Bunheads (pilot) title card
|Created by||Amy Sherman-Palladino
Julia Goldani Telles
|Theme music composer||Sam Phillips|
|Opening theme||Sam Phillips|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||18 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Amy Sherman-Palladino
|Producer(s)||Maria L. Melograne
Timothy Marx (pilot only)
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
ABC Family Original Productions
|Distributor||Disney Media Distribution
Disney–ABC Domestic Television
|Original channel||ABC Family|
|Original run||June 11, 2012– February 25, 2013|
Bunheads is an American comedy-drama television series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Lamar Damon, that aired on ABC Family from June 11, 2012 to February 25, 2013. Starring Sutton Foster, the show centers on a Las Vegas showgirl who gets married on a whim and winds up teaching alongside her new mother-in-law at her ballet school.
Bunheads is the tale of Michelle Simms, a former ballerina 'bunhead' who wound up as a Las Vegas showgirl. Seeing her life and career at a dead end, she impulsively takes up the offer of marriage from her persistent admirer, Hubbell Flowers (played by Alan Ruck), and moves to his sleepy coastal town, the fictional town of Paradise in Southern California, thirty miles south of Ojai, California. Once there, Hubbell is killed in a car accident and Michelle struggles to adjust to life in a small town and teaching alongside her mother-in-law, Fanny Flowers (played by Kelly Bishop), at her ballet school: the Paradise Dance Academy.
Cast and characters
- Sutton Foster as Michelle Simms
- Kaitlyn Jenkins as Bettina "Boo" Jordan
- Julia Goldani Telles as Sasha Torres
- Bailey Buntain as Virginia "Ginny" Thompson
- Emma Dumont as Melanie "Mel" Segal
Recurring cast and characters
- Kelly Bishop as Fanny Flowers
- Stacey Oristano as Truly Stone
- Liza Weil as Millicent "Milly" Stone
- Gregg Henry as Rico
- Dendrie Taylor as Nina
- Rose Abdoo as Sam
- Ellen Greene as Fanny's Friend
- RaJahnae Patterson as RaJahnae
- Casey J. Adler as Carl Cramer
- Paul James Jordan as Dez
- Zak Henri as Charlie Segal
- Matisse Love as Matisse
- Richard Gant as Michael
- Lyrica Woodruff as "The Ringer"
- Angelina McCoy as Talia
- Alan Ruck as Hubbell Flowers
- Nathan Parsons as Godot
- Garrett Coffey as Roman
- Hunter Foster as Scotty Simms
- Jeanine Mason as Cozette
- Niko Pepaj as Frankie
- Kent Boyd as Jordan
In addition to recurring actors that carried over from Sherman-Palladino's Gilmore Girls, including Kelly Bishop, Liza Weil, Gregg Henry, and Rose Abdoo, numerous other actors previously appearing in Gilmore Girls have also appeared in episodes of Bunheads.
- Alex Borstein, who played Drella the harpist and Miss Celine, as Michelle's landlord in episode 1 and as Carl's Mother in episode 12.
- Michael DeLuise, who played "TJ", as the magician "Jo Jo Deline" in episode 11.
- Sean Gunn, who played Kirk Gleason, as the over-zealous barista Bash in episodes 9 and 17.
- Chris Eigeman, who played Jason Stiles, as actor/director Conor in episode 8.
- Todd Lowe, who played Zach van Gerbig, as the one-eyed plumber Davis in episode 7.
- Biff Yeager, who played Tom the contractor, as Bob the hardware store owner in episodes 4 and 15.
- Linda Porter, who played Fran Westin, as Sasha's neighbor Mrs. Weidemeyer in episode 15.
- Jon Polito, who played Pete, owner of Pete's Pizza, as Sal Russano in episodes 5, 9, and 16.
Development and production
Bunheads first appeared on the development slate at ABC Family in September 2010, under the title Strut, when the show received a cast-contingent pilot order. Lamar Damon wrote the script, and production was originally expected to begin in fall 2010. In September 2011, it was reported that the series was being retooled by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who would serve as executive producer. The series was given a pilot order under the new name Bunheads.
On September 28, 2011, it was announced that Broadway star Sutton Foster was set to star in the lead role as Michelle. Filming took place in November with creator Amy Sherman-Palladino writing and directing.
