Make It Or Break It
is a series that ran on ABC Family
from 2009-2012. It follows the lives and fortunes of a Four Girl Ensemble
of teenage female gymnasts training at "The Rock" in Boulder, Colorado. The first eleven episodes follow the girls in the two months before Nationals
, and then picks up afterward. The third and final season follows them at the training camp for the Olympics.
The girls are:
This series contains examples of:
- Absentee Actor: Cassie Scerbo in "The Great Wall" - justified in-universe, as her character Lauren is competing in China in that episode.
- Alpha Bitch: Melissa of course. Faith Abbot as well.
- Arch-Enemy: Kelly Parker, current national champion.
- Artistic License: Floor music is not under any circumstances allowed to have lyrics, particularly not at the World level. This rule is blatantly broken at Nationals and Worlds due to Rule of Cool. Additionally, for the sake of their own timelines, the writers take a lot of a artistic license when it comes to the gymnastics calendar, such as the lack of 2010 Nationals in Season 2.
- As Himself: In the season two episode "All or Nothing", Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin appears as a commentator at the meet the Rock girls attend in France. Apparently, she doesn't compete anymore.
- Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults
- Break the Cutie: This depends largely on whether or not you regard Payson as The Cutie (she is, of all of them, the most idealistic of the girls and we later discover a penchant for lost puppies). The writers do seem to have it out for her: breaking up her family, monetary woes, public humiliation. And then they break her back at Nationals and her ankle at Worlds. Seeing a definite trend here.
- At Worlds in her first time competing after signing a sizable endorsement deal which is based on her performance, she does poorly, and had the team failed to qualify for the finals she would, more than likely, have lost her the deal. Then in the finals she sprains her ankle trying to stick a vault landing. She redeems herself in everyone's eyes, especially her sponsors, when she attempts to vault with a bad ankle and sticks a one-footed landing.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!! Emily
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Kelly badmouths Payson for taking cortisone shots (which technically are legal and not cheating), implying that they are cheating. And after listening to her, Payson forgoes one last shot and breaks her back. And in the final season Wendy tries to sabotage Kaylie's bid for the Olympics team by giving her drugged smoothies and almost succeeds. In the series finale Wendy is disqualified.
- Dark Horse Victory: Kaylie somehow manages to defeat Kelly Parker and win Nationals after Payson is out of the competition, something nobody would have expected unless they picked up on the hints the writers were dropping all episode.
- Dating Service Disaster: fixes up Chloe Kmetko with Steve Tanner. Their old/fake photos didn't help any. Surprisingly, they actually seem to hit it off.
- Delinquents: Ike and his friends.
- Disappeared Dad: Emily's father. And Brian's.
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: Very silly version of this: After Sasha implies that whoever got the most applause for their routine at the open house gets something, all anyone gets is extra practice on Sunday "because you've been working on your silly routines all week."
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin especially after Payson "breaks it."
- Fake Guest Star: Neil Jackson (Sasha Belov) is consistently credited as a guest star despite appearing often enoughnote (and playing a character important enough) to count as a regular.
- Forbidden Fruit: Carter, to Lauren
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hot coach Sasha Belov seems to have more chemistry with his underage athletes and his happily married colleague (Kim Keeler), than with his canon approved partner Summer. Then Payson kissed him...
- Going Home Again: Emily does this after getting kicked out of the gym.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Kaylie is forced to say this about Carter repeatedly, given their Secret Relationship.
- Happily Married: Mark and Kim Keeler.
- Hollywood Healing: Averted when Payson goes to Los Angeles to meet with a specialist, who tells Payson that her back injury is inoperable. Then played straight when Swiss doctor who has a miracle experimental cure
- Heel-Face Turn: Lauren is constantly lying and blackmailing people and trying to steal Carter from Kaylie. She pretends to repent but then goes back to her dishonest ways.
- Honor Before Reason: The main reason behind Payson's choice to not take the cortisone shot. As a result, she broke her back.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Chloe Kmetko. Although she is only a bartender at the strip club, Emily considers her job to be just as disreputable, even though she is only doing it to pay for Emily's training at the Rock.
- I Coulda Been a Contender: Payson after breaking her back.
- Informed Attractiveness: Emily seems to emit pheromones to attract every available male on the show, but given the casting and makeup standards of all the young actresses on the show it's hard to believe the idea that Emily stands out that much.
