The line separating shows carried on ABC Family and those on ABC itself is getting blurrier as “ family entertainment” evolves.
That evolution is measured, most obviously, in how sex and relationships are depicted on television.At one time, not too long ago, you might be surprised to find unmarried people having sex on an ABC Family show, but that’s not the case today, as evidenced by two programs premiering this month.
Bunheads, premiering tonight, stars Sutton Foster as dancer Michelle Simms, who has been at least halfway around the career block and is still looking for her ticket away from tiny feathered costumes and high kicks behind rows of breast-baring stars of Las Vegas revues.
At the start of tonight’s pilot episode, Michelle has pinned all her hopes on an audition for the musical Chicago. The audition is so important, she can’t allow herself to be delayed by Hubbell Flowers (Alan Ruck), a stage-door Johnny, although she is nothing if not kind as she brushes him off by sending him to dinner with two other dancers.
The audition is over before it starts, leaving Michelle with a freshly popped balloon and a good reason to get drunk. Once again, Hubbell proposes marriage and promises her a beautiful home by the sea. This time, Michelle accepts.
Michelle sobers up on the long drive back to the town of Paradise, where Hubbell’s mother, Fanny (Kelly Bishop, Gilmore Girls), runs a dance studio and teaches classes to young “bunheads,” as female dancers are called in the ballet world.
The series, co-created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls, shares a similar mix of whimsy and sassiness. Michelle isn’t in love with Hubbell, and she isn’t a cruel woman, but she has made her choice, no matter how impulsive.
How can Michelle follow her dream if she is married to Hubbell? And, as is clear in the pilot, the union is a real marriage: They have sex upstairs while the townsfolk gather downstairs to welcome them to Paradise.
Not that we’d want TV shows to follow cliches any more than they already do, but we’re not sure at first how much we like a lead character who marries a man she doesn’t love because she is on the rebound from a bad audition. Yeah, she’s drunk, and it is Vegas, but the character loop-the-loops are initially a challenge.
Later this month, Jean-Luc Bilodeau will star in Baby Daddy, a sitcom from Dan Berendsen (The Nine Lives of Chloe King).
Bilodeau plays Ben, working as a New York bartender and sharing space with his older, pro-hockey-playing brother, Danny (Derek Theler), and his friend Tucker (Tahj Mowry).
The premise at first seems unmistakably Three Dudes and a Baby, when an infant shows up on a doorstep. Reviewing his recent dating history against the presumed age of the baby, Ben remembers Angela — whom he dated for a few weeks before they were “intimate.”
The other characters include Ben and Danny’s mom, Bonnie (Melissa Peterman of Reba), and a girl from the boys’ childhood named Riley (Chelsea Kane) who has definitely outlived her old nickname, “Fatpants.” Ben is clueless about the fact that Riley has a crush on him, while Riley is similarly unaware that Danny has one on her.
But, as the title indicates, this is a story about a baby daddy. Despite his young, single lifestyle, Ben is not only a decent guy but also a dad who falls in love with his daughter.
Both shows make agreeable additions to the ABC Family stable, even if they don’t really break any new ground.