On February 11, 2012, ABC Family ordered the pilot to series with a ten episode order. Following shortly, on February 15, 2012, it was announced that Kelly Bishop would join the show playing the recurring role of Fanny Flowers, the mother-in-law to Michelle.
On August 17, 2012, Bunheads received a renewal for the "back end" of the first season (eight additional episodes).
On June 4, 2013, it was announced that Bunheads was one of 31 selected productions to receive California’s Film and Television Tax Credit. Earning $5.82 million, the money would help fund a second season should the show be renewed.
On July 4, 2013, it was announced that the sets were torn down, leading some reporters to speculate that the show would be canceled. ABC Family later confirmed that it was officially cancelled on July 22, 2013.
Robert Lloyd of Los Angeles Times thinks "ABC Family's Bunheads a cute summer treat. Amy Sherman-Palladino strikes again with that Gilmore Girls charm in Bunheads, with Tony-winning Sutton Foster as a former showgirl mentoring budding ballerinas." Variety's Geoff Berkshire says "Sherman-Palladino's snappy banter and slightly melancholic characters only enrich the texture of a series perfectly pitched between comedy and drama."
The Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan recommends the show saying "the pilot for Bunheads moves at a brisk, refreshing clip and it even packs an emotional wallop or two. The relationships that are sketched out in the first hour are promising. Sherman-Palladino has long been interested in characters who are dancing as fast as they can, and in this show, she has a whole new set to play with."
Vanity Fair's James Wolcott titles the show a "knockout charmer" and singles out particular praise for lead Sutton Foster "revealing a knowing Carol Burnett-ish clowning flair that works beautifully on camera."
Newsday critic Diane Werts notes that "Bunheads sets [a] multigenerational tone," and praises Sherman-Palladino's style. "Think they've all got a way with words? Some attitude? Smart pop-culture shout-outs? You betcha. Bunheads is from Gilmore Girls auteur Amy Sherman-Palladino, so it chatters just as giddily, from Gadhafi to Godzilla to Graceland."
HitFix's Alan Sepinwall calls "ABC Family's Bunheads a return to form for Amy Sherman-Palladino." and Time's James Poniewozik, though showing some minor concern for the series plot going forward, suggests, "What matters is its voice, and the spring in its step, and its first hour was just so damn enjoyable that I'll gladly season-pass this and see where the season takes it. Out of the gate, Bunheads has some impressive moves; I look forward to trying to keep up."
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly says in his review of the pilot, "Summer TV just got dreamier, dancier...Sherman-Palladino has constructed Bunheads cannily to both fit into and transcend ABC Family's programming." On the mixed front, David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks Bunheads "will take some work and it could just as easily become either annoying or likable."
Popular entertainment website The A.V. Club ranked Bunheads number 15 on their annual "The Best TV of 2012" list writing "At its best, Bunheads scavenges real heart out of its flea-market approach to plot and character. When Foster breathes “The re-useable tote!” and Kelly Bishop replies with satisfaction, “The re-useable tote,” it’s time to be thankful Sherman-Palladino is back in business."  The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum included Bunheads among her favorite television shows of 2012, listing the Istanbul (Not Constantinople) dance number closing episode six as the year's most memorable TV moment, saying: "1. This. Television is always the best when it takes you by surprise.
Following the season one finale, TIME's James Poniewozik wrote a piece on the show titled "On the Importance of Bunheads." In it he details Bunheads as a necessity in the TV landscape. "Over its first season, it’s been a joy to watch, funny, charming and bittersweet, and that’s reason enough for me to want it to stay on the air, despite not-great-even-for-ABC-Family ratings." But TV also needs this show to stay on the air, to prove that there are different kinds of stories worth telling outside the usual genres." 
Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress asks "ABC Family, Save Bunheads!" She writes: "All of this would be enough to make a specific, brilliant, rare show. But Bunheads is something more. Its characters have pop culture addictions that rival Community‘s. It’s the unusual show about women that has good male characters—Carl, Michelle’s maybe-boyfriend bartender Godot, Michelle’s hilariously shiftless brother—but that hasn’t subverted its female characters to their development, creating an unusual degree of gender balance. And it’s a show that’s not afraid of real sadness, but that doesn’t need to beat up on its characters to let them fail: when Michelle accidentally pepper-sprayed her students on the eve of a critically important performance for the school’s financial health, we were allowed to feel the weight of her accumulated past missteps without being disgusted by or feeling distanced from her. That’s a deft balance. And if ABC Family wants to level up on its brand, to be something more than the network where Shailene Woodley worked before she got famous, it should keep it up, and renew Bunheads."
