Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why the World Needs More Bunheads

This is how they'll look if you cancel Bunheads, ABC Family.

Bunheads came into the world in June of 2012 and Amy Sherman-Palladino's little ballet show brought us the same quirk and small-town charm that Gilmore Girls did.  Although it took me a little while to warm up to Amy Sherman-Palladino's writing tics (I only watched a handful of episodes of Gilmore Girls as a kid), even in the early going, it was always an enjoyable watching experience.  In many ways, it was the perfect summer show, and some of my fondest memories of that time were the Monday nights when I watched Bunheads.  My enjoyment of the show seemed to have an inverse relationship with the ratings, as my love grew exponentially when it came back in January of this year, while viewership dropped down to the low 1s.  Now, a year after the show first premiered, Bunheads finds itself in a state of limbo, not knowing whether it will be renewed or cancelled.  Despite the fact that it may be the most critically acclaimed show on the network, it just doesn't fit in with ABC Family's branding, which has found a hit in Pretty Little Liars and decided to run with it.  Basically, the future of Bunheads depends upon the failure of the network's new shows, The Fosters and Twisted (both of which had lower premiere numbers than the Bunheads series premiere).  I and every other fan of the show have been clamoring for any kind of word on a pickup, so in the meantime, I've made a list of why the world needs more of this delightful little show:

1. The dance sequences
I don't know how the casting director was able to find four girls who could dance well and also handle ASP's signature dialogue, but thankfully they did, because it makes the dance sequences all the more enjoyable.  I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that they might be my favorite thing on television.  Shot in fluid long takes, the camerawork helps emphasize the beauty and poetry of ballet and capture the immediacy of the dancing.  Fatigue never sets in, because the dance sequences serve a variety of purposes.  They can be regular practice scenes, an underlining of unspoken emotions, free-form poems, or inscrutable bits of wonder.  That last Sasha one is everybody's favorite, but they're all so captivating and hypnotizing.

2. Its unparalleled warmth and positivity
So many of the great dramas on television are overwhelmingly dark and brooding.  The television landscape is at a point where we don't expect a show to be good unless it has some male antihero at the center.  Bunheads is among the rare crop of shows right now, like Parenthood and The Carrie Diaries, that aren't concerned with exploring the dimmest corners of the human condition.  These shows tend to not get the credit that they deserve, but they're a much needed respite from the Mad Mens and the Breaking Bads of the world.  Ultimately, Bunheads is about good people trying to do good things, and while characters may not always get along or see eye-to-eye, there's a deep love connecting all of them.  If the show were to get cancelled, we'd really be losing its special wholesomeness.

3. It features 6 regular cast members and they're all women
In Man of Steel, there's a female character who's clearly a military officer of significant ranking, yet her only role is to be a cipher and her biggest line of dialogue is when she calls Superman hot.  There are much greater problems with the movie than that, but it does underline the inequality that exists in Hollywood, both on the big and small screen.  Lately, there has been an increase in female-led shows, but even those tend to have pretty male-dominated casts.  Homeland, which features Claire Danes giving one of the strongest performances as the fascinating Carrie Mathison, is basically a gigantic sausage fest outside of the lead role.  Bunheads, on the other hand, is pretty much all female.  You'd have to go a little way down the billing of recurring characters before you reach a male.  A show shouldn't get an automatic pass for being female-centric, but when it's as good as Bunheads, it's practically a crime to cut such a radical show's life short.

4. It'd be a shame to leave on such a bum note
For as happy and quippy as Bunheads can be, it can also pack a heck of an emotional punch.  Some of my favorite moments of the show are the somber ones, such as the beautiful scene where Michelle and her brother dejectedly sing the song from The Jerk.  But what makes those moments easier to stomach is that there's always something that eventually picks a character up when they're feeling down.  Season 1 ended on a devastating note, as Ginny revealed that she lost her virginity to Frankie, who had since been nothing but cold and distant to her.  The dance sequence that closed out the episode was lovely as always, but it's quite a dark way for us to remember such a bubbly show.

5. Bailey Buntain the Blonde Bunhead
Television critics really latched on to the alliterative nature of Bailey Buntain's name, and more than the contests to see how long they can stretch the title out, I'd just miss Bailey Buntain in general if the show didn't get renewed.  I was a fierce Melanie guy in the first half of the season, but Ginny quickly became my favorite in the back half of the season, mostly due to Bailey Buntain's fantastic performance and superb handle on the patter of Amy Sherman-Palladino's dialogue.  Really, all of the girls had become so fleshed out by the end of the first season.  No longer was Sasha "the mean one" or Melanie "the tall one"; they were all fully realized human beings with their own little flaws and personality quirks.

When shows are on the bubble, people tend to exaggerate their love for them as a natural defense mechanism.  It's part of the reason for the internet's slavish devotion to Community, which constantly finds itself on the chopping block, only to get miraculously renewed through the sheer power of NBC's mediocrity.  Over the past couple of months, I had begun to wonder if maybe we were all just overdoing it with Bunheads, but in researching and finding clips for this post, I realized just how much I love this show and will miss it if it dies.  It's a show that really nests inside of you and fills your body with so much warmth and joy, you won't have room for anything else.  If I were to make a big list of my favorite moments on television this year, Bunheads would probably be the show with the most on that list.  I'd really like to see a second season, not just to see more of these characters that I love so much, but to also inhabit the breezy world of Paradise, California once again.

No comments:

Post a Comment