“Bunheads” mini-cap: For Fanny (Episode 1.2)

I’m a little bit in love with Bunheads.

The second episode confirmed that this is a show worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Gilmore Girls and Amy Sherman-Palladino. But before we talk about the episode, let’s address the rainbow-colored elephant in the room.

Last week, several of you picked up on Shonda Rhimes‘ tweet about Episode 1.

The comment seemed hasty, since it was based on a single episode. Rhimes, of all people, knows that one episode does not a series make. And the media picked up on it, of course. ASP didn’t get into it until an interview with Media Mayhem, where it became about one woman not supporting another. Frankly, I think the interview forced the issue, but watch the interview (NSFW for language) and draw your own conclusions.

The contention seems even stranger after the second episode, since it included several people of color. A few were dancers in the special dance; another’s a good friend of Fanny’s so my guess is that she’s at least a recurring character. I’m not sure why ASP didn’t just say “We’ll see more diversity as the series progresses.” I don’t like the way this turned into a different issue. It reminds me of a lovers’ spat: “Hey, you forgot to put on your ring.” “You never like what I’m wearing!”

OK, on to Bunheads. If you haven’t seen it yet, I want you to watch a scene from this week’s episode. It is a bit spoilerish if you didn’t see Episode 1, but if you’ve read anything at all about Bunheads you already know the big twist. (If you don’t want to know, stop now, because I’m about to tell you.) Hubble, the dude that the main character Michelle married, who took her to live in a tiny town in a house with his mom Fanny, got killed in a car accident at the end of the show’s first hour.

That sets the stage for this.

Fanny (Kelly Bishop) is in a total frenzy about Hubble’s memorial service. If you’ve ever lost a family member, you know that the logistics of life after death — your life after their death, that is — are overwhelming. Fanny’s behavior is over the top, to be sure, but not an altogether unrealistic way of dealing with loss. We want to put off the pain of it all as long as possible.

What I want you to notice is the rhythm of this scene, the way Fanny is all constant talk and mindless activity while Michelle watches, trying to figure out how to respond. She wants to help, but can’t. She doesn’t feel entitled to have so many feelings of her own, although she barely slept and is still in the dress she was wearing at the wedding party. The circumstance is horribly sad, but the scene is brilliantly comedic.

It’s also classic Amy Sherman-Palladino. In this post-tragedy episode, instead of having a maudlin, tear-filled hour of Hubbell’s lifelong friends mourning his death, we see people handling the loss like real people do. Fanny’s students Sasha (Julia Goldani Telles), Melanie (Emma Dumont), Ginny (Bailey Buntain), and Boo (Kaitlyn Jenkins) use it as an excuse to duck out of school and go to a movie.

Hubbell’s ex-girlfriend Truly (Stacey Oristano) brings over something green in a casserole dish (probably Lime Jello Salad, a small-town funeral mainstay). Fanny’s friends gather around to help plan her desired Buddhist celebration of life, whispering about whether she’s lost her mind as soon as she leaves the table.

We get to know Fanny’s four featured students much better this week as we see them interact off the dance floor as well as on. Sasha, who is a ballet natural that doesn’t much want to be a dancer, shows that she is more than a mean girl. (She actually reminds me a lot of Rory Gilmore, albeit not as endearing.) She is the one who snaps Michelle out of her malaise with “We have to do something.” And what they do is gather Fanny’s other students to put on a dance memorial for Hubbell.

The dance is wonderful and the perfect tribute to Hubbell — and Fanny. Fanny loves it and is impressed that Michelle cared enough to plan it. For the moment, the two share a genuine connection.

Random Episode 2 observations:

The girls all have notes from Fanny to get out of gym: “Anything involving bats, helmets, rackets, goal lines, shin guards, personal fouls, or high fives could cause injury and jeopardize our dance careers.”

One of Fanny’s friends (played by Ellen Greene, btw) notes how tall Michelle is.

“I wonder if she was ever a man?”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know, I just think the town could use a woman who used to be a man to go with the Republican and the Liza Minnelli impersonator.”

Last week, I kept trying to figure out who Michelle reminded me of; around mid-week, it hit me.

This week the girls ditch school to see a Mark Wahlberg movie. Just sayin’.

Nice moment when Fanny introduces Michelle to her attorney Jerry as “Hubbell’s wife, my daughter-in-law,” with a smile.

The warm feelings lasted about a minute — long enough for the attorney to say that Hubbell called him on the way home from Vegas to change his will. Michelle gets everything. We knew she was staying — now we know why.

Not everything about Bunheads is excellent. Sometimes the fact that the girls are better at dancing than acting is painfully obvious. But saying all those words can’t be easy, and I trust that they’ll get better.

I still didn’t see the slightest hint of gay, even in the background. I guess saying that means I’m not supportive of women. Oh well.

Watch Bunheads, OK? And if you have, tell us what you think of it. Worth an hour of our time? Why or why not?

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