God help me, I love Bunheads.
This isn’t really a surprise. I was predisposed to fall for the new Amy Sherman-Palladino series from the get-go. But that didn’t make me any less delighted by the pilot, which felt—despite very few plot similarities—like the Gilmore Girls spin-off I never knew I needed.
The banter. The sharp female characters. The quirky small town. The Kelly Bishop. It’s not Gilmore Girls, but it has just the right feel to it. Sutton Foster’s Michelle owes an incredible debt of gratitude to Lorelai Gilmore: These women were made from the same mold. And while that could be a point against Bunheads, Foster is so charming it doesn’t even matter that her character’s a little derivative.
It’s worth noting that Bunheads at least seems aware of this, with Bishop’s Fanny remarking, “Oh my God, the quips, the chatter, don’t you ever shut up?” (Emily Gilmore would never have been so harsh.) Later in the episode, she told Michelle, “You should have been a radio personality or an auctioneer.” Indeed, it’s hard to believe someone as bubbly and quick as Michelle would end up as a Las Vegas showgirl—a background showgirl, no less.
I haven’t said much about the plot; that’s because it’s one of the weaker points and I prefer to focus on the series’ charms. But yes, Bunheads’ entire set-up is absurd, and you have to be willing to go with it from the beginning, lest you start to question everything else. I’ll buy that Michelle, in a moment of drunken desperation, got hitched to a man who clearly loved her more than most. But if you expect me to believe she’s going to stay in this small town where almost everyone hates her and try to make a go of it without her husband—come on now.
And yet, if we’re being honest, I don’t care. ABC Family series are allowed a little more leeway than those of other cable networks when it comes to logic. (See also: my reviews of Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game.) Sometimes you have to just accept the silly and enjoy a show for what it is. That’s especially easy when it also has smart writing and some truly honest character moments. The conversation between Michelle and Fanny about life’s missed opportunities? Amid all the zaniness and the choreographed dances, that felt real.
Writing aside, Foster and Bishop are the real selling points. My only concern at this point is that the network will feel a need to move the show’s focus more toward the four young girls—more on them in a bit—and neglect the adults. Foster has been a big Broadway star for years, and she’s so likeable it’s surprising she hasn’t found more crossover success. Bishop is, of course, best known for her role as the Gilmore Girls’ stern but well intentioned matriarch. She gets to have a little more fun here (hello, dance sequence), but she’s still a hard-ass, and that’s what she does best.
Okay, so the girls: Boo, Sasha, Ginny, and Melanie. I can’t really tell them apart yet, except that Boo is insecure (and “ballet fat,” allegedly) and Sasha is kind of a B (with a gay dad!). None of them jumped out to me the way that Michelle and Fanny did—even Hubbel was a more developed character. But hey, the Bunheads pilot had to do a lot in terms of setting up Michelle’s backstory and her arrival in Paradise. I’m willing to give the series the benefit of the doubt, in the hopes that the four dancers will be fleshed out a bit in the coming weeks. Also, and this is a side note, but can we skip the eating disorder storyline? I can feel it coming already, and “done to death” is an understatement.
But to quote a Magnetic Fields song, “nothing matters when we’re dancing.” How fun was it when Michelle gave the girls an impromptu dance number to perform? It might not have helped me get to know the dancers any better, but it did put a smile on my face for a few minutes. What I’m saying is, there’s a lot about Bunheads to love, and there may be a few things to merely tolerate, but as long as there is choreography, I’ll probably be happy. Between the banter and the dancing, I’m entranced.
What'd you think of the premiere?