An ode to Bunheads and Go On
For all the talk about primetime television, and about the joys of late night viewing, we've completely missed out on discussing the final episodes of two of the most delightful shows of the year: Bunheads (TV2) and Go On (TV3).
(Warning: spoilers from Bunheads and Go On follow.)
I wasn't expecting to like Bunheads, to be honest. A few people recommended it to me on Twitter, so I dutifully tuned in for the first episode - imagine my surprise when it finished and I'd actually loved it.
In case you missed it, Bunheads was essentially the story of Michelle (Sutton Foster), a Las Vegas showgirl who drunkenly marries a small-town businessman named Hubbell (played by the always enjoyable Alan Ruck) and moves to Paradise, which is literally the name of the small town. Once there, Michelle gets involved with a ballet school run by Hubbell's mother, Fanny (Kelly Bishop), and in the lives of the girls who attend.
Even though it was a show that existed entirely out of my wheelhouse, I thought it was pretty great. Most of that was due to the writing: as creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino brought plenty of the smarts she'd picked up working on Gilmore Girls, and it showed. The dialogue here was quick-witted and hugely entertaining, and the entire cast was up for it - especially Foster and Bishop, whose scenes together were marvellous.
Sadly, it seems Bunheads won't be back for a second season. An official announcement hasn't been made yet, but the existing sets have been torn down and it rated lower for US channel ABC Family than most of their shows. Barring a miracle, this past weekend was the last we'll see of it. In which case: farewell Bunheads, you were fun while you lasted.
Over on TV3, Go On finished its first and only season in the middle of Saturday afternoons*. I've talked at length about why Go On got cancelled. I'm not surprised that it did, but that doesn't actually provide any relief: this was a show that, at its best, was among the funniest on television, and it boasted a terrific cast, led by Matthew Perry.
Yet it wasn't just a comedy. Go On had a heart, and wasn't afraid to delve into the more emotive side of its premise: Perry stars as radio host Ryan King, with the first episode of the show picking up mere days after his wife died in a car accident. King's boss, Steven (John Cho), insists that Ryan join a grief counselling group at the local community centre, where he meets a ragtag group of misfits, each with problems.
Go On was funny at times, yet the most memorable moments of the show were tied into the emotional core of the characters - right up until the finale, where Ryan tried to decide where to spread his wife's ashes. Perry was fantastic throughout the show's run, playing both the comedic and dramatic sides of the character perfectly.
It helps that he had a fantastic supporting cast: Laura Benanti, the group's underqualified leader, and Julie White, a lesbian mourning the death of her partner, stood out on the supporting cast, proving themselves capable of carrying episodes when needed, while Cho is adept at the type of comedy he was required to do here.
Go On definitely won't be back - it was cancelled this year by NBC. Despite its cancellation, this was one of the best new shows of the year. I'm going to miss it immensely. RIP, Go On.
Did you watch the finales of Bunheads or Go On? Are you going to miss either (or both) of these shows?
(*) I have no idea why TV3 suddenly pulled Go On out of primetime with two episodes to go - presumably they were trying to clear Tuesday nights to make way for the gawd-awful House Rules. If I could provide some advice: you may want to announce this sort of thing, maybe at the end of the last episode to air on Tuesday nights.