June 11, 2012

TV: Bunheads (ABC Family, Mon 9)

It's almost inevitable that Bunheads is going to be compared to Gilmore Girls, and Amy Sherman-Palladino, who created both shows, isn't exactly running away from the comparisons. You've got a tall, leggy, long-haired brunette; Kelly Bishop as a matriarch with whom the lead is in conflict; a charmingly quaint small town -- it's practically Gilmore West.

Our central character this time is Michelle (Sutton Foster), a Vegas showgirl whose hopes of a more traditional dance career are starting to slip away; after one particularly bad audition, she gets drunk and winds up marrying Hubbell Flowers (Alan Ruck), a businessman who's been buying her gifts for months.

Hubbell takes her home to Paradise, a quaint little town on the California coast where he lives with his mother, Fanny (Bishop). Fanny is also a dancer, who once had a promising ballet career until she got pregnant; now she runs Paradise's dance studio. It will come as no shock that Fanny and Michelle don't hit it off, or that the show is filled with Sherman-Palladino's trademark rapid-fire banter (and Sutton Foster delivers it every bit as well as Lauren Graham ever did).

We also meet four of Fanny's students, teenage girls who aren't given much more than quickly sketched personalities in the first episode, but who have room and potential to develop into an interesting group. And I've no doubt that Paradise will prove to be just as filled with colorful characters as Stars Hollow was.

The Michelle/Fanny relationship is the most interesting part of the show, and there's a plot twist at the end of the episode that suggests that's what Sherman-Palladino wants to focus on. But the core ABC Family demographic is teen girls, so I suspect there's going to be pressure to push those four students more to the center of the series. If not, it will be interesting to see if the network's core audience will follow a show about adult women.

Very pleasant first episode, good enough to draw me back for another few weeks to see what happens next.

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