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Bunheads: Good But Not Gilmore

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Written by : published Friday 10th August 2012

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On paper Bunheads and Gilmore Girls share few similarities. Yes,hey were both created and executive produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino. Yes, they both star female leads. However, Bunheads is about a Vegas dancer who gets married only to find her husband dies the next day. She’s left living with her late husband’s mother and helping at her dance school. Meanwhile, Gilmore Girls was about a mother and daughter who were more like best friends. But in reality, both series are very similar in tone and, in my opinion, Bunheads seems in inferior in comparison.

Bunheads stars Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as Michelle Simms, who realizes her dancing career may be coming to an end just as a long-time admirer comes back into her life with a proposal. While she never loved Hutton, and made it clear that she didn’t, she loved the idea of escaping to the idyllic Californian town of Paradise and starting over. But things didn’t work out as she’d planned as it turned out Hutton’s mother, Fanny (Kelly Bishop), lives with him, and Hutton dies in a car accident the day of their arrival. Michelle may have wanted a quick escape but quickly learns that she inherited Hutton’s home, meaning she also owns Fanny’s dance school. The first few episodes obviously dealt with the mourning of Hutton and we got to watch the sheer awkwardness of two total strangers, living together and resenting each other’s existence at the same time. Attention was given to Fanny’s dance school but it seemed like the complicated relationship between these two women was at the core of the show.

That didn’t turn out to be the case. Four of Fanny’s students, Boo, Sasha, Melanie and Ginny, were prominent from the beginning. But as the season continued, they began to become more central characters. Fanny was away for two episodes, letting Michelle take over the running of the dance studio, and it seemed that Michelle also took a back seat. Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins) started working as a waitress in a local restaurant, which has become a regular hangout for the other girls. Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles) has been having difficulty at home; her father is gay and her parents have been arguing about it, meaning that Sasha is more ignored than usual. Throw in Ginny (Bailey Buntain) breaking up with the boyfriend she’s had since 2nd grade and Boo’s crush on Melanie’s (Emma Dumont) brother, these girls have a lot going on.

While I have no problem with the actresses who play the foursome; they are talented in terms of their acting and their dancing, but I’m struggling to connect with their characters. There’s something lacking in the story that makes me uninterested in them. At times I find myself mentally switching off until Sutton Foster comes back onscreen. I guess my main issue with these characters is that I didn’t expect the show to focus on them so much. Instead of being centered on the dance school, I had thought the series would concentrate on the relationship between Michelle and Fanny.

I could easily overlook the fact that the show isn’t what I initially thought it would be. But I think Sherman-Palladino has over-relied on Gilmore Girls cast members and aesthetic techniques associated with it to allow Bunheads to become a show of its own. Sherman-Palladino undoubtedly has a unique writing style, which I have always found to be very enjoyable. However, the Michelle character is so similar in personality to Lorelai that I can’t help comparing her characterization to that of Lauren Graham from Gilmore. When they’re compared, I find that Sutton Foster doesn’t manage the quick-paced dialogue as easily as Graham did and there’s something in her portrayal doesn’t always ring true with me. Not only is the lead character similar to one in Gilmore, but a number of former castmembers of that show have been recruited to play minor roles (I’ve counted 5 so far). While it’s great to see these actors on screen, it again reminds us of Gilmore Girls and how this series falls short.

Once you separate Bunheads from Gilmore Girls, it’s fair to say that this is an enjoyable series. But it is extremely frustrating that Amy Sherman-Palladino and the other producers didn’t try to distance themselves from AS-P’s signature show. 

About the author David

David

I'm a 21 year old English student from Ireland. To put it simply, I love TV, Some of my current favourites include Parks and Recreation, Community, Veep, Parenthood and Revenge. Follow me on Twitter @losingstreak12

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