Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bunheads and TV History's Biggest 2nd Episode Curveball

Bunheads caught my attention because it was free on itunes. At first glance, it looked female-centered and slightly tween-oriented. I initially thought this wasn't too far off from the Gilmore Girls demographic which wasn't my cup of tea.  [Ed. update: It turns out show runner Amy Sherman also created Gilmore Girls]

But, again, it was free and the female lead was somewhat charming as Brett's love interest on Flight of the Concords. 

Good thing I jumped at the beat, because I found the show to be surprisingly interesting.  It's one of those love stories where the girl finds the boy repulsive at first but is gradually won over. Only in this case, this all happens within the first two acts and the girl already drunkenly married the guy before she got around to being convinced he was right for her.  

The girl in this case (Sutton Foster) is Michelle. She's a Vegas showgirl who once aspired to be a dancer. The guy is the wonderful Alan Ruck. It is rare to have a series where a couple falls in love after they get married and that's an interesting twist. It also helps that Alan Ruck and Sutton Foster are able leads and sold the moments.  

Following a great pilot episode, we fast-forward to Episode 2 and 



What were they thinking?? For one, I have trouble buying a coincidence of the magnitude that a woman marries someone who dies the next day. For another, the pilot introduces the premise of the show. If you get anyone on board your show enough to want to tune into week 2, how can you then destroy the entire premise and make it a different show without risking losing that audience? Lastly, this is triply bad because it was a good premise they initially had, Alan Ruck is a great actor, and his character was a good character. I could see them killing off the romantic comedy equivalent of a red-shirt ensign but Alan Ruck?? 

And one episode in? Could they not have waited a few more episodes? Killing off a character can be a very unexpected twist, but not Episode 2. It would have made a good season finale, for example. 

The focus shifts to a sort of small-town comedy a la "Northern Exposure" or "Local Hero" and is also about a woman finding herself. The relationship shifts to Michelle and a mother-in-law played by Kelly Bishop who are strangely bonded by legal circumstances and the sharing of a loved one for 24 hours. The show also centers around four perky high school girls who are ballet students of the mother-in-law. Some of the show's most entertaining moments come from the quartet because they have such clashing personalities but they are practically glued to the hip. I'm not sure why but I think co-dependent pseudo-families of people are at the center of good TV (see It's Always Sunny, Cheers).

As is, the show still works past Episode Two but I maintain it's a bad move and would have been a better show. 

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