Summer 2012 Review: Bunheads

15 Sep

I’ve always suspected I would like Gilmore Girls if I ever got around to watching it.  By the time I was ever really aware of the show, it was fairly far along into its existence, and it wasn’t quite so easy to acquire full seasons of shows, and it’s never had the must must watch tag of The Wire or Six Feet Under or The Sopranos, and well, I never did get around to seeing more than 15 minutes at a time of the show. Everything I’ve heard about it though suggests it’d be up my alley; most of all the fast talking and pop culture references for which it’s famous.

So having not previewed cable shows as thoroghly as I did network shows, I came into Bunheads, created by Gilmore Girls’ Amy Sherman-Palladino,  knowing, for me, surprisingly little. I knew it was about dancing, and I suspected, because it was on ABC Family, that somehow kids would be involved, and that there was some sort of controversy about all the main characters being white. I was actually surprised twice during the first episode at events that led to the establishment of the premise of the show.  Honestly, before I knew anything, I thought it was some sort of show about muslims, and that bunheads was a derogatory term.

The show starts with a frustrated vegas dancer, complaining about the essence of her day to day life in the chorus of a Las Vegas revue, and frustrated that her career can’t evolve further. She turns down a coworkers offer to get drunk because she has a big audition the next day, for Chicago, where she could get to be a real dancer again (the musical, not the city). She has a frequent admirer/stalker who comes and visits her in the dressing room every time he’s in town(portrayed by Spin City/Ferris Bueller’s Alan Ruck), buys her flowers and gifts and tries to take her out to dinner. She goes out of her way to avoid and turn him down. The audition is a nightmare when the director takes one look at her and does not even let her show off her routine. Being in such a bad mood, she wants to deal with no one, but lets her guard down and lets her admirer take her out for a meal, where she gets trashed and he proposes to her and tells her about his hometown. Several hours later she wakes up in a car and puts things together and realizes she’s now married to this dude and off to his hometown.

Pause here – I thought for sure something bad was going to happen. Maybe I’ve learned to be inclined that way from years of television, but I assumed this guy was super creepy for real and she was going to end up dead in a ditch, or, well, I didn’t really know what bad, but I assumed something bad would happen. Something bad does not at all happen, or at least nothing epically bad like that.

She arrives in his sleepy coastal town of Paradise, California, where it turns out that his description of living right on the water was correct, but that he omitted that he lives with his mother. The mother just happens to be a ballet teacher to a class of kids, but in particular to four teen friends, who hang out and all have different personalities, which I’m sure we’re going to learn more about as the show goes on. From what I can gather, one is super talented but cynical and unmotivated, one is really into it but doesn’t have the body type to be a great dancer and is insecure about that, one keeps talking about how her boobs are getting bigger, and then there’s a fourth who I think is maybe a follower of the first. Anyway, it turns out the guy is actually a super duper nice guy if actually a little creepy, and, yes, he realizes she doesn’t love him, but that’s okay, because he loves her and she might reciprocate some day. She is touched, they have sex, and then she gets into a fight with his mom at a party she’s throwing for the newly married couple. She wanders into the dance studio where the teens are drinking some beer and teaches them about auditions and shows them some dance moves. The mom walks in, sees how good she is with the girls, and the two of them go to the bar and talk. They have some heart to heart moments about lost promise and potential and dance, when all of a sudden her husband’s ex walks in with some terrible news.

Okay, so they don’t actually say straight out what it is but I happen to know (second episode spoiler?), the guy died in an auto accident all of a sudden, which since I knew nothing about the show I found quite surprising. So, without knowing the premise, that’s two pretty crazy turns – that our main character gets married to a stalker after a drunken night in Vegas and that the guy then died like literally the next night in an auto wreck. I like Sherman-Palladino’s (boy that name is a mouthful) style.  The dialogue was snappy and well executed for the most part.  It veered a little dangerously Glee-y when everyone started to break out in dance at the bar after our main character and her new mother-in-law had their heart to heart, but aside from that seen the potential schmatz was low.  It’s unfortunate that dance is definitely pretty low on things-I’m-interested-in but a great show transcends its subject.  This wasn’t a great show from its first episode, but it was actually pretty good.

Will I watch it again?  It’s at least maybe. This was definitely better than shows I’ve said maybe to in the past.  I’m going to be swamped with new shows over the next month, but as for candidates that I swing back around towards like I did Boss this summer, depending on how many good shows pop up in the fall, I wouldn’t rule it out.  Honestly though, what will most likely happen is that I’ll forget all about it entirely until unless the next season starts because it’s on ABC Family, and who remembers that ABC Family has shows.

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