Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pilot Review: Hellcats

Hellcats (Wednesdays at 9:00pm on CW)

Well, there's no denying that this a vast improvement over the same time slot last year when TBL: The Beautiful Life massively tanked. Hellcats isn't the type of show that will be well-represented at the Emmys next season, or even the type of show you'll go into work the next today excited to discuss. It's pretty stupid and extremely formulaic (nothing about the pilot was surprising or interesting), but for some reason... I loved it.

Hellcats is about Marty, a hard-working girl from Memphis who has lost her academic scholarship at Lancer University to study pre-law. She lives off-campus in a small apartment with her hot mess of a mother, who just so happens to work at the college's on-campus diner. Marty has spent her entire life cleaning up her mother's messes and supporting the two of them just so she could someday get out, and now it may all be for naught. Then she finds out that the cheerleaders get a full scholarship and free housing, so when one of the flyers is sidelined, Marty tries out; obviously, she makes the squad. The rest of the cast are predictable, generic archetypes: slightly insane captain, jealous injured girl, hunky guy, best guy friend who may be more than a friend, struggling coach, tough love administrator, etc.

There are so many "been-there, done-that" stories at work here, it's almost mind-boggling. The thing is, though, the creative team knows it. Before anyone knew anything about this show, it was being compared to the film Bring It On; that movie makes an appearance not 10 minutes into the premiere as Marty looks for inspiration for her tryout. Beyond that, it's a simple rags-to-riches story, with the overbearing alcoholic parent and snobby popular girl getting in the main character's way. But let's be honest, we can't expect much originality from soaps, which is essentially what Hellcats is. So we just look for fun, which this show has an abundance of. It's about on-part with the intelligence of the CW's other soaps (Gossip  Girl, 90210 and One Tree Hill in particular), so it should be easy to swallow for their target audience. But for the rest of us? The script was poorly written, the direction was all over the place, the characters are tired retreads... what is there to love? Well, the choreography for starters. Marty's character has grown up poor and was "raised on the streets" (Do these Hollywood types even know what that means? How many white girls from the streets do we really need in dance-genre films and series?), so she brings an edge to the Hellcats; the dance sequences produced are enjoyable and entertaining as a result. The cast is also surprisingly deft, beginning with the magnetic Aly Michalka as Marty. I don't know who this chick is, but I'm glad she got this job. She's perfect for the role, both in terms of talent and looks; she's beautiful but still edgy, plus she's funny. Ashley Tisdale actually shows some good comedic timing, even if she is rather stagnant at times. Sharon Leal does what little she can with a terribly written character (the coach), and D.B. Woodside adds some interest as her doctor boyfriend. Heather Hemmens walks the fine line between deliciously evil and overacting mess as the jealous injured cheerleader Alice, but she is mostly successful.

So Hellcats is something that I'll continue to TiVo. I don't expect groundbreaking things from it; I don't even really expect it be all that interesting. But it'll hold a special place as yet another guilty pleasure of mine, right up there with Jerseylicious, Jersey Shore and The Rachel Zoe Project.

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