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July 12, 2012

Culture Cram: ABC Family's 'Bunheads'

Kelly Bishop, Sutton Foster and a group of talented young supporting actresses star in the feel-good dramedy Bunheads, from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.
(image via Entertainment Weekly)
I was (and still am) a huge Gilmore Girls fan. I love the show's fast, witty humor and small-town quirkiness. As an ambitious, level-headed teenager, I related to Rory Gilmore, who represented a rare TV teen who actually thought about her future and acted maturely. I was saddened when the show was canceled in 2007 after seven lovely seasons.

My Gilmore Girls withdrawal has eased slightly with the premiere of ABC Family's new dramedy series Bunheads. The show was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the smart writer behind Gilmore Girls (which plays in syndication weekdays on ABC Family). Although the new series has a different premise, it retains the charm, quick wit, quirky plot devices, and stock characters of the canceled CW show.

Bunheads follows Michelle, a sarcastic Las Vegas dancer struggling to make it big and working an unfulfilling job as a showgirl. When one of her fans professes his love and offers to marry her and take her back to his beachside home, she agrees, thinking she'll make a better life for herself. That's how she ends up in Paradise, California, a small town reminiscent of Stars Hollow on Gilmore Girls. The only place Michelle seems to fit in is at the ballet studio her new husband's mother runs. ("Bunhead" is a nickname for a ballet dancer.) When an unexpected event pushes Michelle and her mother-in-law Fanny into close quarters, the pair must reconcile their differences and find common ground at the ballet barre.

Fanny, the ballet instructor and Michelle's in-law, is played by Kelly Bishop, the beloved actress who portrayed Lorelai's uptight, wealthy mother Emily on Gilmore Girls. Here Bishop basically plays Emily Gilmore with more bohemian clothes and crazier home decor. Michelle, played by the hilarious and likable Sutton Foster of Broadway fame, is the show's equivalent to Lorelai Gilmore. She's fast-talking, pop culture-obsessed and funny. The banter between Michelle and Fanny is reminiscent of that between Lorelai and Emily, which is music to a Gilmore Girls fan's ears.

Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Emily (Kelly Bishop) of Gilmore Girls had
a similar relationship to that of Michelle and Fanny on Bunheads.
(image via Entertainment Weekly)
 Something else which is music to my ears is the famous "la di da" tune which pervaded seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and shows up on Bunheads. From the characters to the dialogue to the soundscape, Bunheads is Gilmore Girls with more dancing, and it's satisfying. It's fitting that the town's name is Paradise, because that's what it is to those of us who have pined after Stars Hollow for the past five years.

The series has only been on the air for a few weeks, so there is still time to catch up via online streaming, On Demand programming or reruns. If you're a Gilmore Girls fan who's hungry for some new fast-paced dialogue and eccentric characters, you won't be disappointed by Bunheads.

Have you been watching Bunheads? What do you think?

Jill O'Rourke is an Entertainment Blogger for Ruffled Feathers. You can read her personal blog and follow her on Twitter.


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