Original Air Date: Jun 11, 2012
Melanie – TwoCents Reviewer
Former Gilmore Girls fans like myself waited anxiously for the TV return of the shows creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, with Bunheads. Would the story of dancers in a sleepy town present us with a taste of what we’ve been missing since the Gilmores left TV? Would we be able to buy Kelly Bishop as anyone other than society wife Emily Gilmore? And who is this Sutton Foster everyone is talking about?
I went into the premiere with hope, and ended it with a new summer favorite to look forward to week after week!
The story revolves around the character of Michelle Simms, played by the Broadway sensation Sutton Foster. I know, I didn’t know who she was before this show either, but I’m glad I got the chance to find out! We first meet her as she performs a standard Vegas showgirl number, wearing the heavy feathered headgear and all, and making the fast-talking, snarky remarks we were looking for as the higher-paid but less talented topless dancers take the stage.
We watch the fast-talk continue as she turns down her stalkerish fan, Hubbell Flowers, for dinner and sends him off with the other girls from the show. Seems he comes to see her every time he’s in town, and possibly comes to town just to see her, but she doesn’t have the time of day for him. She’s got to get ready for a big audition the next day, which may get her off the Vegas stage and back into respectable musical theatre with a part in Chicago.
She doesn’t get to even audition, as she’s turned down simply by appearance (although she swears she’s only 25), and takes Hubbell up on his offer of dinner the next night. The sweet man offers her marriage as a means of escaping her career woes. He just wants to take care of her! And she accepts, since he’s caught her in just the right hopeless emotional state.
Ok, sure, this part is a little unbelievable; but then again, what girl doesn’t want a sweet, caring man who obviously just wants to make her happy and adores her completely? For Michelle it certainly offers a change from the drab life she’s leading now, dancing unfullfillingly in Vegas shows and living in a rundown hotel type place. It also goes along with her brash history of decisions, which we later learn included ditching out on a contract with the American Ballet to follow a friend to Vegas for a while. She seeks change, adventure, new experiences, and doesn’t fear she’s closing a door by opening another!
Of course, she didn’t realize she was marrying into such a sleepy, quirky town, or to a man whose mother lives with him. It’s not as bad as it sounds, Hubbell owns the home and his mother lives with him, he’s not holed up in her basement with his girly mags. Happy coincidence has it Mother Flowers, better known as Fanny, runs a small dance studio right near the house.
Fanny is played by Kelly Bishop, who fans will recognize as Emily Gilmore. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to divorce her from her previous role, and I was right. Sure, here she’s an aging former prima-dancer who quit dancing when she got knocked up and the father split, and rather than prim and proper she’s eccentric and bold, but to me she’s just a more artistic version of Emily Gilmore. She’s judgemental of those in her son’s life, she’s obstinate, stubborn, calculating, and can seem cold on the surface, but there is something there just underneath that makes you think she has a big heart. So what if I keep comparing and seeing Emily in everything she does? This doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the show!
We meet some of the dancers, our main “bunheads”, in the pilot as well. They include the natural dancer with all the bits it takes to make it but none of the heart, Sasha; the desperate to make it but lacking the proper body form and confidence, Boo; as well as adorable but short Ginny, and quiet follower Melanie (what a great name!).
Michelle also meets the dancers when she heads over to the studio to escape the uncomfortable scene at the party Fanny threw for her and Hubbell. They’re handing out in the studio, drinking some beers, which she promptly confiscates. Then she shares some of her experience by putting them through a mock audition process, helping to differentiate further between the different attitudes and goals of the girls.
Her actions with the girls gets her someplace with her new mother-in-law, and they head off to the local bar for some bonding time. Their fun is short-lived, as they learn that Hubbell has had a car accident.
So now what? The life Michelle moved here to try for is gone, but the life she left isn’t one she’ll want to go back to. Plus she’s had a pretty instant bonding with the young dancers, who can learn a lot from her experiences as well as her talent.
I love the series so far. It has enough of the feel of the Gilmore Girls to fill that nostalgic void for fans as well as a compelling story all its own to share of a newcomer to a strange and unique little community whose looking for a place to be more satisfied. The casting seems spot-on, the young dancers are endearing and Sutton fully engages the audience and pulls them into her world of fast-talking wit and adventurous spirit. I can’t wait to watch the relationships unfold and the characters to reveal themselves even more!
Do you agree with my thumbs-up for the new series? Are you able to look at Kelly Bishop and not think of Emily Gilmore? Does the story draw you in and make you want to get to know this community? Or were you disappointed in the premiere? You’ve got my two cents, now lets hear your!
Next week: For Fanny