Bunheads or ‘Plot? We don’t need no stinkn’plot!’ – My Theory on ABC Family’s Bunheads


ABC Family is a channel that has developed into teen central.  There are stories of deception, teen pregnancy, fashion houses and tales of redemption. However these stories are presented in a shallow teen-understood way. That is why when I heard about a show named “Bunheads” it caught my attention. Even the commercial didn’t fit the network. It seemed sweet and slightly eccentric. The show’s title alone alienated viewers but brought them back when they realized who was at the helm. Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame was coming back with a new show. How could any of us resist.  After reading reviews and watching the show religiously every Monday night I had come up with a theory to explain its modest success as well as its backlash.

In case anybody doesn’t know here is the premise of Bunheads. As spoiler free as I could make it. Michelle Simms, a former ballerina turned Vegas showgirl marries her longtime admirer Hubble Flowers one drunken night. In the harsh light of morning she finds herself in his hometown named Paradise living with her mother in law, Fanny.   Fanny owns and teaches at her own dance studio, Paradise Dance Academy. After a tragic turn of fate, Michelle is stuck in Paradise with her mother in law, her dance students and Hubble’s quirky ex-girlfriend. General chaos ensures each episode.

Yes, I realize the summary above has a plot but that is where it ends.  After the first two episodes the show slowly crawls along giving us vignettes based around Michelle/Fanny/Hubble’s ex-girlfriend or the main teenager ballet dancers.  The show has these individual stories that don’t usually have any effect on the next week’s events.  There is no semblance of a running plot or goals for the characters. I will admit there are tiny goals set but usually these goals are met by the end of the episode.

Why would any show not write a plot in their show?

This is where my theory comes in.  You ready? Bunheads doesn’t need a plot in its first season. It just needs to introduce us to this zany (slightly Stars Hollow-ish) world of Paradise characters before introducing any type of plot or long standing goals for the main characters.

If you accept the theory the show becomes a little clearer.  If we spend a season setting up the characters strengths, weaknesses and general background it gives the audience that foundation of understanding. Once the plot or goals are set for the characters the audience will have a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations. This could only strengthen the show in the long run.

Some people can’t deal with a show that is only developing characters (at the moment) but it seems to me, at least online, people are falling hard.  Once the powers that be decide it’s time to develop a sense of direction they know they have the viewers in their pocket. We will be with them for the long hall.

I, for one, know I will be there watching and waiting to see where this interesting show goes.  I’m already attached to the characters and I can’t wait to see if that attachment grows deeper once a plot fills in.

What do you all think? Am I overthinking an ABC Family show or is there something to this theory?


Check out Bunheads on Mondays at 9pm on ABC Family 

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