Hey ‘Gilmore Girls’ fans, you should probably be watching ‘Bunheads’
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s newest small town adventure, ‘Bunheads,’ premiered last night on ABC Family to rather positive reviews despite it’s rather odd moniker. The ratings, however, weren’t so great.
The show, about a ballet dancer (two-time Tony Award winning actress Sutton Foster) turned Vegas showgirl who marries a man she doesn’t love because she’s unhappy with the life she’s leading, marks the much anticipated return to TV for Sherman-Palladino, also known as the genius behind the WB’s hit show ‘Gilmore Girls.’
But the premiere drew only 1.7 million viewers, most of them outside ABC Family’s key demographic of girls on the cusp of puberty and girls who think the world just doesn’t understand them because they’re teenagers. The dramedy only held 65 percent of its lead-in, ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ (seriously, folks, it’s not a secret), but I don’t see that as a problem. In fact, I see that as a positive thing.
ABC Family should want to branch out. The best shows it ever had were ‘Greek’ and ‘The Middleman’ and I think you can successfully argue neither of those were shows for the network’s usual demographic. And while that didn’t work out for ‘The Middleman’ (the show was canceled after only one season), it did work out for ‘Greek’; the show ran for four years.
I have faith in ‘Bunheads” ability to succeed and I have a fairly good theory as to why the show was mostly watched by women ages 18-49 and not young girls. Women in the 18-49 age bracket are the same women who spent the years 2000 to 2007 wrapped up in the world of the Gilmores and the quirky inhabitants of Connecticut’s greatest fictional small town, Stars Hollow. I can’t believe I’m going to write this, because it makes me feel much too old for someone only 25, but ABC Family’s key demographic is too young to remember the show in its prime.
‘Gilmore Girls’ had its swan song in May 2007 and by that time it had started to fizzle out. It was no longer the popular darling it had once been and most people agree it’s because the seventh season was Sherman-Palladino-less. But that’s ancient history. That was 2007. If for some reason you’ve just woken up from a coma, that was five years ago. Five. Years. Lauren Graham has been making me cry for three seasons on ‘Parenthood’ and Alexis Bledel’s showing the world her sideboob on ‘Mad Men.’ A lot has changed since 2007, but there’s one thing that is certain: Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new show is funny and likeable and it has quite a bit in common with the show that gave us Jess Mariano. And although I actually think that’s reason enough to watch her new show, I’ll give you five more reasons.
1. Familiar faces
Kelly Bishop stars as Fanny Flowers. The once Emily Gilmore is a former ballerina whose career took an unexpected path, just like Sutton Foster’s Michelle Simms. She’s also the mother of Alan Ruck’s Hubbel, the man Michelle marries in a moment of drunken weakness and with the hopes that she’ll one day grow to love him. Fanny lives with Hubbel and runs a dance studio behind their home.
It’s hard to separate Fanny from Emily at first, mostly because she comes off a little controlling and manipulative in the pilot. But prim and proper she is not. No, this is not a woman who would fire a maid (in fact, I doubt she’d ever hire a maid) for walking too heavily. This is a woman who’s a Buddhist and who walks into a bar ordering shots and requesting that the bartender leave the bottle. To paraphrase the show’s creator, this woman is more of a broad than the Gilmore matriarch. (Though that hasn’t stopped me from concocting stories about how Fanny is really Emily who is on the lam and no one knows where she is until Miss Patty’s dance class competes against Fanny’s for a national title – someone write that fanfic, stat.)
Oh, and Rose Abdoo (Gypsy from ‘Gilmore Girls’) pops up as yet another quirky town resident!
2. Familiar Sounds
‘Gilmore Girls’ had a lot of fairytale charm woven throughout, and part of that was because of Sam Phillips’ musical cues. Phillips is once again providing some la la las for the music between scenes. It’s obviously not exactly the same as the strains that accompanied the Gilmores as they walked through the town square, but it’s familiar enough to make you feel all warm and cozy inside. It immediately envelopes you and gives a sense of familiarity to this new show and these new characters.
3. Familiar dialogue
Sherman-Palladino is one of only two people that come to mind when I think of rapid fire quippy dialogue (the other is Aaron Sorkin). It’s what set ‘Gilmore Girls’ apart from the rest of the hour long dramas (well, that and the sheer amount of pop-culture references that had me Googling something every episode). She set the tone with witty banter delivered a mile a minute and I still can’t figure out how anyone manages to recite it perfectly, let alone act in the scene at the same time. But the dialogue that made ‘Gilmore Girls’ a household name is present here, and Sutton Foster does a fine job of wrapping her mouth around the lines.
4. Familiar small town charm
‘Bunheads’ is set in the idyllic west coast town of Paradise (yes, I know), and despite the fact that it’s on the opposite side of the country, it appears to be a cousin to Stars Hollow. You don’t get a very good feel for the town from the pilot (there’s a lot of story to be covered, after all), but you do learn that there is no movie theater, the skating rink will open in November, and sometimes the kids go to the library for fun at night when the janitor accidentally leaves it unlocked. Yes, apparently this show is set in the 1950s and any minute a fire engine will race by to rescue a kitten stranded in a tree.
But it’s not the small town that matters, it’s the people who make up the town. Sherman-Palladino did a wonderful job introducing and developing the odd townsfolk of Stars Hollow so that you actually got a sense of community from the show. Viewers knew Taylor and Miss Patty and thankfully, Kirk. We knew them, we loved them, and we cared about them. I have high hopes that she’ll do the same thing here, having already introduced us to at least one quirky character, Stacey Oristano’s (‘Friday Night Lights’) talented seamstress (sound familiar?), Truly.
5. Familiar sense of home
I once built a solid friendship out of a shared love of ‘Gilmore Girls’ and I hold it near and dear to my heart. There are very few shows that make me smile just by thinking about them and there are very few shows that give me adequate pop-culture reference material. I’ve been in love with Jess Mariano for the last 10 years and I cry when Lauren Graham cries. ‘Gilmore Girls’ is a part of me and I see so much of it in ‘Bunheads’ that if you were ever a fan of the show, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
The show airs on ABC Family Monday nights at 9 PM.
Note: Photo courtesy of ABC Family.