Two Cheers for Hellcats

Hellcats, one of the newest in the CW’s arsenal of shows about beautiful young people dealing with the trials and tribulations of life and hormones, is neither about hell nor cats. Inspired by Kate Torgovnick’s book, Cheer, which somersaults into the world of competitive college cheerleading, Hellcats follows the lives of the ever camera-ready Lancer cheer team for a fictional Memphis football-obsessed college. So while, I’m not really a fan of cheerleaders-okay, sorry, athletes-this show has its M-E-R-I-T-S. (I promise only a few more bad cheerleading jokes.)

Like all the other CW shows, Hellcats has enough love triangles to make a pretty substantial pyramid. (See what I did there?) First there’s Marti (Aly Michalka), the bubbly-yet-angsty (yes, an oddly likable combination) girl who can’t wait to get out of Memphis with high hopes of becoming a lawyer. Marti's artsy, loner, filmmaker friend Dan (Matt Barr) is obviously in love with her from scene one. But Marti is either oblivious to Dan's love, which seems highly unlikely if she prides herself on her smarts, or she's stringing him along, which makes for the perfect set up of our first love triangle. The third point of the triangle is Lewis, one of the hot boy cheerleaders who takes a liking to Marti during her tryout, when she shows off all of her showgirl dance moves complete with gratuitous pelvic thrusts. And then, well, it turns into a love quadrangle if you consider Alice, Lewis' ex, a recently injured cheerleader who is replaced by Marti. Not only is Alice pissed at Marti for taking her spot on the team, but she's pretty upset that Marti's caught Lewis' eye. In a less riveting love triangle is the cheer coach, Vanessa Lodge (Sharon Leal), who has just moved in with her boyfriend/team sports-doctor Derek Altman (D.B. Woodside). At the tip of that triangle is Vanessa's ex-boyfriend, Red Raymond (Jeff Hephner) who is being brought on as the football team's new coach. There is some supposed unresolved sexual tension going on between Vanessa and Red though their chemistry left something to be desired.

Lest you forget that this show was about competitive cheerleading, between each scene is a weird little transition cut of a cheerleader flipping across the screen, which feels dated and unnecessarily campy. And since it is a competition show, not unlike Glee or Friday Night Lights, the stakes about winning the cheer competition are made very clear from the get-go. Not only does Marti need to be a cheerleader to get a scholarship to stay in school, but the whole cheer team's budget is being cut and they have to beat out the Memphis Christian team at Qualifiers to not get cut entirely. But in the same way that Glee may be a show about competitive glee clubs but focuses mostly on the music, Hellcats so far is focusing on the hot dance moves, cheering and tumbling. And it's impressive. They've obviously got professional cheerleaders and gymnasts as extras, which makes for great montage sequences, if you're into watching that sort of thing.

After watching the first episode, it seems that the real star of the show is not newcomer Marti, but Savannah (Ashley Tisdale), the goody-two-shoes cheerleader. The cute and cheery Ashley is refreshingly not the typical mean girl head cheerleader. After her initial spat with Marti about the athleticism and art of cheerleading, we learn that Savannah really has her heart in the right place when she puts aside her differences with Marti and votes her onto the team. She may be saccharine sweet and motivated in an annoying but endearing Rachel Berry sort of way, but in this cast of cuties, she’s the most believable.

So, am I totally flipping and hand-springing over this show? Gimme an N! Gimm an O! Will I cry if the team doesn't win sectionals, or regionals, or whatever? Gimme a D! Gimme an OUBTFUL! But admittedly, I'll watch this show because it’s got all the elements for a good hour of guilty pleasure mind-numbing television watching.

Comments (19)
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Giving it a shot. Between The Event and the NCISes and Dexter and other high stakes show out there, this might be a good light show to watch.
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I was gonna check it out but why bother it probably won't make to October.
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Nah, so far just 1/2 cheer.
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When you have to have exposition to explain who/what the characters are, that's some weak you know what..."and he's also the team doctor and a sexy hunk"...geeeeezzzz
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The show seems interesting, but don't want to watch another show with too many love triangles and all that.
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I can imagine my sister liking this, but I'll pass.
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couldn't have said it better ;-)
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Since I tried it as a guilty pleasure ( and there's not much else on) : so far so good. I'm gonna wait and see if it's gonna be interesting enough to keep watching on the long run.
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Maybe not all TV has to be mind numbing Reality TV and Cop shows. I liked it, found the cast engaging and who cares if it's got some cliches. I can't wait for episode 2 and onwards. The main leads all came across well and made me want to see the development of the characters. And as for the comment about a gay cheerleader not being present. Isn't that a good thing? Why would implying that a male cheerleader can do anything or a Female one for that. Surely not every show should have a stereotypical Gay type character and that anyone of them could be, Not every Gay person I have met is someone that fits a mould. I hate shows that have a "Token" character to make up numbers. One of my favourite films was written by a Man about how he fell in love with his wife. The film was then made about two women. They just cast the best actors with chemistry and that they were female, mad little difference.
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As a fan of Bring It On I really enjoyed this show. My only peeve: where's the obligatory gay male cheerleader? Or is Lancer U in that mystical TV land where gay men don't exist?
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i"m surprised you guys like it
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I still have no intention of watching it.
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i agree with this article very much so
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Somewhat interesting though I still have my doubts.
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That episode was a cliched riddled messed. At least they look pretty.
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I completely agree with the article. Although it isn't original, it did indeed feel a bit different than what I had expected. And Ashley Tishdale is so great being such a people-pleaser. I at first thought she was kidding, but she is really concerned and I love that take on the head cheerleader. The myriad of love triangles (yes, very cute pun, Ilana) did feel a bit much, but hey, it's just the pilot. I first found it hard to believe the reluctant lead is such a typical cheerleader type, but in the end it really does work. The gymnast-background is thankfully put in place, or it would be kind of HSM where everyone suddenly knows the lyrics in the spontaneous song without a piece of sheet music on them. So I'm definitely watching ep 2.
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@karlwolfe50 would you care to be more specific in your analysis? We now know you think its 'crap', but why should we follow suite, Ilana has done a breakdown. I think this show has potential, you have to give all new shows 3 to 4 episodes to get going. I actually really wanted to see what Marti's mum would end up doing.
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no sorry but your wrong, its crap
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interesting...
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