“The Astronaut and the Ballerina” – Bunheads

This is the Bunheads I’ve been missing for the preceding two episodes. Which pretty much cements my belief that the High School elements are dragging the show down. “The Astronaut and the Ballerina” stayed entirely clear of those dreaded halls. While many of the component parts stayed the same – Cozette and Frankie were still players, as was Ginny’s bizarre jealousy – the overall effect was vastly different. When the action stays away from school corridors, something shifts and the show becomes far more watchable. This episode saw Boo and Carl dealing with becoming acting-parents, Ginny crumbling into insanity as her father’s re-marriage crept ever closer, and Melanie taking on roller derby (with her new alter-ego, Cleosmacktra) and branching out into a tentative friendship with Cozette. It must have been Julia Goldani Telles’ week off, because Sasha was nowhere in sight (she was ‘apartment hunting’). It also saw the rekindling of Michelle’s romance with Godot and the arrival of Michelle’s brother, Scotty (Sutton Foster’s real-life sibling, Hunter). Some funny moments, and some cute ones. Even a little drama and heartache. Vast improvement on last week’s offering. – K

Quoteworthy:

“They look up to me.”

“They’re isolated kids. You’re this strange, exotic creature. You’re a mermaid. You’re Tinkerbell.”

– Michelle, Scotty

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“I’ll Be Your Meyer Lansky” – Bunheads

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This was definitely not my favorite episode ever. I felt like something was missing. It’s not exactly that it was bad. All the elements that usually make Bunheads so enjoyable were present and intact – it was funny (though not Quoteworthy), it was fast-paced, it was believable, the characters were well-painted and engaging… but, all in all, it just didn’t grab my attention and hold it the way previous episodes have.

Part of that was the subject matter of the episode, I guess – Michelle and Fanny are hemorrhaging money, they go to a cranky accountant who’s more insulting than helpful, Michelle decides to pull a Stringer Bell and go to business school, then she discovers she ‘forgot’ to finish high school. Shame spiral. It should have worked but it didn’t. It also resulted in Michelle and Fanny going into business (opening an amphitheatre) with Truly’s sister, Milly, which just feels like an opportunity to throw some work toward ex-Gilmore Girls cast member Liza Weil. Who, incidentally, is basically the exact same character in Bunheads.

Add to that the increasing high school presence, and you’re creating a recipe for disaster. The vast appeal of the show in its early days was partly due to the fact that, while they are teenagers, they girls don’t act like your prototypical, clichéd High School­-ites. They were a little more mature, a little different. Their life was ballet and friends, not cliques. Since the show’s return, that seems to have changed. The focus on them seems to revolve more and more around their High School lives, and the catty, juvenile jealously they feel toward Cozette. And that’s irking me more than anything else. I can only hope that the jealousy doesn’t last too long. And the sooner Ginny stops avoiding Frankie, the better.

The most likeable moment of the episode came when Sasha’s mother told her she could stay in Paradise, gives her the keys to the house, says she has two weeks before it’s sold, and says she’ll be gone in the morning. In many ways, it’s exactly what Sasha wanted. But, as the realization dawns that she will have to take care of herself, her reaction is perfection. Sasha can often be arrogant and abrasive, but it’s when she is weak and scared and vulnerable that Julia Goldani Telles’ acting really shines through.

But Melanie is, once again, the best thing about the show – this episode’s sneak attacks on her brother’s unsuspecting ex and on Godot (who clearly wasn’t waiting for that. Waiting. Godot. Geddit?) were spectacular in timing, execution and casualness. I also sense that Melanie is going to be the first to cave in and become friends with Cozette – the extended olive branch of Roller Derby should see to that. I approve. – K

Quoteworthy: “Every time we have a conversation I feel like I need to add more movie channels.” – Fanny, to Michelle

“Channing Tatum is a Fine Actor” – Bunheads

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Okay, so this episode wasn’t the same level of hands-down-amazing as last week’s, but it still blew the competition out of the water. Not that it’s easy to find Bunheads’ competition. It’s a show that stands out not just because of its quality but because there are simply no other shows quite like it. It fills the niche left gaping by the loss of Gilmore Girls – a show that’s just about people, without any of the high school drama, without any of the mysteries and secretiveness, and without any of the forced storylines that so frequently people teen shows these days. Its closest comparisons have to be to shows like MTV’s Awkward., but it seems increasingly likely that writer Amy Sherman has created her very own genre. And I love it.

