One of my favorite shows on TV right now is Rubicon (Sundays on AMC). Rubicon is a show about top-secret data analysts looking to make sense of a sea of information, never quite sure where they stand.  The show mirrors this ethos in its presentation. I love the intricate web of converging story-lines, I love watching the characters reveal things about themselves in the little moments, and I love the quiet paranoia of never quite knowing what's important and what's a red herring.  I love everything about Rubicon, but I readily see where it simply wouldn't be for everyone.  

That's not a bad thing.  One of the repercussions of 500 channels is that TV Networks make more "targeted programming," geared to specific audiences.  While there are negatives with that reality, one of the benefits is that you, me, your eccentric uncle Albert are all more likely to find shows we like.  

This brings me to Hellcats, of which the nicest thing I can say is, a show most definitely not made for me.  

I feel cliche even writing this, but there is no simpler way than to say: think BRING IT ON goes to college.  What do you want from me? I will bet you any amount of money in the Universe those words were spoken EXACTLY in that order in the pitch meeting.  

At CW headquarters. 

Those three words above got their own sentence, their own paragraph because it's an essential part of the show.  If you know anything about the CW, or  TAFKAWAYIRTMWUBTASALWATEVINSTTAROATJWTA) (The Artist Formerly Known As WB And Yes I Realize They Merged With UPN But They Are Still As Lilly-White As They Ever Were I'm Not Saying That They Are Racist Or Anything That's Just Who They Are), then you're halfway there.  You could be in a hotel in a strange city where you don't know any of the channels, find Hellcats on Channel 9 and INSTANTLY know you had the CW.  

The CW: where everybody's white, even if they're not

Again, not hating, that's just the show. And for what it's worth, Hellcats embodies the ethos of its subject matter the same way Rubicon does.  Full of pep.  It has places to go; no time to look at the scenery!

My dad shook his head at the premise of Hellcats.  "That would get old fast - there's no plot."  With all due respect to him, he's got it dead opposite.  The problem (for me) with Hellcats, beyond the recycled story-lines, telegraphed plot-points and Barbie-Ken acting is that there is too much plot.  In a show like Rubicon the journey is the experience.  Hellcats operates more on the premise that there's a party to get to, like NOW, so let's do this thing.  

Go, Fight, Win, Tonight!  Not Tomorrow - TONIGHT!!!!!!

In the first twenty minutes of the show we meet Marti, pre-law goth at Lancer College in Memphis, barely making ends meet as she cares for her sad-sack of a mother and jostling her "why aren't they dating?" friend Dan. Marti makes fun of cheerleaders, gets in a fight with the (unknown to her) head cheerleader in a cafeteria, loses her scholarship because of her mother, tries out for cheerleaders (who happen to have open scholarships even though they are on the chopping block themselves and have to win Nationals or their budget will go to the football team with new coach who was actually an old flame of the cheerleading coach and did I mention there's a cross-racial component there as well as with Marti and her spotter?), Marti moves into the "cheerleading" dorms only to find out her new roommate is the very girl she got in a fight with earlier who happens to be a control freak, not so bad - and oh yeah, captain of the cheerleading team.  

Did you get all that?  That was the first twenty minutes! Including a commercial break!  There's more plot in the first third of the first episode of Hellcats than in the first two and a half seasons of LOST. (Okay, bad example, but you get my point. AND, I forgot to tell you about a montage where Marti practices for one day and then can do all of the jumps flips and cheers of an experienced cheerleader, because it turned out that years ago she did gymnastics. I care not a fig for cheerleading, and childhood gymnastics pisses me off as a potential body-development abuse issue, and even I'm offended at the lazy storytelling.)

I think that last sentence sums up my problems with Hellcats.  I try to be objective.  I know a show like this has to burn through plot like Sherman on his way to the beach.  Fake acting I can live with - what teenager doesn't act fake anyway? And silly plot-lines are a staple of these kinds of shows.  Hello - without bitchy chicks seeking revenge in horrific ways and then being best friends two episodes later the CW wouldn't exist. 

Marti, clearly taking a break from following The Cure around as a groupie

But they could have tried a little harder.  For example, Marti is described as Goth.  or possibly a Townie outside the rich elite at Lancer college.  How is this displayed?  She wears heavy eye-liner.  Um, have you seen young people today?  Eye-liner isn't just for goths, townies, raccoons or even whores any more.  They're all doing it.  I don't like it, but it's hardly a distinguishing feature, knowwhati'msayin'?

Here's another eye-roller: when Marti tries out she gets discouraged trying to do the routine and starts doing her own thing.  Big no-no.  Yet one of the judges is impressed.  "She's different.  We need that."  Huh?  One thing I know about cheerleading (and admittedly, it might be the only thing) is that they all work so very hard at being coordinated and in sync.  Being unique is a time-honored trope of young-people entertainment, but on a cheerleading squad?  Sigh. 

Then again, while I think I can be objective, separating my feelings personally (let's be honest: I was never going to like this) from whether the show was well made for what it was.  But then yesterday I was IMing my friend  who liked the first episode.  Politely I asked why.  

"I like the blond and her tummy."

Okay, then.  

She went on: "...And the cast is great, they went big....Ashley Tisdale.....Aaron Douglas (does this mean that they closed The Bridge?).....dreamy D.B. Woodside."

D.B. Woodside I know - how can you forget President Palmer's brother from 24?  Aaron Douglas was in The Bridge (which I reviewed a few weeks ago), and is most famous for being on BSG.  When I first saw him I Twittered, "Dude, the Athletic director is Tyrol from Battlestar Galactica!!! Does that mean some of the cheerleaders are Cylons?"

But who is Ashley Tisdale?  

Which one is which?  Like you actually care. 

Stupid me, I thought my friend was talking about the Marti character, played by Alyson Michalka.  Nope.  She's talking about the head cheerleader Savannah (I don't think I said her name before, but girls like that are always named Savannah. Someone remind me this weekend to compile a list of "cities that would make better character names.")

Again, who is Ashley Tisdale?  I'm no maven of pop-culture, but I usually recognize the names, at least.  Some quick Wikipedia-ing tells me that Miss Teasdale has mostly just done guest appearances on TV shows (read: only on once) except for The Suite Life of Zach and Cody (never heard of it), Phineas and Ferb (ditto), and apparently the amusingly named Sharpay Evans on High School Musical. That I have heard of, but know nothing about it, other than what a friend told me once: "It's like TWILIGHT meets Hannah Montana for 8-year olds."

At this point I am willing to cry uncle and admit that - despite my attempts to be objective and look at what the show has to offer for its target audience - I may just be out of my depth here.  At one point (when the the coach is trying to get other white-bread cheerleaders to get all "street" like Marti - and yes, those were finger quotes) - she says, "Shake it like you're from Memphis, girl!"

Who knew?  

Maybe it's as simple as "I like the blond.  I like her tummy." 

Where's a roll of quarters when you need one? 

Well, on that part we can agree, I like her tummy too.  But for the love of my sanity, no more Hellcats for me.  Please do not bring it on.  Not any more. 

Hellcats - Wednesdays at 9, CW (Encore Saturday at 8)




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Anonymous said...

Your review is funny... LOL You forget that Marti learned her moves from the dvd movie of "Bring it On" Because we all know that is such a instructional video! Also in real life she is famous for having a little sister and being in a music group called Aly&AJ. Their songs are catchy!

Hyperion said...

I forgot about the DVD. I will put it in the article. Thanks, Anonymous stranger.