- It's Always Spring - The show takes place in Boulder, Colorado yet the show seems to only take place during the very short spring/summer season. We never ever see it snow or even see the characters wearing jackets.
- "Very short"? It's 01/17/2011 right now. 54* this afternoon. Winter here is not nearly as severe as people think. It's not So Cal, but it's also very much not Ohio.
- Just Friends: Payson and Nicky for now, though they both seem interested. However, Nicky leaves the gym because of too much drama at the Rock.
- And now Max and Payson. Not to mention Max and Austin.
- Karma Houdini: Lauren always seems to bounce back somehow even when everyone is mad at her.
- As of Season 2, Lauren has gotten away with changing the equipment settings before Emily's vault and risking her getting paralyzed, breaking up Chloe and her father's relationship, manipulating Summer, getting Emily benched in France so that she could compete, stealing Kaylie's boyfriend, humiliating Payson and Sasha, ruining Emily's custom leotard, just to list a few. She does something every episode that in Real Life would almost certainly make her friends openly wonder why they hang out with a complete sociopath.
- Hand waved in one episode in which Summer asks Sasha if he will discipline Lauren for stealing Emily's dance routine for worlds. Sasha responds "No, I think it's pretty clear who won that battle, I think she's learned her lesson." She didn't.
- Limited Social Circle and True Companions: Justified when you spend all of your time at the gym with the other gym rats.
- Love Triangle: Emily/Damon/Razor, Kaylie/Lauren/Carter
- also arguably Kaylie/Nicky/Payson, although maybe not as Nicky intends to leave the Rock because of all the distractions he sees there.
- And now it seems to be heading towards Emily/Damon/Kaylie and Lauren/Max/Payson.
- Manipulative Bastard: Oh, Lauren. Try drinking every time Lauren plays head games with one of her supposed best friends or her father's romantic partners. You will black out.
- She probably learned it from her father.
- Or Ellen Beals.
- Or Kelly Parker. It's a wonder anyone has time to practice with all the scheming.
- Miracle Rally
- Missing Mom: Lauren's mom is a drug addict who abandoned the family years ago. Lauren claims she's in Darfur.
- The Mole: In season four, Jordan - or so the girls think, except it turns out to be Wendy.
- New Transfer Student: Emily to the Rock, Payson at Taft High.
- No Bisexuals: Averted with Max. Bar Max's assumed absence from Season 3
- No One Gets Left Behind: The girls all risk not making it to Nationals in order to get Kaylie on that bus.
- The Obi-Wan: Sasha Belov.
- One-Hit Wonder: Ronnie Cruz's former career.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Payson to Kelly. Or so people think.
- Opposing Sports Team: Denver Elite, the rival top gym (which also stole several Rock members and a coach), which has Kelly Parker. Also China.
- Parent with New Paramour: Steve Tanner proposes marriage to his assistant Summer. He kept their dating a secret from Lauren, then after promising her he wouldn't propose, immediately proposed to Summer. Later dates Chloe and Lauren continues to make with the drama about it.
- Parental Substitute: Summer tries her best to do this for Lauren, who is totally ungrateful 95% of the time.
- Put Me In, Coach!: In the pilot Emily has a very scary fall on vault thanks to Lauren moving the positioning of her spring board but then she's magically fine and repeats the vault.
- Payson after she, like Emily, injures herself on Vault at Worlds.
- And later, Lauren after her heart surgery.
- Put on a Bus: Constantly happening to various love interests, particularly those who love Emily. First Razor leaves Boulder to go work as a roadie. Then Damon who leaves to go tour in Europe and also Nicky who leaves to train at another gym. Then Emily gets pregnant, much drama ensues and she takes a bus herself near the end of season 2.
- In fact, the Male gymnasts at The Rock seem to be on a bus for a good portion of the season, only showing up when needed to cause drama.
- Reality Subtext: Chelsea Hobbs (who was already a mother before being cast as Emily) got pregnant so this was written into the show as Emily's pregnancy.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Payson gives Darby - their coach (replacing Sasha) - one of these after the girls have their well-shaped rear ends handed to them by formerly unfancied rivals Pinewood.
- Road Show: "California Girls" takes place in, of course, Los Angeles.
- Serious Business
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Ellen Beals, oh SO much. "Oh, btw, I'm gonna fire your coach so I can take over as coach!" is particularly outstanding.
- She-Fu: As cited in the trope example, the gas station scene.
