‘Bunheads' premieres Monday on ABC Family

Posted: June 12, 2012

BUNHEADS. 9 p.m. Monday, ABC Family.

I ONCE LISTENED as an executive from the old WB moaned about how shows on the youth-oriented network never got any love from Emmy voters.

They were all just too old, he figured.

Having seen new shows occasionally work their way into the winner's circle through supporting casts, I asked if they'd considered a campaign for Kelly Bishop.

"Who's Kelly Bishop?" he asked.

I'd like to think any "Gilmore Girls" fan could have filled him in, Bishop having played patrician grandmother Emily Gilmore to near-perfection for seven seasons, six on the WB.

But the question of who Bishop is probably comes closer to an answer Monday, as "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's new series "Bunheads" premieres on ABC Family.

Bishop, a former ballet dancer who won a Tony as one of the original members of "A Chorus Line," plays a small-town dance teacher whose life is upended when her son (Alan Ruck) marries a Vegas showgirl (Sutton Foster) .

Foster, who looks just a little like "Gilmore" star Lauren Graham, is the actress in first position, Bishop being technically a guest star in a pilot whose best moments include a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law pas de deux.

(Foster, who has a couple of Tonys of her own, until recently starred in the Broadway revival of "Anything Goes," in which Bishop also appeared.)

Maybe you can't go home again, but Sherman-Palladino is giving it her best shot, setting "Bunheads" in a town that's as picturesque (and potentially full of oddballs) as "Gilmore's" Stars Hollow. Perched on the California coast, it's called Paradise.

Really. Paradise.

I had my issues with some of the magical thinking on "Gilmore Girls," where even supposedly cash-strapped characters lived like 1 percenters, but I've always been a fan of Sherman-Palladino's dialogue, which rivals Aaron Sorkin's ("The West Wing") for words per minute.

"Bunheads," too, can make it seem as if Paradise, too, is a place where Money Is No Object.

But Foster's not just fast on her feet — she speaks fluent Sherman-Palladino. And Bishop's more fun than ever. I just hope that's going to be enough.

Because at the end of a first hour that's mostly setup — and I do mean at the very end — Sherman-Palladino veers off, abandoning a promising subplot.

So I don't know if the show I thought I was watching is actually the show she intends to make.

But I'm willing to stick around to find out. n

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @elgray. Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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