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"Better Luck Next Year!" Bunheads

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Written by : published Wednesday 11th July 2012

ABC Family's Bunheads continues to delight this week with "Better Luck Next Year!" Fanny (Kelly Bishop) is devastated to learn that the Joffrey summer camp auditions have been moved to a different venue, away from her studio, with very little notice. Michelle (Sutton Foster), frustrated with her failed attempts to fix her own life, throws herself into Fanny's problem instead. In the end, it takes Fanny and Michelle working together to save the day, and they get the auditions back.

There is something heartwarming about every episode of this series, and "Better Luck Next Year!" is no different. Fanny and Michelle are both in bad places in their lives, feeling like they haven't accomplished what they set out to do, and barely hanging onto a fragile reputation. Losing the Joffrey event could kill Fanny's self-esteem the same way that Michelle's inability to hang a curtain rod does to her. But by helping each other, these two are going to find their way, and I mean that in the larger sense, not just in this particular instance. This can be seen as they sit and sip wine, watching over the studio with serenity. This is their place.

"Better Luck Next Year!" illustrates Michelle's uneasiness with moving vans full of stuff that may or may not be hers, a (literal) broken home, and a pair of dream sequences. While each of these work very well as metaphors, the latter also showcases Foster's singing and dancing ability, something I sincerely hope the show continues to do periodically. She is experienced on stage, and using that only enhances her character. Now if only we could see some of the same for Bishop...

Bunheads does very well in serving their side characters, which lend serious charm to the setting. This week, Rico (Gregg Henry, Hung, Gilmore Girls) is featured in a single scene to great effect, and Bob and Don, who run the local hardware store, are introduced.

The scene stealer is Stacey Oristano's Truly, who knows what everyone wants but herself. It's sad, knowing that Truly would love to be in Michelle's place in relation to Fanny, yet isn't a strong enough personality to do so. Truly does lend help, being there for Fanny, and hanging curtains for Michelle, while giving a bit of advice. It will be interesting to see how this character grows, if she will always be on the outside, or if Fanny and Michelle might include her a little more actively over time. If this happens, it will be because of Michelle's influence, as Fanny and Truly's relationship, or lack thereof, is already well established.

Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins) and Nanette (Jennifer Hasty, True Blood, Horrible Bosses) are shaping up to be a pair to watch. Nanette is introduced as flaky, yet supportive. However, as Boo discovers in "Better Luck Next Year!," Nanette doesn't have as much faith in her daughter as she probably should. Nanette buys Boo a cake with the phrase that doubles as this episode's title before the auditions even taken place! It may be that Nanette just knows her daughter very well, but if so, she should realize that it's a terrible idea, bringing that cake into the house, where Boo can find it, ahead of time!

Gilmore Girls thrived on mother-daughter relationships, and as Bunheads is mostly a continuation of the themes and stories of that show, without actually using the same characters (at least not yet), one expects the same from them. Michelle and Fanny are obviously going to have that type of interaction, but not being related, they also flirt with friendship. It's Nanette and Boo viewers should look towards for the family stuff, though Nanette is not a main character.

There may be a second mother-daughter story building with Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles), though her mom sits out this week, which is appropriate. While Sasha's main story is making nice with Boo, which is great, because fans finally get to see her compassionate side, there is an undertone of the relationship Sasha has with her own mother, too. Boo's mom may screw up, but there is still affection present, while Sasha's parents are almost absentee. Maybe Nanette could serve as a surrogate to Sasha, thus saving her soul? If Boo and Sasha manage to deepen their friendship, this is a possibility, and would serve as a good spring board to bring Sasha's mom more to the forefront as well.

As many things as Bunheads has going for it, there definitely seems to be a lack of budget. This stands out most noticeably in "Better Luck Next Year!" because, with the Joffrey auditions occurring, only two of the four main ballerina girls are even in the episode. Granted, there is enough story with Michelle, Fanny, Boo, and Sasha, the four more developed girls, that the other two aren't missed. Except, this is a big deal for the dancing they are all so committed to. They should have at least been seen.

Ah, well. Minor flaws like that are easily overlooked because of the genuine joy Bunheads inspires with its complex relationships and feel-good stories. This week continues that tradition, and there is no end in sight, with dozens of stories already teed up to go forward. Check it out, as it airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Family.

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About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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