'Bunheads' sets a multigenerational tone

ABC Family's "Bunheads" stars Emma Dumont as Melanie,

ABC Family's "Bunheads" stars Emma Dumont as Melanie, Kaitlyn Jenkins as Boo, Kelly Bishop as Fanny, Sutton Foster as Michelle, Bailey Buntain as Ginny and Julia Goldani Telles as Sasha. (Credit: ABC Family)

SERIES PREMIERE "Bunheads"

WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on ABC Family

REASON TO WATCH The WB is back!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This might as well be a flashback to that late, lamented youth network's glory days and, more specifically, to its bravura "Gilmore Girls." That show's grand supporting player, Kelly Bishop, is front and center this time, breaking type from her starchy Gilmore matriarch to become artsy, funky Fanny Flowers, who did a fine job as a single mom herself.

Her son here is a nice-guy adult, smartly played by Alan Ruck ("Greek," "Spin City") as the persistent suitor of one lost-at-sea Vegas showgirl irreverently embodied by Broadway gem Sutton Foster. Her spunky Michelle just keeps fending off his sweet Hubbell, until one drunken night after she's had a really bad day and -- well, it's Vegas. Guess what happens.

Michelle and Hubbell's mom are soon at loggerheads, except they're both bunheads -- onetime ballet prodigies who squandered their potential in different ways, which means they're much the same. Crossing paths, and swords, at Fanny's ballet school surrounds them with a central quartet of teen dancers -- the distracted gifted girl (Julia Goldani-Telles), the big-boned hard worker (Kaitlyn Jenkins), the awkward blonde (Bailey Buntain), the bubbly brunette (Emma Dumont).

And then there's the storybook town, this time on the Pacific, with a glorious view. Eccentric townspeople to be determined.

MY SAY Think they've all got a way with words? Some attitude? Smart pop-culture shout-outs? You betcha. "Bunheads" is from "Gilmore Girls" auteur Amy Sherman-Palladino, so it chatters just as giddily, from Gadhafi to Godzilla to Graceland.

And again, it's got that multigeneration appeal, spotlighting both teens and adults, this time striving to (re)define themselves in ways those Gilmore girls never had to. Monday night's hour, spent setting up the premise, also drops a doozy of a conclusion that is up there with the equally stunning yet not-the-least-bit-similar twist delivered by "The Shield." It changes the game in a huge way you may or may not take to.

BOTTOM LINE I'd rather they hadn't done it, but that would be another show. And "Bunheads" seems to know exactly what it's doing.

GRADE B+

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