- Shout-Out: When Payson vaults on an injured foot in the Season 2 finale, it is an obvious homage to Kerri Strug's medal-winning vault in the 1996 Olympics. Explicitly.
- Kelly Parker's mom seems to be a major shout out to Rose Thompson Hovick and overbearing parent managers everywhere.
- Special Guest: The season 2 finale has Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci as commentators. As far as Big Names In Gymnastics go, it doesn't get much bigger.
- Except maybe Bela Karolyi guest starring as Sasha's Romanian coaching legend father, Dmitri Belov.
- Stage Mom: subverted in this show, the parents for the most part are sane and want what's best for their kids, and aren't horrendously pushy.
- While Emily, Payson and Kaylie's mothers are very down to earth and supportive, both Kaylie and Lauren's fathers are stageparents. Kaylie's father especially wants to relive some of his glory days through his daughter.
- Played utterly straight with Kelly Parker's mother. Kelly mentioned being exploited for her talent by her mother since age 9. To the extent that Kelly finally cuts her off.
- Straw Hypocrite: In the extended eleventh episode, Kelly "Say No To Drugs" Parker is shown getting a cortisone shot of her own. "We all lie sometimes."
- Summer Van Horne pretty much all the time. Special mention to "Like Mother, Like Daughter, Like Supermodel" where Summer criticizes Steve for not telling her the truth about Lauren's mother, while keeping her own relationship history from him in return.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Razor is replaced by Damon, and then Razor returns and Damon leaves, then Damon returns...
- And in season three, Jordan Randall is pretty much the new Emily Kmetko.
- Talent Double: Very obvious use of doubling since none of the actors are gymnasts. Not only that, the skills the talent doubles are doing are usually much simpler than what they're stated to be onscreen, as anyone actually capable of doing those tricks is going to be busy competing on the actual US National Team, not talent doubling for a TV show. The routines are shot to hide this, but it's obvious to anyone who actually knows gymnastics. And the show exaggerates the difficulty of quite a few tricks. For instance, Kaylie's triple twist from "Worlds Apart" is actually a standard level of difficulty for international competitionnote , while Emily's Yurchenko 1.5 is today barely adequate at the elite level — to compete and win on the international stage, a double-twisting Yurchenko or similar difficulty is the minimumnote .
- But at least they let ballerina Ayla Kell do her own dance routines.
- Taking the Heat: Carter and Lauren both do this to save Kaylie.
- Team Dad: Sasha cares deeply for his gymnasts: he threatens to ruin Carter's career if he makes a move on one of his girls; he wonders if Lauren has someone to talk to the moment he sees her; when Emily's trust issues are revealed he promises her he's not going to leave; he punches Marty when Kaylie tells him Marty had an affair with her mother; he tends to go Papa Wolf if the girls' merits aren't recognized...
- Team Mom: Payson's mom Kim manages the gym. After Kim goes on leave, Summer does the job.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Payson's goal, and in the final season Lauren's.
- To Win An Olympic Medal
- Training from Hell: While this sort of thing is threatened frequently (everyone has to practice from 5 a.m. on! With no days off!), it doesn't seem to happen. In the real world the gymnasts would be training instead of standing around the gym talking.
- Training Montage
- True Companions: The girls might not even be friends most of the time, but they're teammates and that's bigger than friendship. Or so they say.
- 24 Hour Party People: the gym is full of extras who never interact or talk to the main characters.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Ellen Beals, who apparently now runs every Olympic committee in existence and throws her power around constantly so she can dictate the lives of all gymnasts, coaches, parents, etc.
- Underdogs Never Lose: After several Rock gymnasts are left out of international competition against China, Sasha Belov "goes rogue" and challenges the Chinese team to compete against the Rock.The Chinese team still wins but the Rock team wins more medals then the official United States team, proving Sasha's point. Also Emily is the underdog gymnast at the Rock and she barely makes national team by the skin of her teeth (had Payson not been injured she wouldn't have made it)
- True even when the main cast aren't the underdogs as seen when the girls lose to Pinewood - the WORST team in the country.
- Unwanted Harem: Emily's varying love interests—and she's not even supposed to be dating.
- Wild Teen Party
- Your Cheating Heart: when they're both pissed at Kaylie, Carter and Lauren have Their First Time (or at least it's Lauren's). Carter regrets the hell out of it, Lauren, ah... wants to make sure everyone knows about it eventually. Then later regrets it.
- Ronnie Cruz also cheated on her husband with Coach Marty.