Bunheads: The Small Town Gets Bigger

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Bunheads S01E02: "For Fanny"

For anyone who missed the first episode of Bunheads, here’s a quick summary care of our leading lady Michelle: “Well, we got here. I bought a dress. Went to a party. Fought with his mom. Had sex. Danced with his mom. He got in a car accident, and now he’s dead.”

The premiere of Bunheads ended on a dark note, as we learned that Hubbel--Michelle’s husband of about a day--had been killed in a car accident. It was a bold move for ABC Family’s new series, and that bleakness and melancholy carried into this week's second episode, "For Fanny." Bunheads could have become a total downer, but luckily the show is already proving itself adept at walking the comedy-drama line.

Leave it to Amy Sherman-Palladino to know exactly how to get the best of our emotions: Gilmore Girls was the same way, blending light banter and small-town problems with serious life issues and the occasional punch to the gut. It’s trite to say that a series can make you laugh and cry--and frankly, there are plenty that can do both--but Bunheads seems to be following the Gilmore Girls tradition of flitting around tones so seamlessly that it never seems manipulative or heavy-handed.

Just as importantly, Bunhead’s second episode expanded the town of Paradise: This isn’t Stars Hollow, but it’s full of just as many quirky secondary characters for our core cast to interact with. Gilmore Girls was always about the relationship between Lorelei and Rory, but it wouldn’t have been the same without Babette or Miss Patty or--God help me--Taylor Doose. These are the oddballs who made small-town life seem so appealing (or at least entertaining to watch), and I’m glad Bunheads is on track to give us equally memorable weirdos.

I’m sure everyone else watching Bunheads squealed with the delight at the introduction of Ellen Greene. (Just me, then? Fine.) She was a joy to watch on Pushing Daisies, though most of us will forever associate her with her role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. Greene herself is enough to get me watching a show, but her character is already leading the pack of charming strangeness: she does found-object sculptures (which led to a scene in which she basically asked Michelle what Hubbel looked like naked) and makes observations like, “I just think the town could use a woman who used to be a man.”

Then there’s Rico, because every town needs a gruff but lovable bartender to confide in. He and Michelle both hate brunch: What are the odds? And Truly, the woman in love with Hubbel, continues to waver between pathetic and really creepy, insisting that she be able to call Fanny “Mom.” Michelle even picked up a dog, apparently, after an old man asked her to walk it--and presumably take care of it for the rest of its life. I don’t want to live in Paradise (yet), but I’m definitely down to hang out there once a week.

I think I gushed enough about leads Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop last week, so I’ll just say that they continue to do great work. The bickering and the grieving and the bonding: This pair just belongs together. Throw in the four young ballet dancers—I’m still getting a handle on these girls, but I definitely appreciated them more this week—and you’ve got the makings of ABC Family’s next hit. I’ve felt compelled to explain to friends turned off by the title “Bunheads” (and I can’t exactly blame them) that this show is already a lot better than anyone is giving it credit for.

And to those of us concerned that the series wouldn’t provide Michelle with a legitimate reason to stay in Paradise, "For Fanny" ended with the revelation that Hubbel had left everything to her--she now owns the house, which I guess makes Fanny her tenant? Look, it’s kind of a silly conceit, like so much of what Bunheads has given us so far, but it also solves the problem of keeping Michelle around, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new sparks fly between the odd couple now forced to share a roof.


QUESTIONS:

1. Will Fanny accept that Hubbel left the house to Michelle, or are we in for a legal battle over ownership?

2. Are you a Sasha, a Boo, a Melanie, or a Ginny?

3. Hubbel’s best friend Jerry: definite new love interest for Michelle?

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