‘Bunheads’ is a good mother/daughter show

Amy Sherman-Palladino: It’s a name that most “Gilmore Girls” fans will recognize, as she is the creator and writer of the early 2000s hit show. Typically sporting a top hat with her black curly hair spiraling underneath, Sherman-Palladino speaks with a barb of wit and snap to her voice, not at all like the dancer — or “bunhead” — she once had dreams of becoming. 

The nickname for a ballerina and her memories as a dancer growing up became the title and inspiration for a TV show titled “Bunheads” on ABC Family that lasted all of 18 episodes of one season in 2012-2013. 

Tired of her career as a Las Vegas showgirl, Michelle Sims starts a new life in Paradise, California, a fictional small town northwest of Los Angeles, as a dance teacher alongside her new mother-in-law Fanny Flower. 

When asked about the show’s demise, Sherman-Palladino recognized it just wasn’t the right network for the show she produced: It floundered as it tried to find footing amidst a network whose demographic was the teen drama. But nonetheless, the show was peppered with what made “Gilmore Girls” a hit: snappy dialogue, a cute small town, and characters that we fell in love with, despite – or perhaps even because of – their weird quirks. 

What’s made the show’s quick exit off the ABC Family roster such a surprise was the stacked talent of the cast, with current Broadway legend Sutton Foster starring as Michelle alongside “Gilmore Girls” alumna Kelly Bishop (Fanny), who herself was a Broadway dame, originating the role of Sheila in “A Chorus Line.” In addition to that, what really impressed me was the show’s ability to cast quality dancers as the “bunheads” who can also act, or actors who can actually dance — a feat that is largely unattainable by most Hollywood execs.

I recognize that as a female dancer, the show automatically catered to my tastes: a show about dancers with all that made “Gilmore Girls” a hit. But you don’t have to be a dancer — or even a fan of dance — to appreciate the show. Oh, of course there’s Sherman-Palladino’s signature snark, the fast-paced dialogue, and those quirky-but-lovable outer-ring characters (“Gilmore Girls” fans will appreciate the appearances of Liza Weil and Sean Gunn, and will certainly find humor in how vastly different the character of Fanny is from Emily Gilmore). 

What really made this show brilliant was exactly what made “Gilmore Girls” the hit it was — the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, and “mother-figures” and their “daughters.” In just the 18 episodes that aired, the friend group of teenage “bunheads” face a plethora of teenage issues, from romantic troubles to body image issues, from dealing with divorce to complicated relationships with older brothers. But even as adults, the mother (or mother-in-law)/daughter relationship can be complicated, which Fanny and Michelle have plenty of their own issues to work through.  It’s a show ripe with points of discussion and connection within the context of those often difficult but critical relationships. 

The show is currently free to stream on Freeform (formerly ABC Family).

Hannah Davis is the Area Editor at the Forest Lake Times. You can contact her at hannah.davis@ecm-inc.com or (763)233-0709

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