Bunheads – Pilot
When it comes to TV I have an obvious weak spot, over the past few years I have heaped praise on a number of theatrical pilots that on second viewing turned out to be much more precarious ventures than they had at first seemed, all of them then teetering off the edge of the stage and into the pit of unwatchability below. Glee and Smash were the latest and to that list we may soon be adding a third in Bunheads, but then again this was the title that I least enjoyed of the three, the one with the least flash and so it may well be that it is the one that can stand the stage lights longest. That is something only future episodes will show, for now though we will have to just go off of what we have in the pilot.
Bunheads, the bizarrely titled new drama From Gilmore Girls scribe Amy Sherman-Paladino ( even her name is an over extended mouthful) tells the story not of a fish out of water, but a bird beneath it. Big city burnout Michelle Simms leaves her seedy Las Vegas lifestyle behind to begin again in the small surfing town of Paradise, only to find that her while her feathers felt small on that stage they seem overly ostentatious in this new setting and so him hijinks ensue: she meets her new mother in law, is scolded by strangers who think she is a stripper and starts a friendship with some random teenage girls.
There is then a rather strong sampling of generations within the show: older kids, younger adults and, let’s say ‘mature women’ are represented. Perhaps for the first time the network title of ABC Family has meant what it stands for rather than just ‘junior’ , the show literally giving everyone in the family someone to root for and follow. Yes, it is the twenty something that plays in the place of the protagonist but both of the other perspectives seem as if they will be given equal time in the future. Somewhat ironically the youth story, the most traditionally ABC Family, is by far the most ‘in development’ of the three – if you’ll pardon the pun – but this is mainly because it has four characters instead of just the one. Not coincidentally though is the fact that the one male character that the show has – literally – is killed of in the final moments; this may well be a show for all women, but it’s definitely only a show for women ( target wise; anyone can and should watch anything).
The nail in this particular coffin, and where it gets that theatrical element, is in the fact that all of the characters are dancers and their interactions all take place in and around the dance school they all either attend or teach at. Dancing, much more than singing, is a strongly specific act of art – we all of like certain songs, but very few can name a piece of choreography – and because I’m not one of those people a lot of this shows musical sections were probably lost on me, whereas those in say Glee were what sold me. This isn’t a negatives though because despite my dance dumbness I still rather enjoyed this pilot, which means that it was the drama during the quiet moments – though as the show itself mentions, none of these characters ever actually shut up – grabbed me when that is where these usually fall apart.
It’s easy to hook people in with big budget numbers and spectacle but Bunheads tries to trap its audience through small things like brainy banter, body observations ( I don’t feel like a male writer would have gotten away with giving some of those lines to such young girls, and yet they are perfectly authentic. Strange the way we see sex) and actual consistent character work. Whether or not it can succeed with this slow and steady approach where those others could not we will have to wait and see, but see is exactly what I want to do, so I guess that it worked on me. Let’s just hope that it can get the numbers of those other two titles when it airs, because the show won’t go on without an audience of similarly stars truck viewers.