In 2000, Amy Sherman-Palladino launched Gilmore Girls, a critically-adored, quirky drama that followed fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore's attempt to make a fresh start in a quaint town. On Monday night, ABC Family premieres Sherman-Palladino's latest effort: Bunheads, about an equally chatty former Vegas showgirl named Michelle (Sutton Foster), who follows a similar trajectory. (Watch the trailer below.) After a dejecting Vegas audition, Michelle drunkenly agrees to marry a persistent if uninspiring suitor, and moves with him to his mother's house in small-town California. The mother (played by Gilmore Girls vet Kelly Bishop) owns a dance studio, where Michelle begins training a crop of "bunheads" (aspiring ballet dancers). How does the show compare to Gilmore Girls?
It's fantastic: It's fitting that Sherman-Palladino returns to TV the same month that Aaron Sorkin debuts Newsroom on HBO, says James Poniewozik at TIME. In the early 2000s, their respective dramas, Gilmore Girls and The West Wing, were two of TV's best, with "characters [who] machine-gunned crisp dialogue at a blinding words-per-minute rate." If "you write off Bunheads because it shows up in a leotard instead of a suit, you'll be missing something special." Foster nails the "sweetly sardonic" tone that made Lorelai Gilmore such a captivating lead, and the "snappy dialogue and the offbeat charm" make for an impressive, must-watch pilot.
"TV tonight: Bunheads"
But it's not for everyone: At one point, says Gail Pennington at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bishop's imperious mother-in-law chides Michelle for talking too fast: "Oh my god, the quips, the chatter — don't you ever shut up?" But those things — "the quips, chatter, banter, and backtalk" — are Sherman-Palladino's signatures. "Find that annoying and you might not be made for Bunheads." Still, give the show a chance; it's "beautiful and sweet, funny, and touching," and a worthy successor to Gilmore Girls.
"TV review: Bunheads"
It's too flawed to be another Gilmore Girls: Bunheads shares Gilmore Girls' "mix of whimsy and sassiness," says David Wiegand at The San Francisco Chronicle, but it's not the instant classic its predecessor was. To begin with, Michelle is instantly unlikable. She marries a man she doesn't love because she's drunk and depressed after a bad audition — a decision that makes it hard for us to respect and root for her. Part of Gilmore Girls' appeal was the way it tracked Lorelai's "lively, if rocky romantic life." With Michelle married off, that's not an option here.
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