Slate magazine's David Weigel explains "Why Bunheads is the best show on TV." In his article, he writes: "The New York Times has said it on the front page of the Style section, and regular Slate-ster Alyssa Rosenberg has said it eloquently at ThinkProgress. I’ll add my voice: ABC Family needs to renew Amy Sherman-Palladino’s fantastic ballet dramedy Bunheads, the best original, scripted show on TV."
Nearing a decision regarding renewal, on July 17, 2013, several critics dedicated individual articles urging ABC Family to renew Bunheads. Todd VanDerWerff of the AV Club titled: "Hey, ABC Family: Just renew Bunheads already" in it he writes "  Fortunately, the qualitative argument is very easy to make for Bunheads. It’s by several orders of magnitude the best show ABC Family has ever aired, and it’s not like that’s an easy task or anything."
Awards and nominations
The series has won two of its five award nominations. The series won a Critics' Choice Television Award and a Television Critics Association Award. Star Sutton Foster won a Gracie Award and was nominated for a Teen Choice Award and a Critics' Choice Award.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||DVD release date|
|Season premiere||Series finale||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|1||18||June 11, 2012||February 25, 2013||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|1||"Pilot"||Amy Sherman-Palladino||Story by: Lamar Damon & Amy Sherman-Palladino
Teleplay by: Amy Sherman-Palladino
|June 11, 2012||1.64|
|Tired of her life as a chorus girl in Las Vegas, Michelle Simms reluctantly agrees to marry kindly Hubbell Flowers, who loves her and promises to give her a better life. He brings her to his small hometown, where she is not exactly greeted with open arms. Hubbell's overbearing mother, Fanny, is appalled by the news of their marriage and frowns upon the idea of Michelle's moving in with them. Fanny hosts a wedding reception, where Michelle interacts with the colorful locals, who all seem to despise her. The only people Michelle makes a good impression on are Fanny's ballet students, who are impressed with her dance experience. Boo takes Michelle's advice on auditioning to heart and feels inspired to try out for a prestigious local performance. Out of nowhere, Michelle's unstable new life is rocked when Hubbell dies in a car accident.|
|2||"For Fanny"||Amy Sherman-Palladino||Amy Sherman-Palladino||June 18, 2012||1.64|
|Following Hubbell's death, Michelle and Fanny remain in a catatonic state for the first night. Meanwhile, after Sasha Torres, Melanie Segal, Ginny Thompson, and Bettina "Boo" Jordan find out about Hubbell's accident, they "grieve" by skipping school and watching a movie. Boo is upset with how the girls handle the situation, criticizing their lack of sympathy. Back at the house, Fanny becomes obsessed with organizing the perfect memorial for her son: a tent to hold the entire town, Buddhist memorial traditions, a mariachi band and cocktail napkins with the face of the Dalai Lama, to name a few. Later, Fanny comforts Truly Stone as she breaks down - saying a few choice words in front of Michelle. Feeling lost, Michelle takes a long walk around town, then confronts Fanny about being included in the grieving process. Later, nothing seems to be going like Fanny wants for the memorial service. So at the dance studio, Michelle teaches the girls and the rest of the class to perform for Fanny in honor of Hubbell. Fanny is touched. But just when it looks like Michelle and Fanny are making progress, they learn that before his death, Hubbell changed his will. Everything is now in Michelle's name.|
|3||"Inherit the Wind"||Kenny Ortega||Sarah Dunn||June 25, 2012||1.38|
|Fanny melodramatically pouts about Hubbell's assets being left to Michelle. Michelle is visited by a pushy real estate agent, Clair, who shows her around the seven-acre estate and scares Michelle with horror stories of required maintenance. Frustrated, Michelle finds Hubbell's restored Mustang convertible in a garage and takes it for a drive; when it breaks down, she meets the mysterious and rich Grant who lives on a large estate. While telling Grant she has no reason to stay in Paradise, Michelle receives a text from the girls; her reaction shows the viewer she's forming a relationship with them. Melanie's older brother comes to a dance practice; Boo has a crush on him and is embarrassed by Sasha. As the girls are picked up, it's revealed Boo has a down-to-earth, loving mother while Sasha's is cold and aloof. Michelle later finds Sasha practicing alone in the studio at night. Michelle finds that the estate has a guest house and decides to move into it.|