But I got a little side-tracked there. This wasn’t as amazing as last week’s return from that interminable hiatus, but it was still great. It achieved that hard-to-come-by balance between packing a lot into 42 minutes and not feeling crowded. As is always the case with Amy Sherman’s efforts, the pace is fast and the action frequent. But I never felt like there was too much going on, or that any one aspect could easily have been forgone in exchange for some breathing room. In fact, it was enough to make me wonder if the only reason her characters talk so fast is so that they can fit all the fantastic material into the 42-minute format.

We branched out a little from ballet this week to take a closer look at the girls’ school. This was a welcome break and gave us a chance to stray away from the studio before we get too bored of it. No one could ever complain about opening a show’s universe up to the audience a little more. But with this new location Sherman runs the risk of turning her show into something more suited to The CW so, hopefully, this week’s trip over high school way was just a plot device to introduce us to Ginny’s new love interest and Sasha’s new nemesis, not an indication of things to come.

Though it might just be, as this week did seem to be the week of shaking things up. While Boo and Carl both ‘met the parents’ and, because of it, grew closer and more stable as a couple (I can’t love Carl enough as a character), everything else was a little more up in the air. Truly has been locked out of her store by the landlady (who is, incidentally, the sister from whom she ‘stole’ Hubble; played by Liza Weil, Scandal, Gilmore Girls, ER) and is, as a result, using Michelle’s house as a dress shop. Those two new students – brother and sister, Frankie (relative newcomer Niko Pipaj) and Cozette (Jeanine Mason, The Bling Ring) – promise to make things interesting in Paradise, giving Ginny someone to moon over and Sasha someone bizarrely accomplished to compete with. And, most drastic shake up of all, Sasha’s parents have split up for good. Her father is moving to San Jose with his boyfriend, and her mother is moving back to LA. Sasha is, so far, refusing to go with either of them and is determined to finish out high school in Paradise.

Will she convince Michelle to become her adoptive mother until she finishes school? It seems the most likely scenario, but only time will tell. – K

Quoteworthy:

“There’s no whale in The Great Gatsby.”

“Are you joking? Where the hell is this stinker going if there’s no whale?”

– Sasha, Melanie

PS Someone as accomplished as Cozette is usually, in shows like this, incredibly smug and annoying, and this is no exception. But, damn. That girl can dance. 

“You Wanna See Something?” – Bunheads

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The spectacularly hilarious return of Bunheads reminded me what good TV was supposed to be, and only served to heighten the dissatisfaction I’ve felt with certain other offerings over the last half-season. Never predictable and always funny, the show simply does not disappoint. Most welcome of all was Amy Sherman’s trademark snappy dialogue, which, it has to be said, still zings with all the pizzazz of her Gilmore Girls days. More than anything about this consistently fantastic first season, I missed the clever and witty one-liners. A close second was the stellar and always evolving character development. Sherman has an incredible ability to really bring a character to life, pull them off the page, and turn them into someone you feel you could realistically bump into on the street. The show is nothing if not believable.

This episode’s action begins several months after that of the summer finale. Fanny has closed the dance studio and is redecorating her house with Truly’s help, Michelle is dancing behind a terrible magician in Henderson, Nevada, and the girls are all at loose ends – Boo is the perpetual babysitter as her newly pregnant mother is confined to bed rest; Ginny is picking up the slack for her own mother, who is in the midst of depression following her ex-husband’s marriage to his boyfriend; Melanie is looking after her grandfather; and Sasha has returned from Joffrey and is hiding out at her friends’ houses, refusing to return to her parents’ house until she absolutely has to. We’re left with an overwhelming feeling that balance will not be restored until Michelle returns to Paradise.

Luckily, in the meantime, we get a full helping of comedy – all the way from Emma Dumont’s excellent portrayal of Melanie (who’s quickly becoming our favorite of the girls) to the YouTube smash “Nutcracker Macer – It’s Time to Dance”. And, in typical Sherman style, any risk of the show becoming an all-out comedy (and thus losing its central appeal) is tempered by sweet but serious moments. Fanny arriving in Henderson to get Michelle to come home was lovely (but not so lovely as to seem saccharine sweet), and Sasha rushing to hug Michelle was the perfect icing on the perfect cake.

All in all, a fantastic return for the ABC Family show. Long may it continue. –

Quoteworthy: 

“What are you going to tell the angry villagers?”

“That you’re back and if they don’t like it they’re free to take their children to that enormous, crazy woman with the pyramid system, whose students end up with knock knees and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

– Michelle, Fanny