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First of all, what Bunheads isn't: a show about cafeteria hair-nets or bakers with bun fetishes. "Bunheads" are dancers in ABC Family's new Monday night comedy. They're ballerinas ... with buns ... in their hair. All except for winsome Vegas showgirl, Michelle, played by Tony Award winner Sutton Foster.
Michelle might have been a great ballerina, but instead she followed the money from Broadway to Vegas. Now, years later, she's just a tired, unfulfilled 30-something, dancing on stage in feathers each night. When an admirer named Hubble catches her at a low point, Michelle wakes up the next morning with a wedding ring on her finger, headed to his beachfront home in Paradise-where he lives with his mother, the Buddhist ballet instructor. "You live with your mother like a serial killer?" Michelle asks incredulously.
That's not the only surprise. Michelle and her mother-in-law, Fanny (Kelly Bishop of Gilmore Girls), are at odds from the beginning, but slowly they seem to be feeling each other's groove, until in the last minute of the pilot, Hubble is killed in an accident. Will Michelle have to drag her Vegas feathers out again? And will Fanny's meditative inclinations be enough to keep her sane when her home and dance studio are left to Michelle in Hubble's will?
Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino resumes here the sympathetic characters and semi-witty dialogue that won her show, Gilmore Girls, numerous awards. Four teenagers in Fanny's ballet class round out the cast-including Boo, the sweet but big-boned dancer looking for affirmation and Sasha, the snarky cover-girl with a painful home life-widening appeal to both moms and daughters.
What isn't appealing are the shallow sources of humor: misusing alcohol to solve problems, religion as a punching bag, and more sex jokes than you can fit in a ballet bag. There are also references to a closeted gay character, a storyline Palladino has shown she's not afraid to pursue to its conclusion. Which brings me to one last thing Bunheads isn't: a show moms and teens can enjoy without reservation.