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Series / The Big Leap

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Dance like everyone's watching

"She is our story. She's gonna fall in love with him. And he's gonna break her heart."
Nick Blackburn, 1x01 "I Want You Back"

The Big Leap was a 2021 show that aired on FOX about dancing and second chances. It was about The Big Leap, a 2021 show that aired on FOX about dancing and second chances.

Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley) is a nearly washed-up television producer who needs a hit after a string of failures on the network. Fortunately, his associate Wayne Fontaine (Kevin Daniels) has come up with The Big Leap, a feel-good reality show where amateur dancers in Detroit audition to form a dance company in order to, at the end of the season, put on a performance of Swan Lake. Wayne taps his friend Monica Sullivan (Mallory Jansen), a former prima ballerina who's career ended after a sudden injury, to be their choreographer and co-producer.

The cast of the show include a variety of people looking for another chance, including:

  • Former dating friends Gabby Lewis (Simone Recasner) and Justin Reyes (Raymond Cham Jr.), who fell out of touch after graduation when Justin came out as gay and Gabby discovered she was pregnant. While Justin is accepted immediately, Gabby is rejected from the company until she offers to help train Reggie Sadler (Ser'Darius Blain), a football star hoping to rehabilitate his image just as the show hopes he can boost ratings.
  • Mike Devries (Jon Rudnitsky), joins the show to win back his ex-wife, but along the way begins to fall for Paula Clark (Piper Perabo) - not knowing that she's the woman responsible for him being laid off a year ago.
  • The Lovewell twins Brittney (Anna Grace Barlow) and Simon (Adam Kaplan), who have been raised by an overbearing mother to value victory above all else.
  • Julia Perkins (Teri Polo), an aging mother who auditions when she realizes her marriage is falling apart.

The show is based off of British series Big Ballet, which was an actual reality documentary following the creation of a dance company. However, this show dramatizes the process of the show's creation and the personal lives of both the cast and crew. As the crew push the cast to engage in more and more dramatic stunts in order to keep raitings high, they find themselves more and more entangled in each other's personal lives.

On March 4th, 2022, it was announced that the show had been cancelled after just one season.

The series shows examples of:

