"Bunheads" Review: Stars Hollow Gets a Ocean-Front Makeover and It Wears It Well
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"Bunheads" Review: Stars Hollow Gets an Ocean-Front Makeover and Wears It Well

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | June 13, 2012 | Comments ()


If you've had a Stars Hollow-shaped hole in your soul ever since Amy Sherman-Palladino abandoned "Gilmore Girls," leaving it in the lesser hands of those slow-talking minions who destroyed the final season of the show, worry not: "Bunheads" will fill that vacancy. If "Bunheads" were any more like early seasons of "Gilmore Girls," the CW could probably file suit. The tone, the music, the giddy repartee, the pop-culture shout-outs, the jingly-jangly almost magical realism of it all has been perfectly maintained and transplanted from Stars Hollow to a sleepy coastal town in California, and honestly, based on the pilot, I couldn't love it more.

The comparisons are also helpful: If you liked "Gilmore Girls," you'll almost certainly like "Bunheads," and if you didn't like "Gilmore Girls," then what is wrong with you? "Bunheads" centers on Michelle (Sutton Foster), who is basically Lorelai Gilmore minus 15 pounds. Michelle herself is a Vegas showgirl, miserable and about to be aged out of her career when Hubbell Flowers (Alan Ruck), an almost uncomfortably kind man whom she barely knows, convinces her to leave her life in Vegas, marry him, and move in with him. Caught at a particularly low point -- after being rejected at an audition before she could even perform -- Michelle agrees, only to find out that Hubbell still lives with his Mom, Fanny Flowers (Kelly Bishop, essentially reprising her role as Emily Gilmore).

Fanny, who runs her own ballet studio for teenagers, is immediately disapproving, but over the course of the pilot episode, Michelle and Fanny find common ground in dance and in their affection for the ballet students with whom they will mentor (a collection of quirky teenage Sherman-Palladino characters). Both Kelly Bishop and Sutton Foster have real-life dancing backgrounds, so their dance sequences are as natural as their chatty back-and-forths.

Not a lot of pilots are as successful as "Bunheads" in immediately investing you in the people, but a lot of that is because these characters -- zippy, optimistic, with just a touch of melancholy -- feel like someone we already know, and in a way, they are. It's like one of those body-switching movies, where the soul of Lorelai has been pulled out and placed in the body of Michelle; I almost expected to see a supportive Sookie St. James enter with a pie and a few kind words It's also easy to ignore the impulsivity of Michelle because it feels like something Lorelai would do, and the whiplash deja vu goes a long way toward selling the emotional wallop that lands in the end.

It's an impressive debut: Witty, affectionate, snappy, and just on the edge of annoying, but never crossing over. It's a line that Sherman-Palladino straddled for years on "Gilmore Girls," and whether it's in those characters or new ones, it's nice to finally have that voice back on our televisions.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Courtastic

    I really liked it up until the end....with that cheap and absolutely unnecessary twist. Why?

  • VioletKiller

    "so they’re dance sequences are as natural as their chatty back-and-forths" ... Yesterday I saw an ad for a reality show called "Doomsday Preppers" about (probably) toothless rednecks teaching their children to use bayonets and hoard tinned food. Whilst I am not going to watch said reality show, I'm confident that if I did, I would learn that "two misused appostrophes in one week on Pajiba" is one of the first events heralding the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Duck and cover, people.

  • Clementine Bojangles

    I was surprised by how much I liked it. I think there were some pacing problems in the first episode, but the cast is pretty strong, I love Sutton Foster's facial reactions, and I miss Gilmore Girls...so it all works for me.

  • tessa

    the cast is so white....

  • John W

    Well Gilmore Girls wasn't exactly a Million Man March so it shouldn't be a surprise.

  • Darlene

    agreed. Far, far too white.

  • Angy

    far too white for what? a small town in California? for a pilot? are we only relating to our own race now?

  • Lilly

    A small town in California where there is a large Asian and Latino demographic? Are we saying only white girls can do ballet??

  • dizzylucy

    I enjoyed it, but felt it borrowed very heavily from Gilmore Girls, right down to the la-la music. Sutton also vaguely resembles Lauren Graham, and the one dancer kind of resembled Alexis, so it was a little weird seeing them in scenes with Kelly Bishop. I think it was pretty solid for a pilot, and I'll continue to watch - I hope it manages to have the charm of Gilmore Girls, but to become it's own thing.

  • I'm going to watch this show so hard when I get home. Hope I like it as much as it sounds like I will.

  • Steph

    What is wrong with me? I wanted so badly to like this show and I just didn't. I am a Gilmore Girls fanatic so this should have been an immediate favorite of mine. I don't know - unlike the folks in Stars Hollow, this group just seems to be trying to hard. Look at us! We're quirky and charming! And then they threw in that twist at the end which I did NOT appreciate. Oh well. I'll give it one more try.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Aw, I missed it. I'll have to look for it again. Side note though, it's not really surprising that a mom would disapprove of the grown son who lives with her coming home married to a showgirl aka another person to house/feed?

  • I'm not surprised that this show works so well. Sutton Foster wasn't going to abandon being offered every leading lady role requiring dancing on Broadway for any old pilot. There's a reason she's won two Tony awards and has been nominated for another three: she's good. A show about a professional dancer stepping into teacher mode is the perfect showcase of what she can do.

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