I think I might just be the only person on the internet who is willing to publish a review of ABC Family’s new show Bunheads that is 100% critical. I’m not willing to go so far as to say that it’s the worst show I’ve ever seen, but I find it to be quite awful considering the credentials it boasts. Its producer, Amy Sherman-Palladino, is the famed writer of Gilmore Girls, which had 6 wonderful seasons and 1 terrible one (after she left). Its star, Sutton Foster, is a renowned Broadway star. And its premise could not be better timed, considering the national dance craze that we are experiencing right now (9th season of So You Think You Can Dance, Breaking Pointe, Dance Moms, Step Up: Revolution, etc). And yet, I find myself thinking, after each episode I watch, why should I care about these characters exactly?
But before I get to that, can I just express my desire that the actors on Bunheads not ALL come to the show with Gilmore Girls on their Filmography? The crossover between Gilmore Girls and Bunheads actors is truly shocking. The most obvious example is Kelly Bishop, who is co-starring with Foster as Fanny Flowers, a slightly more eccentric and artsy version of Emily Gilmore. I liked the Emily character because she was both witty and cut-throat, but the Fanny character is crazy and more than a little bit washed-up. But it doesn’t stop there: Gilmore Girls’ Gypsy is reincarnated as Sam, Jason Stiles comes back as director Connor, Zach plays Davis the plumber, and Mitchum Huntzberger appears as Rico. The comparisons don’t even stop with the actors; the setting of the show (small, impossibly quirky) is a California-fied version of Stars Hollow, and even the musical interludes are quite similar (not surprising, because the composer is, you guessed it, from Gilmore Girls).
The Michelle character is what I imagine Lorelai would have become if she hadn’t gotten pregnant at 16 and had instead dropped out of high school to pursue a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, winding up as a Vegas showgirl who’s pushing 40 with nothing much to show for her life. But perhaps it’s unfair to criticize Michelle, because she’s clearly meant to be a broken, run-down character; why else would she agree to marry a man she doesn’t even like and run away in the middle of the night to escape her life? However, that doesn’t really fit in well with her role as a mentor and teacher of the four main teenage ballerinas. Michelle acts shockingly emotionless when her whole life is uprooted and her new husband is killed (in a surprising twist of events). I think I would have liked the show a whole lot better if it had featured Hubble and Michelle trying to build a life together.
The Fanny character is old. And crazy. I think Bishop is past her acting prime. But my major complaint with Fanny is that she’s too much like Emily Gilmore, and yet somehow not as entertaining.
The four main bunheads are nothing more than stereotypes. Sasha is a bullying rebel. Boo is an insecure, good girl. And the other two barely get enough story arcs or lines to be worth mentioning (I can’t even remember their names without checking IMDb, to be honest). It’s difficult for me to imagine why the four of them are even friends, aside from the fact that they are so obsessed with dance that they have no other free time to develop friendships. The lack of friend-chemistry I see is almost as bad as certain friendship pairings on Glee (like when Rachel and Quinn are suddenly friends at graduation, having spent most of high school competing over the same men, solos, and other achievements). I do see why the four of them might be fascinated by Michelle, but why they would follow her after their strict education from Fanny is beyond me.
Finally, the supporting characters are either played by actors directly from Gilmore Girls (as I mentioned above), or are so off-the-wall that it makes them completely unlikeable. My primary example of this is Truly Stone, former lover of Hubble and all-around nut job, but Nanette Jordan, Boo’s absent-minded and nutritionally oblivious mother, is a close second. I just don’t understand how they’re all related to the show, because they certainly don’t make it more amusing.
Perhaps the show has some potential, but so far I haven’t been given any evidence that it’s going in a direction that I would enjoy watching. Still, the most surprising part about it is how many positive reviews there are on the internet. I can’t seem to find a single truly critical review, so I thought I’d write one.