|4||"Better Luck Next Year"||Daniel Palladino||Daniel Palladino||July 9, 2012||1.44|
|A moving truck arrives with everything that was in Michelle's apartment in Vegas, including things that were not hers, as her landlord packed for her. Not having enough space for the things to be nicely put away, Michelle shoves them into the guesthouse and goes to sleep. Fanny wakes up Michelle in the middle of the night to talk and help her unpack and agrees to let Michelle "borrow" her stove, as the kitchen in the guest house does not function. The next morning, Michelle gets caught eating chips and soda in her underwear by some of the ballet students.|
|5||"Money for Nothing"||Elodie Keene||Amy Welsh||July 16, 2012||1.23|
|It's Fanny's paying season, where she categorizes all her debts into boxes − people who have to get paid, people who should get paid, and people who might get paid - and pays some of them accordingly. Many townspeople are aware of Fanny's system and refuse to do business with her until they get paid. Michelle takes Fanny to an accountant to help sort out her finances, but the accountant informs them that they need to bring in some income, because only a few students at the dancing school actually pay for the classes. Fanny and Michelle discuss adding classes, and Fanny pressures Michelle to teach with her. Michelle tries to get all the parents to pay, but it backfires, so Fanny, Michelle, and the dancers put on a recital that placates the people Fanny owes money. Boo starts a new job at the Oyster Bar, where she has to deal with another waiter who makes her jump in the dumpster, which leaves her smelling like garbage. The handsome surfer son of the owners, Godot, befriends Boo and helps her navigate the job to the envy of Boo's friends.|
|6||"Movie Truck"||Jamie Babbit||Amy Sherman-Palladino & Beth Schacter||July 23, 2012||1.58|
|Michelle's best friend from Las Vegas comes to Paradise to celebrate Michelle's birthday, but their plans change when Michelle is forced to teach Fanny's classes while she's on vacation. Meanwhile, the younger girls sneak out to watch a rated-R movie where Boo tries to get Melanie's brother, Charlie, to pay attention to her.|
|7||"What's Your Damage, Heather"||Jackson Douglas||Grant Levy, Dominik Rothbard & Amy Sherman-Palladino||July 30, 2012||1.12|
|Michelle grudgingly teaches Fanny's classes, only to find out that Fanny extended her trip by another week. There's a leak in the girls' dressing room in the dance studio, causing a re-location into Michelle's house (the guest house), where the girls go through her stuff, including Sasha, who steals one of Michelle's shirts given to her by Siegfried and Roy and lies to Michelle about it. Ginny, wanting to "test the waters", dumps her boyfriend of 8 years, much to the anger of her mother, who berates Michelle in front of everyone after class. Nanette, Boo's mother, calms her down with cookies and grape juice. Meanwhile, Truly introduces Michelle to the infamous Davis, a local plumber with one eye, who is never hired for plumbing work.|
|8||"Blank Up, It’s Time"||Daniel Palladino||Daniel Palladino||August 6, 2012||1.17|
|Fanny returns with an old friend, Michael, a pianist and troubadour. Fanny invites Michelle to see a play written by a local entitled "Blank Up, It's Time." Michelle meets the director. In the meantime, Fanny's academy is preparing for a series of upcoming events and dance numbers, including a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers number, which usually stars Sasha and a talented, egotistical male dance student, Jordan. This time, due to "disagreements," Sasha has been replaced with Boo, and Jordan with an underdog male student, Carl.|
|9||"No One Takes Khaleesi's Dragons"||David Paymer||Sheila Lawrence||August 13, 2012||1.13|
