After months of speculation, this week ABC Family finally announced the cancelation of Bunheads, its quirky ballet dramedy created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), after only one 18 episode season. The official word is that the network was waiting to see how new shows The Fosters and Twisted would perform before making a decision on Bunheads, and for fans like me, the news isn’t good.
Bunheads focused on Michelle (musical theater veteran Sutton Foster), a misguided young woman who left her dead end job as a showgirl in Vegas to teach ballet lessons in the quirky small town of Paradise, CA. With its Stars Hollow-esque setting and variety of colorful characters, Bunheads certainly had a lot in common with Gilmore Girls, but really started differentiating itself as its own unique show during the second half of the first season. Bunheads was just getting into its groove, only to be canceled by ABC Family at the height of its potential. I think ABC Family got it wrong, and here’s why:
I’ll admit I haven’t seen The Fosters or Twisted, but I have a hard time believing either show encompasses the sense of family and community presented in Bunheads.
The characters on Bunheads were real people with real issues – no vampires or unsolved murder or secret lives – just realistic teenagers with flawed but well-intentioned adults to guide them. Real teenagers can relate to girls like the ones on the show – girls going to dance class, being embarrassed by their parents, crushing on the exotic new guy at school from a distance, or trying to work through their parents’ divorce. Meanwhile the adults on the show are also dealing with real issues – Michelle, for example, is still struggling to decide what to do with her life and dance studio owner Fannie is grieving the loss of her son. And the adults don’t always have it all together. They freak out a little, they get irrational, and they make bad choices – but they’re trying, just like the rest of us!
The really cool thing that Bunheads managed to do was bridge that gap between the teenage problems and the adult problems. An actual family could watch the show and use it to encourage their own communication and camaraderie, and isn’t that what ABC Family is supposed to be about? And how many shows are there that show realistic depictions of teenagers with morals and a conscience? Without being preachy, Bunheads provided four teenage role models to its younger viewers. Boo, Ginny, Melanie and Sasha (especially Sasha) make mistakes, but they learn from them, and they’re good kids at heart.
I know I will miss Bunheads as it joins my too-long list of great TV shows that were canceled too soon. Boo, I’ll miss you and your edamame-doubting mother. I’ll miss your floofy dresses, Truly (even though you’re always Mindy Riggins to me). But most of all, I’ll miss the trademark heart and wit of Ms. Sherman-Palladino on my TV every week.