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Hellcats 1.01 – A World Full of Strangers (Pilot)


The cast of the CW's "Hellcats"

NEW TELEVISION SHOW

Genre: Dramady

Grade: C

Verdict: Watch if you’re in the demographic.

Too Long, Didn’t Read: With an oddly intoxicating spirit, Hellcats manages to be slightly above average when every sign should point to complete and total failure.

Sorry I haven’t been around the past few days. With class and everything, it’s been quite the semester. Now that the new television season has started, we can get back into the swing of things though!

The first new network television show is Hellcats, described by the network as “Election meets Bring it On“. Uh oh. Obviously this show is aimed at a specific demographic (ie. not me) and has many of the staples of the CW’s other shows: beautiful cast members, popular music blaring in the background, leaps of faith in logic and some catty bitchiness. That doesn’t mean that Hellcats is bad per se, just that it’s from a similar cut as many current CW shows. To be fair to Hellcats, I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I initially would have thought.

Hellcats stars Alyson Michalka as Marti Perkins (you might remember her from Disney’s Phil of the Future), a smart, driven girl who just happened to be born on the wrong side of town. She loses her scholarship due to a tightening of the budget and must then compete on the cheerleading squad in order to afford school. Or something. Oh yeah, and the cheerleading squad might get cut too so they need to win. She’s joined by High School Musical‘s Ashley Tisdale who portrays Savannah, the spunky and bubbly team captain. There’s also Heather Hemmens as Katie, the girl who’s position Marti takes. Other cast members include Harper’s Island‘s Matt Barr as the “unconventionally sexy townie” Dan, Boston Public‘s Sharon Leal as the Hellcats’ coach Vanessa, and One Tree Hill‘s Robbie Jones as Lewis, one of the male members of the squad who has the hots for Marti.

A more appropriate comparison would be if Glee met So You Think You Can Dance? and then was covered in a cheesy script and beautiful people. Because when you get down to it, there’s the same goal of having to win regionals the championship or else their program gets cut they all lose their scholarships.

There’s a lot about Hellcats that’s completely unbelievable, unlikable and plain unwatchable. One of the most glaring faults of the pilot is its heavily erratic pacing. In the first ten minutes of the show, Marti has gone from hating cheerleaders (for no particularly evident reason) to losing her scholarship to trying out for the squad (and her practice is watching Bring it On). Excuse me? It even comes off worse than it sounds. The tone for the rest of the show is completely different, and even then there’s very few common threads throughout the pilot to tie the entire thing together coherently.

Then there’s the script. Though there are some funny one-liners, mostly to Ashley Tisdale’s character (“I tried to slap her the other day. She has fast hands”) the entirety of the dialog is awkward and bizarre. Winners like “He’s out team doctor… and he’s hot!”, “I sweaaaar this squad is cursed!” and “I’ll stay for the ribs!” make Hellcats even cheesier than it needs to be. Or how about when Marti is going back to her super hip apartment? Obviously she’s got to fist pump the dude while “rock” music is blaring in the back (sweet job, CW) and then walk into her (very spacious) room while still rocking out in her head. Gnarly. There are also some plot points that just don’t make sense: Marti blew her tryout when they are obviously other, more qualified candidates for the squad…. and she makes it! How? With hope!

And the acting? It’s not great. Though Ashley Tisdale brings some extremely well-timed comedic humor to the crew, her character is way too similar to that of Sharpay to really give credence to her acting chops (not like I’ve actually seen High School Musical…). Michalka is an acceptable lead for this quality of show, meaning that she doesn’t rate very high on the thesbian meter. She’s pretty, blonde and tall, but her monologue at the beginning of the episode and other awkwardly strange ways of delivery emotional lines puts her in the same crowd as the rest of the cast. Obviously direction is a major influence on the delivery of some of these lines, it’s easy to tell when actors don’t have the talent to cary a show.

Even I lay here writing about the myriad of issues with Hellcats, there’s a part of me that enjoyed the pilot. The dancing was very excellent and even though it seemed like Marti would fit in better at a strip club, her moves were salsy. As stated before, Ashley Tisdale’s over-the-top character fit in perfectly with characters who were written to be desperately deeper than they ever could be. Gail O’Grady is perfect as Marti’s drunk, white trash mother and steals the (few) scenes that she’s in. And even with all of that aside, there is a certain level of energy that Hellcats has that you have to admire. Near the end of the episode, when Marti is recounting famous people who once were cheerleaders as the squad slow-mo walks onto the stage, they do exactly what cheerleaders should do: get you pepped up. If Hellcats has one thing, it’s that.

Hellcats airs Wednesdays at 9pm only on the CW.

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