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Series / Bunheads

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"There's no crying in baseball! Or ballet!"

Bunheads is a series that aired on ABC Family, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame.

Michelle Simms is a classically trained dancer who works as a Vegas showgirl. After she is rejected from an audition for a touring production of Chicago without getting a chance to perform, she drunkenly marries Hubbell Flowers, a traveling shoe salesman who lives in a house with a fantastic view of the Pacific in a town called Paradise. Hubbell fails to tell Michelle that he lives with his mother, Fanny, who runs a ballet school attached to the house.

Often considered a Creator-Driven Successor to Gilmore Girls, Bunheads was canceled in 2013 after only one season.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Michelle initially treats Hubbell this way, groaning with annoyance when he shows up and making up excuses to avoid spending time with him.
  • A-Cup Angst: All the girls, except Ginny.
    Sasha: "Unless I find a guy who's really into a well-defined clavicle, I'm dying alone."
  • Adults Are Useless: Fanny, Michelle and the Jordans do all right, but this show features some almost comically inept parenting from the Torres and Thompson clans, to nearly the point of being Abusive Parents.
  • Aerosol Spray Backfire: Michelle goes to inspect her can of mace, after mace-ing the cast of The Nutcracker, and naturally maces herself also.
  • The Alleged House: Michelle moves into the unused guest house on Hubbell's property. The stove leaks gas, there's a bathtub in the middle of the living room, and the refrigerator is hot inside.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: This show loves this trope. Hubbell's for Michelle, Truly's for Hubbell, Millie's for Hubbell, Boo's for Charlie, Carl's for Boo, Dez's for Melanie, and Ginny's for Frankie. Nobody loves those who would love them back.
  • Angry Dance: After Sasha's parents have an argument and fail to even notice that she stays out all night and destroys her mother's car, Sasha performs an angry, moody dance to the song "Istanbul (not Constantinople)" during a Dream Sequence.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: It's heavily implied that Melanie and Charlie do love each other, despite insulting every single chance they get, as Melanie finds it strange that he doesn’t insult her back at one point.
    • In "I'll Be Your Meyer Lansky," Melanie watches Charlie get publicly dumped by his girlfriend. She finds it funny at first, but when she sees he's actually hurt by this, she impulsively tugs on the girl's ponytail and knocks her to the floor the next time she sees her.
  • Bookends: The first episode has Michelle showing the main girls how a dance audition works. In the finale, they apply the lesson when they sneak into an open call Michelle is participating in.
  • Ballet: The show is set primarily at a ballet school, and the main characters are the teachers and students.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Truly and Davis. Dez and Melanie, apparently. More belligerent on Melanie's side since Dez is shown so far as being something of a Hidden Depths/Obfuscating Stupidity type guy who people assume is a Dumb Jock since he talks slowly and quietly.
  • Birthday Episode: Michelle's birthday in "Movie Truck".
  • Chekhov's Gun: "A Nutcracker in Paradise" has Michelle show off the contents of her bag, including mace in a pretty bottle. Later in the episode, she confuses the bottle with hairspray and maces all the girls in the face.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: It's not official or anything, but Josh did give Ginny his grandmother's ring. Everybody refers to them as "married".
  • Chorus Girls: Michelle and her friend Talia work as Vegas showgirls, dancing in stage shows that culminate with topless performers walking onstage.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Paradise, California.
  • Cut Short: The series ends with the amphitheater being built near the dance studio still under construction as Michelle ponders an offer to perform in New York City.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: Given that the show is based around a ballet studio, performances with varying degrees of plot relevance occur frequently.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Michelle initially treats Hubbell like an Abhorrent Admirer and Stalker with a Crush but comes to see him as a nice, generous man who wants to provide for her.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Truly, Boo and others keep explaining to Michelle why no one in town hires the local plumber with one eye to do plumbing work.
    Truly: "We use him to keep an eye on things. That's our little joke, because he only has one eye to look at our things with."
  • Dream Sequence: Michelle has a recurring dream about her non-audition for Chicago.
    • It is the probable explanation for Sasha's Angry Dance at the end of "Movie Truck".
    • Michelle has another one in "A Nutcracker in Paradise." It has Hubbell in it.
  • Form-Fitting Wardrobe: Justified as much of the story takes place at the dance studio, so the students (and sometimes Michelle) spend a lot of time in leotards.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The four main ballet girls.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Michelle and Hubbell qualify. Bonus for being drunk and in Vegas.
  • Free-Range Children: Though the girls' parents show up and are characters, the main four girls tend to have a ridiculously high amount of freedom. At one point, they end up going on a spontaneous road trip to Los Angeles. Taken to extremes with Sasha. Her parents divorced, moved away, and left Sasha behind in Paradise.
  • Hidden Depths: Godot, the surfer/bartender, has a master's degree in oceanography and is genuinely insulted when Michelle assumes he hadn't even graduated high school.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Though it's not a particularly extreme example, Boo initially doesn't want to partner with Carl because he's shorter and slimmer than her.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: From "You Wanna See Something?" on (as well as two or three episodes previous), the episode titles come from lines in the script.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Ginny after losing her virginity to Frankie and not hearing from him.
