sutton Foster are still facinating to watch even with only the hint of a plot and most of it was just fun ridiculous filler.
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1. I was so excited about the singing! I was just saying to someone the other day that I really wanted her to sing, but wasn't expecting her to because it didn't fit the show. I will totally put up with cheesy dream sequences if they all involve her singing.

2. I actually had a hard time getting a grip on Truly this episode, although your review made her make more sense to me. It just...I get that she knows what other people need to an extent, I'm just not sure I'm willing to buy the full extent that the show has given her. However, I did love the toolbox sequence between her and Michelle.

3. I agree with the previous comments of buy the cake and frosting, write on it later. Orrrr hide the cake better. Orrr wait until auditions are over. None of these options seem like they'd be that hard, and Boo had made it clear from the produce scene that she's interested enough in food to pay attention to what's in the fridge.



Still loving Sasha; I thought this week's interaction between her and Boo was a good resolution to last week's tiff. Sasha wants to have friends, she just has no idea how to go about it properly. Boo knows this, and is willing to give her some slack without letting her just walk all over her whenever she feels like it. It made the scene at the end where Boo invites her over for cake real for me.



And finally, I'm looking forward to the "I wake up in the middle of the night because I only need three hours of sleep" plot device; it's just quirky and funny enough to work.
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Cheesy dream sequences got Artie to dance on Glee which was an unexpected treat...
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it was funny that they threw in some Game of Thrones references in the conversation about the Joffrey people.. but I wish they'd stop changing Sasha's personality so much, her being nice one episodes and a jerk the next is giving me emotional whiplash.
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They were showing that Sasha is a very complicated character and to judge her on one act alone is absurd. You actually should embrace stuff like that because it's all part of the reason that Amy Sheridan Pallidino gets it and that's why we watch.
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Loving this show! Agree that Truly finally seemed like a real person this week. Also, it may have seemed that Sasha was doing something nice for Boo, but I saw it as how she hated being treated like crap (even though she has no problem doing it to everyone else), so she selfishly stole from her mom to buy her way back into Boo's good graces.



1. Like others said, karaoke in the bar.

2. I think so, but it's really up to Truly. Michelle's trying.

3. I was so pissed at Boo's mom. One of the worst things you can ever do is let your kid know that you don't believe in them. And I'm sure it's because she has no confidence herself and/or her mother did the same with her - but it's no excuse. Realistic expectations and gluttony for a big cake aside, have a blank cake and a tube of icing on hand to write in the wording afterwards.
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Oh please...
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anybody sad that tom/bob will always be a contractor (or something similar)?



i loved the episode particularly because of two things: 1. it didn't go "yard sale" on me to save the floors; 2. boo didn't get in. both things i expected, neither i got and i was very happy about it.



however, how the fudge did michelle know about boo's cake?? was it something i missed?

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Yeah, I too thought the same about the cake. Was a bit annoying. :P
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Artistic license - get over it. They already paid for the cake...
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I thought that about the cake too; I'm guessing that the show was hoping we didn't notice, or if we did, we'd apply dream logic (or lack thereof). Still a bit sketchy though.
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Four episodes in and it's going downhill fast.
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That episode was definitly a bump in the road but it was saved as always by simply having Kelly Bishop and Sutton Foster in it which says a lot about them.
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I love seeing Mitchum Huntzberger turn from a stern, disapproving, alpha-male life-ruiner into a carefree, lazy, approachable dude. Somehow it helps make up for all the torture he put Rory through.
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It's called acting and Gregg Henry definately can and that's why he is there. And where do you get off saying he was a life ruiner. He was a good character with depth, not the two dimensional slob you make him out to be.
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o_O? Umm, the only "depth" to the Mitchum Huntzberger character would have to be related to either his wallet or his penchant for being a control freak. That's really about where it ended.
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OMG I didn't even realize that was him!
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I too loved the integration of everything in this episode, and thought it was a very strong showing. And yes, Amy Sherman-Palladino can write wonderful female dialogue! Like imagine if those two could work together... strong and likeable Male AND Female characters. Then add in someone like Tim Minear to direct the story.... oh how wonderful that would be. But enough of that.



Boo and Sasha this episode were fantastic. I absolutely loved it. A little redemption for Sasha, who needed it, and Boo's relationship with her mother, which was quite believable. And I'm with you on Truly. She's a great character and the more we can develop her, the better. I still think the show is missing a male lead and would love to see that develop sometime in here. And not necessarily a romantic interest for Michelle off the bat. Certainly you could have it develop down the road, but there needs to be a male figure present to add a certain weight to the other side of things. Even "Gilmore Girls" had Richard Gilmore as the patriarch and Luke Danes that balanced out the show. But that's a small complaint from someone currently loving this show.



-I am not certain, but I'd love to see it. Maybe the local high school musical production?

-I'm hoping that that dynamic gets more and more and thoroughly explored. Somewhere between friendship and hate and mutual respect. The more layers we can add to that, the better.

-I'll say this. I would not have done that to my child that way. I might have had an order ready to call in to the store, or even better would have a cake order in place and then tell the baker that I'd call in the writing on the cake whether to say "Better luck..." or "Congratulations..." that day, but I would not have the cake already done and waiting. That said, Boo is her eating partner, it's a motherly way to cheer up your daughter, etc... so I can't fully blame her. It is a practical motherly thing to do.
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2. I love Truly!

3. Boo's mom said it -- Boo is her eating partner. She wasn't thinking about Boo, she was thinking about herself and assuming, since Boo didn't make it last year, she wouldn't this year, either. Mom eats her way through disappointment and she doesn't want to change but Boo's moving on without her. Mom will catch on!
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Okay, you get it.
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Love the idea of Michelle teaching a class of singing and dancing.



I think if Truly meets a good guy, she might forgive Michelle. And I like them together when Truly isn't so hostile!



Boo's mom might have been being practical, but she was wrong to buy it that far in advance.



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1. Karaoke bar, ala Gilmore Girls.

2. I think they'll become friends.

3. That was awful. I felt so bad for Boo. It's nice that her mother was trying to cheer her up, but leaving it there for Boo to see it was just idiotic and cruel.
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1. They can have a musical-themed episode..we would get to see alot of singing but that would just be weird. Maybe they can have Sutton Foster's character teach some students sing like an extension from the dance studio but I don't think the character is supposed to be that great of a singer to teach other people.

2. Yeah sure, have Michelle become more close to Truly, find out what's her problem and fix her. They'll be best buds.

3. It was wrong..she has no faith in her daughter and doesn't believe that her daughter could achieve things. That's not really a good mom..I think?
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Truth is you get to be a mom because you got knocked up and there is no training or license required. Some get it, Some don't...
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