After an excruciating five months of waiting, ABC Family announced today that they will not be renewing Amy Sherman-Palladino's Bunheads for a second season.
They've really handled this with an astonishing lack of grace, haven't they? None of the cast, crew or writers has been able to search for other jobs as they, and seemingly the entire Internet, hung on news of the show's return. The 18-episode first season, while creatively and critically triumphant, suffered from the low ratings typical of, well, just about any show on ABC Family. If, after wrapping the first season in February, ABC Family had immediately canceled the series, no one could blame them. But they didn't. They waited to see how their two new summer series, The Fosters and Twisted, would fare before determining the fate of the quirky show about a ballet studio in Paradise, California run by a former Vegas showgirl (Sutton Foster) and an imperious madame (Kelly Bishop).
Well, The Fosters and Twisted scored mildly better than Bunheads, and ABC Family's crown jewel Pretty Little Liars continues to dominate the rest of the shows on the roster. So that's business, right? But ABC Family still didn't cancel Bunheads. They waited, and we waited, and Amy Sherman-Palladino and Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop and dozens of other people associated with the production of that show, and millions of other people who fell in love with its singular tone both during and after the season's run - we all waited. Only to be disappointed.
Look, shows get canceled all the time, right? Often the best shows! But I honestly believe that Bunheads represented something important, something that mattered. Not only because it's a show about women and teenage girls who are authentic and interesting and driven and flawed - Bunheads also represented the chance to prove that something unique can be successful. The show's a hybrid of a comedy, wholesome primetime soap and musical with incredible dance sequences performed by its cast in every episode. This is a show with the sweetest spirit that never feels saccharine due to the marvelously dry, snappy dialogue at which Sherman-Palladino (of Gilmore Girls fame, and you guys know I love that show) so utterly excels.
And the cast? Good lord, that cast. Sutton Foster is an all-timer, a screwball goddess, an entertainer of the highest order. Kelly Bishop is obviously incredible, as she's been swinging those gams and cracking wise for decades, and new-to-me Stacey Oristano (Truly) has the kind of completely unexpected comic timing that will make her a star. Perhaps most surprisingly, the class of teens, headlined by Kaitlyn Jenkins, Julia Goldani Telles, Bailey Buntain and Emma Dumont, are all incredible. They're fantastic dancers, hilarious comediennes and they manage to make the trials and travails of teenage girls feel poignant and charming.
So I guess all I can say in the wake of this news is, if you haven't yet, watch the show. It may be too late for Bunheads, but it's not too late for you. This is a show unlike any other, with heart and wit and originality and completely bangin' dance numbers. It's a show that should get a second shot to score some ratings, but it's also a show entirely worthy of joining the annals of Brilliant But Canceled, keeping company with Freaks and Geeks, Pushing Daisies and Party Down.
And it's a show that I love, and I am sad to say goodbye to it.