Marti Perkins is desperate to escape Memphis and her high maintenance mother. To do this she makes the most of a college scholarship to study law and dream of her escape. Ten minutes in through a series of contrived catastrophes she has lost her scholarship and is about to get thrown out until she finds out that there are cheerleading scholarships going begging.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this show is desperately jumping on the bandwagon of Glee, in fact it steals the “you have to place at Nationals or get shut down” plot directly from Glee and for a while was apparently called Cheer. It’s like Glee meets Gossip Girl, it’s got the same tendencies to burst spontaneously into dance numbers and the same brightness and energy of Glee, but partnered with Gossip Girl’s bitchy dialogue and complete lack of shame when it comes to costuming.
I was really happy when scheduling made it my first pilot review of the new year. I was all settled in to start off with a massive rant, bemoaning the fact that the best a network could come up with as an offering to the younger demographic was a show about cheerleaders. But then I liked it.
I really do hate myself for this, but I LIKED it. I was frustrated when it finished and wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a GOOD show, but then neither is Glee or Gossip Girl and both have been big successes that I find them disturbingly addictive. The creators of Hellcats have clearly done their research and committed to making a show that perfectly fits in the ‘shameless entertainment’ genre.
The biggest problem the pilot had is one that can be levelled against many pilots that are cramming a lot of introductions into 45 minutes – the characters were almost all stereotypes. Marti herself manages to pack two stereotypes into one, starting off as a grungy cynic dismissing the perky people but then in a whiplash inducing turnaround, by the end of the episode she’s an out and proud cheerleader leading the strutting gaggle of ridiculously costumed pep squad down a corridor Right Stuff style.
The majority of the rest of the characters are exactly what you’d expect from an American high school/college show – the bitch, the sarcastic outsider, the confident potential love interest, the inspiring coach, a money-grabbing principle, the ditzy mother, the slimy football coach blah blah blah. The only ray of light was the Captain of the squad, played by Ashley Tisdale of High School Musical fame who has a character who seems to have some heart and spirit. Yes, she’s an annoying peppy person with matching bedspreads, but she isn’t a pushover and actually seems to engage her brain and act like a responsible human being sometimes.
As I sat down to watch I was practically rubbing my hands in delight at the cynical vitriolic diatribe I would be able to launch at the show. But then, it somehow suckered me in, I felt happier after I’d watched it than I felt before. I think it’s like some kind of drug, I feel wrong and dirty and confused, but I think I might just watch the next episode.
TVSquad – “Hellcats will not change the face of television as we know it, but the execution of the core concept is knowing and competent, and this show understands its limitations and wisely stays inside those narrow parameters.”
CliqueClack – “I won’t lie. I like the show’s warmth and will probably watch it a couple more times before finally turning it off, but as with Nikita this is a show that has a lot of wrinkles to iron straight.”