Seasons 1 – 6 of The Gilmore Girls were close to TV perfection. Each episode served up likable characters delivering hilarious obscure-reference-peppered dialogue at a “Bringing Up Baby” breakneck pace. Viewers had to pay close attention with a cultural dictionary by their side, not laughing over the lines making fun of Charlie Rose impacting REM sleep. Seriously, what prime-time TV show made fun of Charlie Rose and REM sleeping alone in the same joke?
Unfortunately, this series about “a mom and daughter who are best friends” languished first on the WB, then the CW – never gaining the broad audience it deserved. Plus, that title sucked. I’m sorry – but “The Gilmore Girls” sounds like the Golden Girls – no thanks.
Still, The Gilmore Girls did launch the careers of Lauren Graham (Parenthood), Alexis Bledel (Mad Men), Matt Czurzy (Good Wife), and Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly and Bridesmaids). Recurring appearances of veteran actors Edward Herrmann and Kelly Bishop as Lorelei Gilmore’s parents (and New England Blue Bloods) were some of the show’s wittiest scenes. The tone captured was pitch-perfect.
The show’s real star, however, was the creator and chief writer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Her vision of the mythic Stars Hallow and its rich characters was fully realized – singular and unique in TV history. There is nothing else like it. This voice and uniqueness might be because Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Daniel, crafted most scripts themselves.
Contract disputes locked the Palladino team out of the dreadful last Gilmore Girls season (please skip season 7). This was an unfortunate thud to simply terrific (and family-friendly) television.
Those pining for the whip-smart dialog had Palladino’s failed Parker Posey vehicle, “The Return of Jezebel James,” which lasted only seven episodes in 2008. There is “Bunheads” on the hard-to-find ABC Family channel. Look around; it is worth finding.
Bunheads is the story of a dancer (played by Sutton Foster) who, after abruptly losing her husband, is thrust into the life of her husband’s mother (played by Kelly Bishop), who happens to be a dancer herself with a charming studio somewhere in the central coast of California called Paradise. Foster must choose between making life at this studio populated mainly with high school girls or trying to make it as a dancer in second or third-tier markets. Quirky neighbors/guests abound in the CA’s Central Coast. Almost every episode features a dance number – not the quick-cut Glee crap but real choreographed dancing.
Make no mistake Bunheads is essentially a reboot of Gilmore Girls. Lead actress Sutton Foster could be Lauren Graham’s double, and Kelly Bishop is essentially playing a subdued Emily Gilmore called Fanny Flowers. The instantly recognizable Sam Phillips soundtrack also effectively sets the tone of GG. All that is missing from this version are terrific male characters like Luke and Dosey that helped balance out the heavy female vibe of Girls.
Bunheads returned after a short hiatus in January, and the recent episodes have all been better than the first ones. The show might have found its groove.
Let’s hope so. We need more Palladino humor in our lives.
Bunheads has not risen to the level of Gilmore Girls…at least yet. There is hope with a single episode referencing Franny & Zooey, Fiorello Laguardia, the Rockford Files, and Elvis falling asleep on the throne.
Plus, no god-awful laugh track.