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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bunheads takes a bow

ABC Family's Bunheads completes its summer run with "A Nutcracker in Paradise." While things were looking up for most of the characters going into the week, this episode ends in disaster. Michelle (Sutton Foster) not only manages to run off Fanny's (Kelly Bishop) beau, but also mace the entire dance company in the middle of a performance of The Nutcracker. Not even a stunt straight out of Dead Poets Society can save her job now!

By the way, are we expected to believe a bunch of teenage girls, especially ones obsessed with dance who have little time for films, are familiar with that movie?

Michelle and Fanny's relationship is the best part of the show. Despite everything that has happened, there is no way that these ladies are done with each other. There might need to be a cooling off period, for sure. But Fanny likes having Michelle around, no matter how grumpy she may act towards the younger woman. And Michelle likes having purpose in the small town, and seems drawn to the dance studio. While she resists settling down, considering returning to performance, this is where she belongs. It won't be easy, but they will make up.

Bunheads does something extremely interesting near the end of "A Nutcracker in Paradise." Hubbell (Alan Ruck) appears to Michelle in a dream, and they talk about her life, and ruminate on if she would have stayed had he not died. Hubbell tells her that this is where she belongs. Michelle resists. It's an inner war that she's been struggling with all season, and while viewers already knew this, it's cool to see it brought to life in such a way. Plus, any return of Ruck is welcome.

Each of the teen dancers featured on Bunheads have come into their own as the season unfolds. Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins) gets over her shyness and insecurity and lands herself a boyfriend. Ginny (Bailey Buntain) breaks out of her own comfort zone with her long-time steady, realizing that she needs to experience life and try dating other boys. And Melanie (Emma Dumont) accepts her friends for who they are, even as they move on with their interests in guys, which she doesn't seem to quite share yet. These are all normal teenage things.

But Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles) has the biggest journey. Frustrated with a terrible home life, she acts out in self-destructive ways. It isn't until Michelle sits her down and helps her get her head on straight that Sasha can return to her friends and the dancing she is so good at. Her life isn't solved now, and her problems won't get any easier. But she's in a good place as the season comes to an end.

It's understandable that Sasha stands up for Michelle in "A Nutcracker in Paradise," given how Michelle directly helps her, but why do the rest of the girls go along with it? Michelle has drifted into their scenes from time to time and solved a few problems. However, Bunheads has not shown her get too involved in the kids' lives, nor demonstrate a real passion for teaching them. Are they loyal to her because kids tend to be loyal to the adults that just happen to be around? Or should there have been more scenes with Michelle earning this kind of response? Or maybe they were all just following Sasha's lead? That is a debatable question, and the only semi-weak point in the episode.

Bunheads is charming, and with the music and dialogue, as well as the colorful townspeople and quirky jokes (like the unnamed 'ringer' in this episode), it really does feel like a somewhat continuation of Gilmore Girls. For this reason, it would be a crying shame to see it go away. A second half of the season has recently been picked up for winter, rumored to be about eight additional episodes. This isn't a terrible, but it's not a great sign, either, and the show probably needs more viewers if it's going to continue long-term. If you know a Gilmore Girls fan that isn't watching it, please let them know about Bunheads! I know it's on ABC Family, not a popular network among women past the age of eighteen, but they could expand the fan base enough to keep it running. It's very enjoyable, and it deserves to go on.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my new website, JeromeWetzel.com! Article first published on TheTVKing

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