Marti Perkins (Alyson Michalka) is a pre-law student at Lancer College in Memphis. Unfortunately, due to the actions of her mother, her scholarship has been revoked. Looking for a new scholarship so that she can stay in school, Marti comes across what may be her only chance: cheerleading.
The Hellcats are the cheerleaders for Lancer, a predominant football-dominated college, and Alice, one of the main cheerleaders, has broken her wrist, meaning they have to have tryouts. When Marti shows that she has the stuff, even the captain Savannah (Ashley Tisdale), who had an almost-violent confrontation with Marti the day before, votes her in.
Things could be looking up for Marti — if the cheerleaders can place in Nationals. If they can't, their budget will be cut, the competition will be out, and no more scholarships...
Based on the book Cheer: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders by journalist Kate Torgovnick, Hellcats ran for one season (2010-2011) on The CW.
This show provides examples of:
- Artistic License – Sports: You'd expect any cheer squad at a decent-sized college to have at least a couple of alternates in case someone got injured (especially for flyers, a notoriously dangerous position). According to Hellcats, you'd be wrong.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A platonic version with Savannah and her family, even if they still have a shitload of issues to work through.
- The Bad Guys Win: Their disqualification from nationals comes about after the ruling committee is tipped off by Emily about the team being decimated by strep throat and bars enough of them from competing - including Alice - for them to have less than the minimum number. Oh, and Emily is also responsible for Vanessa getting fired as the team coach.
- Berserk Button: Don't call a cheerleader a "football groupie" in front of Savannah. Unless you want her to tell you to take it back.
- Casting Gag: Aly Michalka has now co-starred with both lead actresses from High School Musical.
- The Cast Show Off: Not only does Aly Michalka get to sing on the show (as do Sharon Leal (Vanessa Lodge, the Hellcats' coach) and Ashley Tisdale), but she and her sister are "Aly & AJ" (called "78Violet" for a short while at the time of this series) who do the theme song. Aly's sister also appears, and shecan sing, too.
- The Chessmaster: Invoked by Vanessa with regards to Red Raymond, who has indeed rather expertly manipulated Vanessa and her boyfriend on at least a couple of occasions.
- To a lesser extent, Alice. She has a scheme for everything.
- Chick Magnet: Lewis. Just in the first season, he has attracted Marti, Alice and Cathy.
- Decade-Themed Party: There's an episode centred around an 80's party.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Guess what the Hellcats perform their routine in nationals to?
- Downer Ending: In addition to all the stuff in The Bad Guys Win above, Marti throws her half-sister Deidre (played by Aly Michalka's real sister AJ) out when she finds out that a) her dad is alive and b) Deidre knew all along.
- Enemy Mine: Alice and Marti team up to raid Bill Curran's office.
- Ethical Slut: Dan admitted to being one (though not using that exact term) when he first started dating Savannah, though he later decided to stop being one and give monogamy a go when he found out Savannah had issues with his lifestyle.
- Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: Cheerleader co-captain Alice brags to her friends about giving her boyfriend "nasty acrobatic sex in positions that you can't even draw".
- Fool for Love: Red Raymond is manipulative, snarky, and seemingly only out for himself, but he does truly love Vanessa — in fact, he hasn't stopped loving her since they were forced to break it off. They are reunited by the end of the series.
- Freudian Excuse: Not quite as bad as the others, but Marti's mother is a clingy alcoholic who once vomited on her during a gymnastics tournament. Marti wants to leave Memphis to get the hell away from her mother.
- The Fundamentalist: Savannah's mother basically disowned her because she goes to a secular school.
- The situation has since been presented as more complex, although the major concerns are religiously motivated, with the suggestion that Savannah and her mother are too strong-willed for their own good and everything could have been easier if they had discussed it rather than fought over it.
- Hand-or-Object Underwear / Toplessness from the Back: Marti when she's sneaking in the boys locker room to get a towel and is almost caught by them.
- Hollywood Kiss: Happens whenever Red and Vanessa kiss. Their kisses are intimate and incredibly romantic, with the tenderness Red uses with Vanessa serving as clear proof that he is genuinely in love with her.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Marti says Dan and Savannah's height difference would make them look like Russian dolls.
- Hypocrite: Although Cathy follows her schools conservative Christian line, has an affair with Lewis.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes are named after a song, often by Southern artists like Elvis Presley and B.B. King (interestingly, creator/showrunner Kevin Murphy used to write for Desperate Housewives, which also named episodes after songs - and eventually song lyrics).
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: Earlier episodes had a backflipping cheerleader as a stock wipe.
