We tend to make fun of ABC Family a lot, though it’s mostly because their half-hour shows are always pretty awful. Melissa & Joey is a rip-off of Who’s The Boss that is somehow even less funny, State of Georgia was only acceptable to hate-watch, and I’m still baffled that a 10 Things I Hate About You sitcom existed. Their upcoming show, Baby Daddy, has the very unique premise of a guy who is unfit to be a parent suddenly becoming a parent! Give me two minutes and I can list every single crazy hijink that will ensue in the first season.
But, in ABC Family’s defense, they do occasionally succeed with their comedy-dramas. Greek is still one of the very few shows that got college right and had the sort of clever, relatable, pop-culture laced writing that you would never expect from the network. And I’m still crying about the finale. Secret Life of the American Teenager is a huge success, Pretty Little Liars found its audience on the internet (and makes for some great annotations), Switched at Birth took a laugh-out-loud worthy premise and turned it into a surprisingly affecting drama (with, okay, a lot of ridiculous sign language arguments), and even both Jane by Design and The Lying Game have some fun episodes for lazy summer television watching.
Their newest show is Bunheads, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, and starring the crazy talented Sutton Foster. I was fully prepared to be bored to tears by the story of showgirl turned ballet teacher, but the pilot was actually great. It has a unique voice that really makes it stick out from the rest of the network’s programs — witty, fast dialogue that flows effortlessly — and the characters are likable, even when they’re bratty. There is the requisite gut-punch twist in the pilot that continues on through the second episode but even the melancholy that surrounds those two hours is lightened by the characters’ zany conversations. Plus, there is a scene where everyone dances out their feelings to a Tom Waits song! More of that, please. If Bunheads keeps going this way it could easily become, like Greek, a show that you can admit is good without adding the “y’know, for being on ABC Family” qualifier.