Pilot Perception: Bunheads

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our new feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Bunheads, ABC Family in the U.S. and ABC Spark in Canada, Mondays at 9/8c

The Pedigree: The show was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), and the pilot was directed by Kenny Ortega (Gilmore Girls, High School Musical).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Bunheads stars Sutton Foster, who is best known for her amazing Broadway career, but also appeared on Royal Pains last season. Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Persons Unknown) plays her husband, and Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls) is his mother. The regular cast is rounded out by young women who are real ballet dancers but relatively new to acting.

The Premise: Classically-trained dancer Michelle is frustrated trying to make it as a showgirl in Las Vegas, so on a whim, she marries a fan and moves with him to his small town, where she helps his mom run her ballet school while struggling to be accepted by her new neighbors and her husband’s friends.

A Taste:

What Works: Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop are both masters of their craft, and it’s a delight to see them together. The witty, quick dialogue is just what you’d expect from Sherman-Palladino, and the dancing is well done and a lot of fun. The young dancers all do a good job, even though some of them don’t seem to have much acting experience, and they got me interested in finding out what happens to them as well as to main character Michelle.

What Doesn’t: The line between fun quirky small town antics and horrifically annoying quirky small town antics is very thin, and it’s not yet clear on which side of that line Bunheads will end up. I was going to say that some of the characters might be hard for the viewers to like, but then I remembered that this is the station that shows Pretty Little Liars, so a few mean girl competitive ballerinas should go over fine.

This Isn’t a Positive or Negative, But… I can’t not mention that the pilot was very different from what I expected based on the advertising and the way people have been talking about it. I liked it, a lot, but it was much darker and more adult than I had anticipated. I can’t say much more without spoiling, but it will be interesting to see whether that tone continues in future episodes, and how the audience reacts.

Our Favorite Line: “Welcome to the audition for the sequel to Cats. Working title: Dogs.

Other Items of Note: A few more Gilmore Girls alums will be showing up later in the season, so keep your eyes peeled!

You Might Like This if you like Gilmore Girls, of course, or shows about dance or the performing arts in general. You should also give it a try if you like the idea of watching people trying to negotiate lives that didn’t turn out the way they wanted or planned.

If You’re Interested: Bunheads premieres tomorrow, Monday, June 11, on both ABC Family and ABC Spark at 9/8c. And I’ll be reviewing it here at TheTelevixen each week, so check back with us on Tuesday!

(Photo courtesy of ABC Family.)

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