So you wanna be a bunhead, huh?

On Monday evening, ABC Family (owned by the Disney company) premiered a new show called Bunheads. Following the story of a woman who danced in Vegas and then married a shoe salesman on a whim as her life seemed to be at a standstill, we find that our protagonist Michelle (Broadway star Sutton Foster) has the background of a professional dancer. By going home with her new husband, she meets his mother, Fanny (Gilmore Girls and Dirty Dancing mother Kelly Bishop), who is also a professionally trained ballerina who owns and teaches at a ballet studio.

Produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, this show has a lot going for it. The dialogue is fast, snappy, and sarcastic: all the things I loved about Gilmore Girls (Yes, I admit that I was a fan and would love some closure to that show. But that will have to wait.). I love seeing Kelly Bishop play a similar character to Emily Gilmore while also having a totally different attitude (she’s a practicing Buddhist – gotta love that.), and Sutton Foster has a Lorelei feel to her. And, yes, Sherman-Palladino even added that Luke-like character for us – for a while. Hubbell sees Michelle at her Vegas show and falls head over heels for her in no-time. He is totally sweet to her and simply “wants to take care of” her.

And, of course, the show revolves around dance. I was a dancer at a studio for 10 years, but I never really stopped dancing, so this show is terribly engrossing for me. Great characters and dancing? I’m there with bells on!

One of the topics discussed on the VERY FIRST EPISODE was about a young dancer, Boo, who thinks she is too heavy and not of the “proper ballerina shape” to win a ballet scholarship. But Michelle gives her the confidence that shape isn’t everything in dance. It’s about attitude. And Boo has plenty of that. She may not be long and limber like some of her cohorts, but she certainly has the stage presence that I think really makes a dancer. This was something amazing that many talk about but don’t totally address. Weight and body shape are HUGE issues within the dancer circle, and I’m glad to see it addressed in this new show, especially so early within the show.

I watched most of the pilot, and I was very impressed, convinced that this was going to become my new favorite show, except…

Except that apparently one of the driving forces of the show, Mr. Hubbell Flowers, Michelle’s husband of, oh, maybe a day or so, who she professed not to love but was clearly falling for him, was killed off at the end of the first episodes in a car accident.


I assume someone with the creative genius of Amy Sherman-Palladino has a good reason for this, and I have some curiosity about it, so, though I originally felt I couldn’t watch this show after such an abrupt departure of a character, I may have to see where this is going. But, I have to say, as a writer, this doesn’t seem to be a direction I would have taken. Why couldn’t he be put in a coma or something, rather than something so final? At least do something with his character where he could come back if necessary. I understand that the story is about Michelle and the “bunheads” she’s going to teach, as well as her relationship with Fanny, but I think not having a character that should be the basic root of the premise there is a little strange. I’m not sure whether I can get over this to watch the show or not, though, if the writers have a really great plot line that they have in mind, I might be able to forgive (though I refuse to forget as a writer).

Overall, I’d say this show has a lot of potential if it can get over a big blow to the show’s plot. A main character that was there to save the protagonist is no longer there, but maybe something is cooking that will save the overarching theme. The dialogue and script are absolutely amazing (if you can keep up), and Foster’s Michelle has a sassy, snappy attitude that is a force to be reckoned with. And the only force that can combat well is Bishop’s Fanny, who has a tongue herself with a quirky penchant for saying things she shouldn’t with a bite while also being lovable and sweet when she wants to be. The ballerina’s need some development, but I absolutely love Boo’s energy and spirit. She’s just so cute and cuddly! But watch out for Truly. Though she started as the crazy ex-girlfriend of Hubbell, I think she’s going to become a major factor to the plot and Michelle.

I’d say give this show a watch if you get the chance. It has something for everyone, and the humor is rather witty. It really does have a lot to offer and faces some tough issues, like negative body image, the hidden harshness of dance, and death. But I don’t want to spoil everything. Just be prepared for the end of the pilot! Make sure to breath when Truly marches in. It’s tough to watch and sudden. But I think you’ll make it that far. Especially when Foster and Bishop tear it up swinging in a bar scene. You might even want to get up and dance to “Ain’t She Sweet.” The dancing is superb, and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to give it a try. Grab your dancing shoes and watch Bunheads!


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