  • Acrofatic: Gabby's size doesn't get in the way of her skills in both hip hop and, eventually, ballet dancing.
  • Altar the Speed: Paula and Mike decide to get married in episode nine because Paula's cancer is back and she doesn't want to go through chemo again. They then use Nick's resources to make it happen because she knows orchestrating a wedding for the show is like catnip to him.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Gabby is large, but Reggie tells her she's beautiful not long after meeting her, and the only person who treats her as lesser for her weight is Brittney (who's subsequently called out on it).
    • Raven is also a plus-sized stripper, cam girl, and adult film star.
  • Camp Gay: All the gay men bar Justin are effeminate, and it causes some friction between him and Simon because of his initial scoffing at Simon's mannerisms.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Wayne, Justin, Simon, Travell, and Ladon are all gay. Justin's mom is revealed to be a lesbian posthumously. Monica also turns out to have had an ex-girlfriend.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Monica shattered her kneecap during rehearsals for Swan Lake, and has been taking steroids in order to continue dancing on point. Eventually it does give out, but she finds that she's able to continue dancing in a small capacity.
  • Catchphrase: Nick's is "What prevents us?", which he asks whenever there's a hold up in production.
  • Caustic Critic: Monica fills this role, often screaming at the dancers when they're not good enough. In the second episode she lashes out by throwing a chair at Simon.
  • Compassionate Critic: Wayne fills this role, encouraging the dancers whenever Monica tries to tear them down. He also points out that he's the only producer that sees them as real people.
  • Cliffhanger: Nick immediately clocks Brittney's pregnancy as one, and alludes to working it into the story for the next season should they get renewed.
  • Confession Cam: Everyone gets to have one, including Wayne, Monica, and eventually Nick.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Paula was one in her backstory, in charge of restructuring - meaning she laid people off. One of those people was Mike, but she doesn't realize this until the end of episode four and tries to come clean in episode five.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic: The show is explicitly set in the aftermath of the pandemic (though in the show's world it ended mid-2021, and there's not a mask in sight). It's mentioned as a factor in several character's lives - Mike was laid off just before the pandemic began, two characters were EMTs who got their certification a month before things got bad, and the show is being marketed as a way to bring people together after a year of separation.
  • Dance Party Ending: Their production of Swan Lake ends with one.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen
    • Monica is a cold perfectionist who's been dancing ballet for most of her life and expects as much skill from her amateurs. Part of this is due to her injury skewing her perspective, and it takes a while before she can fall back in love with dance again.
    • Brittney is only on the show to win - even though there aren't very many things to "win" in the show itself. She ends up being cruel enough to turn everyone against her (including her own brother), and nearly gets kicked off the show. It's not until near the end of the season she goes out of her way to start making amends and removing herself from her mom's influence.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Paula is a cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy, and in the premier we can see several drugs related to that in her home. The cancer returns halfway through the season, and she passes away at the beginning of the penultimate episode.
    • Justin's mom got sick and died before the series began. It led to a rift between him and his father since he never visited her when she was in palliative and she was secretly a lesbian who was having an affair with her doctor.
  • Disappeared Dad: Gabby never told anyone who Sam's father is. In the fifth episode we find out he was her high school English teacher who took advantage of her, then cut her off when he found out about the pregnancy, and she's been ashamed ever since.
  • The Dreaded: After meeting her only once, everyone in the show comes to fear Tanya Lovewell. When Simon finds one of her hair extensions on set he tells one of the APs "Mommy is here", leading to the phrase being repeated in a panic across all walkie talkies and Nick telling them to get security and a camera.
  • Elimination Catchphrase: "BalancĂ© away". Wayne only gets to use the phrase twice, since it's not (normally) an elimination show.
  • Flashback: The first nine episodes each open with a flashback of a main character that shows what led to them becoming who they are today.
    • Episode one is Gabby and Justin graduating from high school, with Gabby in short order finding out Justin's gay, finding out she's pregnant, and losing her scholarship.
    • Episode two is Nick's previous reality show sinking (literally) and getting sued because of it.
    • Episode three is Monica getting injured during Swan Lake rehearsal.
    • Episode four is Wayne coming up with the idea for the show while still addicted to drugs.
    • Episode five is Paula at a press conference for powerful women in business getting pied in the face by a woman she fired.
    • Episode six is Simon and Brittney coming in second in a dance competition and getting taunted by their mother over it.
    • Episode seven is a young Reggie seeing his father splurge on his mother for their anniversary, then splurging on them in turn when he makes it big in the NFL.
    • Episode eight is a young Justin busking with his dancing, then dancing with his mom.
    • Episode nine is Mike avoiding his dying father until it's too late.
  • Gender Flip: The Swan Lake performance uses genderblind casting for it's principal roles, and various cast changes cause several characters to go back and forth with this. Simon is Odile, Brittney is briefly Prince Siegfried, and Aja is eventually the Wizard.
  • Genre Blind: Plenty of people forget that Nick is a pretty ruthless reality show producer, even though he shows his colours pretty early in the show. People will tell secrets around him or assume that he has their back, all the while forgetting that he's gone out of his way to manipulate their lives for maximum drama.
  • Hidden Depths: Aja is a talented dancer, as well as a licensed electrician. In the finale she's able to get the lighting back on in the theatre despite most of the circuit breaker being melted.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: There's a montage of them in the first episode.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode takes it's name from a quote in the same episode.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: While never actually said out loud, this is clearly the mindset Brittney and Simon enter the show with. Their mother taught them that Second Place Is for Losers, so if they don't get principal roles then they're wasting their time and ruining "the family brand". Simon soon abandons this because he's able to warm up to the rest of the cast, but Brittney takes most of the season to realize how toxic that mindset is.
  • Immoral Reality Show: Nick seems pressed to turn The Big Leap into one, pulling stunts to boost ratings and rarely giving the cast or crew prior warning. We find out in the second episode that he has a history with these, as his project right before this was a show called Atlantis that appeared to be Big Brother underwater. That show ended only a few episodes in when an oil spill forced an evacuation, but several contestants refused to leave because they still wanted to win. Nobody died, but Nick still had a lawsuit brought against him.
    • Tanya also tries to get her and Brittney on one called Whore-lando, where they both attempt to date the same guy (and the fact that they'd be mother and daughter is apparently the selling point).