|Frustrated with long lines and exasperating service at the only café in town, Michelle looks forward to the opening of a new grocery store with modern accouterments, including Chinese takeout/delivery, a doughnut counter, stamps, and coffee-makers, where Boo and Carl (whom Boo likes more each day) will begin the opening ceremony with a dance tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. When the decision to open the store is overruled, Michelle tries to convince everyone in town to make the store happen, officially meeting the town heartthrob, Godot, in the process. Meanwhile, Ginny starts to like Melanie's brother, Charlie, much to Melanie's disapproval, due to Boo's old (un-reciprocated) feelings for him. Carl plans to quit ballet as he thinks he has no future in it, to Boo's disappointment. Sasha joins the high school cheerleading squad, where she does not fit in. Michelle tells her that making one mistake while she is young can ruin her life.|
|10||"A Nutcracker in Paradise"||Amy Sherman-Palladino||Amy Sherman-Palladino||August 20, 2012||1.50|
|Sasha decides to rejoin Paradise Dance Academy in time for their famous productions of The Nutcracker reprising her usual role as "Clara," the lead. Before Fanny knew Sasha was back, she hired a professional dancer from San Francisco, CA, "The Ringer," to play "Clara." This creates hostility between the two lead dancers. Michelle helps Ginny, Melanie, and Boo make up from their argument. Boo is still pining for Carl, and Sasha meets a boy from the basketball team when she was a cheerleader. Bad luck ensues the night of The Nutcracker's first show, starting with Fanny's 30-year-long relationship with Michael and ending with an accident backstage - Michelle macing all of the dancers - having almost everyone end up in the hospital. After a dream in which Hubbell informs her that she was meant to shake things up in Paradise, Michelle decides to leave Paradise. When leaving the hospital all the kids stand on chairs and say "O Captain! My Captain!"|
|11||"You Wanna See Something?"||Amy Sherman-Palladino||Amy Sherman-Palladino||January 7, 2013||1.23|
|Several months after the disastrous Nutcracker performance, the studio is closed and everyone has scattered to the winds. No one is dancing except Michelle in a dreary magician's show on the outskirts of Las Vegas while she camps out on Talia's couch. The girls, meanwhile, deal with the chaos of their lives, and Sasha's return from Joffrey creates more when she refuses to go back home.|
|12||"Channing Tatum Is a Fine Actor"||Daniel Palladino||Daniel Palladino||January 14, 2013||1.07|
|Truly is evicted from her shop; Carl insists that Boo meet his parents; Talia sets Michelle up on a blind date; the girls are intrigued by two talented young newcomers.|
|13||"I'll Be Your Meyer Lansky"||Jackson Douglas||Beth Schacter||January 21, 2013||1.13|
|Michelle and Fanny attempt to drum up income; the girls continue to be enchanted by the new students.
Note: Kaitlyn Jenkins as Bettina "Boo" Jordan was absent for this episode
|14||"The Astronaut and the Ballerina"||Daniel Palladino||Amy Sherman-Palladino & Daniel Palladino||January 28, 2013||1.12|
|Michelle's brother, Scotty, visits following another failed marriage; Ginny feels abandoned after Melanie develops an interest in roller derby; child-care duties keep Boo and Carl busy.|
|15||"Take the Vicuna"||Chris Eigeman||Sheila Lawrence||February 4, 2013||1.09|
|Milly offers unwelcome opinions on Fanny's dance recital; Michelle and her brother have an unexpected encounter during a road trip; Sasha holds a housewarming party.|
|16||"There's Nothing Worse Than a Pantsuit"||David Paymer||Grant Levy & Dominik Rothbard||February 11, 2013||0.97|
|Michelle and Milly battle the town preservation society for the new amphitheater; Sasha and Roman go public with their relationship; Talia reveals big news.|
|17||"It's Not a Mint"||Daniel Palladino||Daniel Palladino||February 18, 2013||1.12|
|Michelle and Bash turn the dance studio into an evacuation center when a nearby fire threatens the town; Sasha and Roman grow closer.|
|18||"Next!"||Amy Sherman-Palladino||Amy Sherman-Palladino||February 25, 2013||1.01|
|Michelle auditions for a show in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Sasha and Boo think about taking their respective relationships to the next level.|
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- Official website
- Bunheads at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview with Sutton Foster: From Broadway to "Bunheads"
- Bunheads Music from Season One