  • Kick the Dog: Boo has a serious crush on Melanie's brother Charlie. While out at a carnival, he writes a number down on her hand and asks him to text it to her. It's the number of a different girl he was flirting with because his phone was dead. Later, he asks her to talk him up to Boo's friend Ginny.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Franny and Michelle meet with an accountant, who points out that they run their school irresponsibly and are losing money due to their dramatics:
    Eric: "The two of you are children. You say you're trying to run a business, but you don't charge half of your students."
    Michelle, pointing at Franny: "Her fault."
    Eric: "You somehow managed to lose money on your annual fundraiser."
    Franny: "Her fault."
    Eric: "You think you can close down the studio anytime you have a bad day."
    Franny and Michelle: "Both of us. That's both of us."
  • Late Coming Out: a somewhat off-screen example, where Sasha's little-seen father announces he's gay and wants to divorce and leave the family home. Sasha has to decide her future from this point.
  • Let's Wait Awhile: Boo and Carl decide to wait a year and a half to have sex for the first time, shortly before their prom.
  • Lovely Assistant: Michelle briefly works as a backup dancer and assistant for a stage magician and, at one point, is demoted from holding a bird as part of a trick to just standing there.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The ending of "Movie Truck" which has Sasha doing a dark and sensual dance routine (referred to by Word of God as "Sasha's Anger Dance") to the bouncy tune and silly lyrics of They Might Be Giants cover of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".
  • Meal Ticket: Talia dates a much older man who showers her with gifts and expensive dinners. Franny mistakes the man as Talia's father, and Michelle explains that he's not her father but is "her daddy".
  • Monochrome Casting: This show faced a lot of criticism for having a nearly all-white cast, especially from Shonda Rhimes.
  • Mood Dissonance: At the end of the performance of "The Nutcracker Suite" The Ringer blithely dances a perfect routine as disaster unfolds around her.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Truly interrupting Fanny and Michelle drinking and dancing together to announce that Hubbell had been killed at the end of the pilot.
    • In "A Nutcracker in Paradise," everything is going swimmingly and then Michelle accidentally maces the entire cast of "The Nutcracker Suite".
    • In "Blank up, it's time", the postcoital conversation takes a sharp turn when Michelle mentions Hubbell and starts welling up with bottled-up grief.
  • Motor Mouth: As the only season progresses, Amy Sherman-Palladino's signature style starts to become more and more noticeable. In "The Astronaut and the Ballerina", Ginny reaches an impressive 270 words per minute during her rant about her mother.
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight by all the girls but Boo when they spread the word of Hubbell's accident.
  • One Head Taller: Hilariously, Mel compared to Ginny.
  • Only Shop in Town: Even though it's not actually the only shop in town, it might as well be, when Michelle goes to buy a dress for her impromptu wedding celebration, and the dress store is owned by her new husband's ex, Truly.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: Inverted when Michelle goes to the local coffee shop to buy a simple cappuccino but the pretentious barista refuses to make it, assuring her he knows what coffee order is for the best.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: During the Joffrey auditions, Boo is cut, so Fanny has her put on various wigs and sends her back in. She knows that the people doing the auditions don't really look at faces and won't see the deception.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sasha's parents split up and separately move out of Paradise - when she insists on staying, they give her a credit card and leave her there to get her own apartment.
  • Parental Substitute: Increasingly, Michelle for Sasha.
  • Reference Overdosed: As is typical for Amy Sherman-Palladino.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: Claire - Ginny's mother
    Claire: "Oh, it's a big responsibility. The upkeep... it's enough to make your head spin. Anyhow, if you should decide that this is all just too much for you, you could give me a call."
  • Shirtless Scene: Surfer guy Godot is often shirtless. The girls are completely Eating the Eye Candy.
  • Shot Gun Wedding: Talia reveals that she ultimately agreed to marry her much old boyfriend because she's pregnant.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Gilmore Girls when discussing Ginger Rogers:
      "They talked faster back then; it's funnier when it's faster."
    • To Game of Thrones:
      "No one takes Khaleesi's dragons!"
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Truly and Davis
  • Stage Magician: Michelle briefly works as a backup dancer for a stage magician named Jo Jo, who uses the tagline "You Want To See Something?" and performs in a casino in Henderson, Nevada.
  • Straight to the Pointe: Justified with the main four teenage characters, as they are advanced ballet students.
  • Sucks at Dancing:
    • Franny notes that Carl lacks nearly everything needed to be a good dancer, but he makes up for it with enthusiasm.
    • Michelle outright tells Sam she's terrible during an adult tap-dancing class, to which Sam cheerfully replies "I know!"
  • Take That!: To Dance Moms:
    Franny: "If they don't like it, they are free to take their children to that enormous crazy woman with the pyramid system, whose students end up with knock knees and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."
  • Technician Versus Performer: Carl considers Sasha the Technician and Boo the Performer, arguing that while Sasha's dancing is technically perfect, she has "ballet brain" and can't adapt, while Boo can.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the Dog? And to the possum? Did anyone actually claim that baby?
  • It seemed like Grant, the rich guy on top of the hill, was introduced as a Will They or Won't They? potential love interest. Kind, handsome and lived conveniently nearby. But after his introduction, we never saw him again.