It’s Not Gilmore Girls: My Thoughts on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bunheads

by: Courtney Rust

I watch a lot of ABC Family. I watch Boy Meets World every morning as I have breakfast, I leave the TV on for days every time there’s a Harry Potter weekend marathon, and I watch Pretty Little Liars when I have nothing else to do at 8 pm on a Tuesday even though I have no idea what is happening or who any of the characters are[1]. So I have seen the promo ad for the new series Bunheads more times than I can count and have amassed a great deal of curiosity and trepidation for this show.

As I sat down to watch the pilot when it aired two weeks ago I still hadn’t made up my mind whether I wanted it to be good or bad. I love writer Amy Sherman-Palladino, having watched every episode of Gilmore Girls and having spent my adolescence trying to mold myself into Rory Gilmore. I also adore Sutton Foster, knowing her from her Tony-winning performance in the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. Yet the promo seemed to me a bit on the cheesy side, though perhaps that’s because it was narrated by the overzealous guy who narrates everything on that channel.

Still, I was afraid to get my hopes up. I attempted to watch the pilot as objectively as possible, and have these things to say about my experience. Spoiler warnings apply:

1. The marrying-your-stalker plotline creeped me out. I don’t really get it.

So Michelle, the main character, is a Las Vegas showgirl who is frustrated with where her career is. This guy, Hubble, has been coming to her show once a month for a year, always bringing her outrageously expensive gifts and gushing about her wonderfulness. She always tries to avoid him, thanking him for his gifts and then blowing him off, complaining to her friends how he won’t leave her alone. Yet Hubble takes Michelle to dinner after an audition doesn’t go her way and tells her that she should let him take care of her. I should also mention that she’s pretty tipsy at this point. They marry at a drive-through and head off to the small town in which Hubble lives. Both parties are aware that Michelle doesn’t love Hubble, but Hubble is confident that love will come.

Now maybe it’s just my lack of relationship experience talking here, but this whole plot line leaves me very…uncomfortable. Hubble completely idolizes Michelle, but how much does he actually know about her? What if she doesn’t live up to the woman he’s created in his mind after watching her dance and a few dinners together? Michelle has blown Hubble off most every time he’s stopped backstage after her show. Will she start to feel guilty for letting him provide for her without returning his love (or is it idolization)? I was baffled throughout the episode how this could work out, but then I got thrown for a loop in the last few seconds of the show. Speaking of which…

2. The twist at the end was…WTF

At first I felt like the ending of the episode of nowhere (major spoiler alert: Hubble dies in a car crash), but after a bit of thinking, I’ve decided that it’s a damn good hook and a surprising and interesting way to change the direction of the show just as you think you’re beginning to understand the direction it’s taking. Michelle now faces the choice of going back to her dead-end job as a showgirl or starting a new life in this sleepy town. Being such a small town, everyone will surely be grieving for Hubble. Michelle will have a lot of confusing emotions to deal with, having been Hubble’s wife yet also the person who knew him the least. She’s also an outsider in this close-knit community, and has now lost her sole connection to it.

3. Bunheads is not Gilmore Girls

I couldn’t help but make comparisons to GG, especially since two actors from it are characters in this show. Lorelei Gilmore’s mother is Hubble’s mother and the dance school instructor for goodness sake! Also, when returning from commercial breaks, a breezy-voiced female singer sings “la la la laaa” while accompanied by guitar chords as Michelle walks down the streets of the quaint little town. Exact same thing happened every episode of Gilmore Girls. Really, Amy Sherman-Palladino? You didn’t think your audience would pick up on that? But while a storybook small town is the setting in both shows, a major difference with Bunheads is that the main character (and thus the audience) is encountering it as an outsider rather than a firmly established member of the community. Also, the writing is sharp and clever in both shows, but less obviously so in Bunheads because Michelle has no one to rally with the way Lorelei and Rory did. Although Michelle and Hubble’s mother do fling some sharp, sarcastic barbs at one another. And for that reason…

4. I especially loved the scenes between Sutton Foster and Emily Gilmore.

The best moment of the episode for me was when Michelle and Fanny (yeah, that’s her name) sit down at a bar and question each other, talking about how their lives took different directions than they’d hoped. There is plenty of regret here, and a glimmer of understanding and very nearly respect between the two women. They both recognize that it’s a start.

These were the main things I came away with, as well as a heightened awareness of my own gracelessness and inability to bust any kind of move. I think I’ll keep watching the show, since it’s intriguing that they began setting up a certain story only to wrench it away at the end. I feel like the real direction of the show will become clear in the next episode or two, and it will become evident whether the characters will become more developed and real as their personalities and nuances hopefully begin to be revealed. Besides, it’s not like I have anything else going on at 8 pm on Monday nights. If you’ve seen the show, feel free to leave your own thoughts and impressions on it below! Thanks for reading, and I’ll now let you return to your normally scheduled programming.

Courtney Rust is an undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago pursuing a major in English and minors in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies. She leaves her room every now and again to take part in Advocate, Loyola’s LGBTQA organization, where she serves on the advisory board. She is continually attempting to learn what it means to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community. Courtney moonlights as a barista, and has a strong love for musicals, coffee shops, big cities, exploring,Doctor Who, the internet, and most everything else in life. She hates olives though. With a fiery passion.

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[1] Someone please recap the first two seasons for me. I’m so lost.

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One response to “It’s Not Gilmore Girls: My Thoughts on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bunheads

  1. Thank you for your post! I thought I was the only one who wasn’t sure I wanted to even like this. Kelly is a wonderfully amazing actress and I love to watch her, but she will always be Emily to me and I’m ok with that. I will forever think of the GG cast as part of that show and I honestly have a hard time believing them in other roles. I’ve heard people say it’s time to move on from GG, but I’d rather not!

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