Just as our tears dried from the series finale of Make It or Break It, (ABC Family, can you please give us a movie, so we can see the girls at the Olympics?) Bunheads comes along to fill the void with another series based on a talent we regret giving up at age 7. We can’t be the only ones who are sure we could’ve been a professional ballerina if we’d just toughed it out for a few more years, right?
Odds are, when you had that short-lived dream of becoming a professional dancer, you didn’t plan on being a Las Vegas showgirl. Well that, unfortunately, is what happened to Michelle (played brilliantly by two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster), a fast-talking, witty, self-deprecating dancer who’s gone from a revered professional to a second-rate showgirl.
Her unlikely savior is an admirer named Hubbell who she dismisses every month when he comes into town on business trips with expensive gifts. He’s actually more like a stalker than an admirer, but he hasn’t reached that dangerous stage where he parks his car outside her house just to be near her. After yet another disappointing audition, and too many drinks at dinner, she marries Hubbell and moves with him to his charming coastal hometown.
Michelle’s only problem with Hubbell is that he lives with his mother (“Like a serial killer?” she asks.) in a house full of creepy dolls and glass figurines. Her new mother-in-law, Fanny (Kelly Bishop from Gilmore Girls), who’s apparently told the whole town Michelle’s a stripper from Reno, Nev., runs a dance studio right next to their house.
As soon as Michelle starts interacting with the girls at the studio, showing them what a real dance audition is like and how much fun ballet can be, it becomes clear where the show’s charm—and conflict—will come from. While her mother-in-law is more on the traditional side with their training, Michelle’s more interpretive; both of which appeal to different girls, whose personalities come through in vastly different ways. The chemistry, both positive and negative, created between these distinct characters through their interactions in the studio make for the best scenes in the pilot episode.
Any of you old souls who adore The Way We Were (or big Sex and the City fans) will probably wait for someone to say, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” It doesn’t happen, which is one of the biggest missed opportunities in television history. But since that’s the only downside to this show, it’s definitely worth your time. We can only imagine how complex the characters will continue to become as the show goes on.
The best part is that just as you’re settling in your mind who these characters are and how this show will be in the future, a twist ending will knock you right out of your seat.
ABC Family’s Bunheads premieres on June 11 at 9 p.m. EST.