- Irony: The squad never actually cheers for the football team. But the football team once cheered for them
- Jerk With A Heart Of Bronze: Alice is aggressive, catty, manipulative and self-centered, but she's not truly malicious and she has come through several times for the cheerleading squad even when she was annoyed with some of the members, injured, or sick.
- She's also sabotaged the squad at least once (inviting Marti's mother to a meet to freak her out). Just Eat Gilligan heavily applies to her character for a lot of people.
- As of the season finale, Savannah agrees she stepped down so Alice could be team captain
- Love Dodecahedron: Oh boy. Lewis/Marti/Dan/Savannah is already quite a mess, and judging by the slight Ship Tease lately, you can probably add Morgan into the mix as well soon...
- Don't forget the Jake/Alice/Lewis/Marti.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Red calls what he and Vanessa feel for each other "...that crazy-ass feeling that makes you want to cry at stupid love songs and and run around hotel lobbies butt-naked." Subsequent dialogue makes it clear that at one point during their initial affair, he and Vanessa did exactly that.
- Love Triangle: Vanessa is in one with Derek and Red.
- Mama Bear: Marti's mother. When Marti asks her what she'd do if Marti had just murdered someone, her mother's reply is that she'd assume there was a good reason and get the bleach.
- Modesty Towel: In the Pilot, Alice wears one in girls locker room when talking to Marti. Later when Alice steals her clothes and forces Marti to sneak around the boys locker naked, Lewis catches her and gives his towel to her to cover up.
- Ms. Fanservice: Most of the female characters on the show hot and athletic cheerleaders. Even on this show, Alice and Marti stand out.
- Naked Freak-Out: Marti when Alice steals her clothes and she's almost caught naked by the boys in the locker room. Thankfully for her, the only one that catches her is Lewis who plays it cool and helps her out.
- No Periods, Period: Averted, at least dialogue-wise. Marti mentions that after she slept with Dan in high school and the condom broke, she had a pregnancy scare because her period was late.
- Noodle Incident: Three of these are brought up in a row in Episode 2 when Dan discusses Wanda's history of embarrassing Marti.Dan: There was this thing in high school, her mom showed up to a gymnastics event...
Savannah: And vomited on her. Yes, yes, I know all about that.
Dan: Then you also know about what Wanda did the night before Marti took her SATs and what happened at her high school graduation and her 21st birthday... *surprised shock from Savannah*
- One True Love: Red Raymond all but outright states that he and Vanessa are meant only for each other. Vanessa agrees with him.Red: ...if we'd never met, would you be planning your wedding to Derrick right now?Vanessa: Maybe — but it would have been a mistake. He was wonderful, he was good to me, but there was, um...
Red: [smiling] No cosmic pull?Vanessa: No cosmic pull.[cue quite a passionate snog]
- Pom-Pom Girl: A whole show dedicated to them, and though they do manage to have distinct personalities almost all of them are invariably perky.
- Raised by Wolves: Used word-for-word. "Sorry about Alice, she was raised by wolves."
- Shameless Fanservice Guy: Lewis takes off his towel to clear out his playmates from the locker room to help out Marti who's hiding there after Alice stole her clothes.Marti: [stepping out of the stall in a towel after the guys clear out] Lewis, I owe you one. Thanks for the save.Lewis: Well, you're my new flyer. Gotta look out for each other. Plus I like getting naked.Marti: Yeah, well me not so much.
- Short Runner: Got no more than one season.
- Shipper on Deck: Wanda ships Marti/Dan, while Dan's dad ships Savannah/Dan.
- Statuesque Stunner: Marti towers over most of the other girls of the squad.
- Survival Mantra: For Savannah it's "Positive outcomes only."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Vanessa was involved with Red when he was an assistant coach and she was a co-ed. It didn't end well — he was, as he put it, "run out of town on a rail" for having an affair with a student. However, he and Vanessa were genuinely in love with each other, and ten years later, they still are, having tried and failed to get over each other in the intervening years. When he comes back to Lancer, it's with specific designs on rekindling their romance. It works; Vanessa comes to terms with the fact that she and Red will never love anyone else as deeply as they love each other, and by the end of the series they're back together, implicitly for keeps.
- The Unfavorite: Alice's father clearly supports his football playing sons over his daughter the cheerleader.
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: Called by name in the episode "Beale St. After Dark" — Marti's law professor gives her an assignment to look up Kobayashi v. Tennessee. Turns out, he gave this assignment to all his students and it doesn't exist. So Marti and her partner make a case with that exact title.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Morgan is terrified of prisons.