  • Incompatible Orientation: Gabby and Justin dated all through high school despite him being gay (though he either didn't realize or wasn't ready to come out). Justin also finds out from his father that his mom was a lesbian, and even though the man loved her she could never love him back or be herself around him.
  • It's Personal: Gabby could put up with Brittney's petty attitude, but as soon as she spilled the secret of Sam's dad on live television, Gabby goes on the warpath and decides to get revenge.
  • Last Wish Marriage: Paula and Mike, since she knows she doesn't have much time left and the two are madly in love. It's a good thing too, since she only makes it a few weeks after the event.
  • The Lost Lenore: Julia eventually reveals that when she lived and danced in New York she had two best friends who ended up both dying of AIDS, and it led to her abandoning most of her past life for a more mundane marriage to Kevin. It also causes her to realize that Paula's cancer has returned, and she's able to comfort her during the process because she's gone through similar already.
  • Metafictional Title: The Big Leap is the name of the reality show at the centre of this series.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: After getting together with Gabby, Reggie is caught on camera getting kissed by another woman, with the framing making it look like they leave together as well. The truth of the matter is that the woman kissed him and he pulled away, and they left separately. However Gabby stresses that she would've been able to handle it better if he had been up front about it instead of her finding out while a camera is recording her reaction.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-universe, a full-on brawl between the cast during a live after-show is cut off with clips of them all happily dancing together.
  • Mushroom Samba: Monica goes on one while creatively blocked, leading to her acting uncharacteristically nice to everyone (which they're more scared of than when she was mean). She also claims to get visions from Tchaikovsky himself, eventually realizing how to rebuild the play from the ground up in order to make it work with the cast she has.
  • Odd Friendship: Julia and Raven end up bonding with each other even though the latter is a cam girl who the former's husband was paying to see.
  • The Oner: The hotel party sequence from episode three.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Played for laughs when Paula and Mike get engaged. He's already separated from his wife, but in the rush of everything he forgets that they haven't actually divorced until Paula pops the question. Fortunately, they know they can lean on Nick to get it processed faster than normal.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Not technically cheating, but Julia realizing her husband has been spending thousands of dollars on porn and cam girls gives her the final push to commit to the show.
  • The Promposal: While visiting Gabby and Justin's old high school in episode five, a student asks Reggie to help him ask his girlfriend to Homecoming. Simon intervenes to make it a loud, over-the-top affair because he is "six for six" on proposals. At the end he's seven for seven.
  • Romance on the Set: In-Universe, Nick intentionally sets up one between Gabby and Reggie in the hopes that he'll break her heart and lead to more drama. Both of which come to pass.
    • Justin and Simon fall for each other during their rehearsals as Prince Siegfried and Odile.
    • Julia falls for Linus the sound guy.
    • Nick and Monica end up falling for each other as well, despite their misgivings towards each other.
  • Romantic False Lead: Linus the sound guy is set up as one for Julia, who starts dating him a few months after her husband Kevin leaves her. She cuts him off when he passes off flowers from her family as a gift from him, then gets in a fight with Kevin backstage. However, she also gets a divorce from Kevin because even though he's stepping up to be a father it's too little too late, and they both know they can't make the marriage work.
  • Rule of Drama: Nick and his crew go out of their way to force this. They bring Justin's father to see him perform knowing they'll either get a heartwarming reunion or a dramatic confrontation, they intentionally set up pairings in the show knowing they'll result in love, heartbreak, or both. They even try to keep Paula and Mike apart during episode five so that he doesn't find out about her firing him until it can happen on camera.
  • Running Gag: Cast members barging into Nick's office, and Nick reminding the APs that they're supposed to get permission first. Also Nick firing his APs, who keep coming in anyway.
    Alan: He fired me twice yesterday.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: In the penultimate episode, network executive Zach Peterman springs on Nick that he wants him to eliminate one of the castmembers the day before performance to bring back hype. Just before they announce who it would be, Nick storms out and brings the entire show with him, refusing to cut someone off after everything they've been through.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Tanya Lovewell taught her children that second place is for poor people, and we see in a flashback that she intentionally taunted them by going through an ice cream drive through and refusing to get them anything as punishment.
  • Shirtless Scene: Simon's costume as Odile amounts to black tights and a black feather shawl, so he's pretty exposed for most of the performance in the finale.
  • Show Within a Show: The premise is that The Big Leap is an actual FOX reality show being created in-universe.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Simon and Brittney are in a panic running down the block to buy flashlights and a pregnancy test so that the show can go on in the finale, they stop to take a picture with a fan.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: After Paual's death and several other factors, Gabby and Monica realize the ending of the play where Odette jumps to her death no longer feels right. So they rewrite and rechoreograph the ending so that she breaks her curse by falling in love with herself.
  • Stage Mom: Simon and Brittney's mother Tanya, who's been pressuring them to succeed since birth. As the show goes on it's revealed that this is in part to help the three of them gain financial stability, but her controlling attitude also leads to her tormenting them for getting anything but first place, and a ban on any relationships (or "subplots") unless they're with someone famous enough to elevate "the family brand". She's so invested in making them stars that even Nick and his crew, who make their careers out of meddling with the cast's lives, are afraid of her.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Mike cheated on his wife before the series began, and his attempts to atone have only pushed her further away. However because he's so passionate about atoning it's shown to be endearing, and in part helps draw Paula to him.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Gabby was seduced by her high school English teacher, which resulted in her pregnancy.
  • Teen Pregnancy: She was eighteen and about to graduate, but Gabby was still a single teen mom when she had Sam.
  • Transparent Closet: Justin in high school. Apparently everyone knew he was gay except for him and Gabby. It's also implied that this is why he's more macho when we catch up with him in the present day.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Justin. He was kicked out of the house after coming out to his dad, who's never fully processed what Justin went through. When the two come back into each other's lives, Justin lashes out because his father still doesn't understand why dance is important to him and why they have such a fraught relationship.
  • Wham Episode: Episode six, "I Should Have Gone to Motown". Brittney finds the letter Reggie left for Gabby and realizes she's why he dumped her, so she airs the secret about Gabby getting pregnant from her teacher on live television. This causes the entire cast and crew to turn on her, but also gets the letter in Simon's hands, who passes it off to Gabby and leads to her and Reggie getting together.