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Tuesday, 2 of March of 2021

Mid-season checkup: Hellcats

The real stars of the CW's Hellcats

We did a series of reviews of new series at the beginning of the season, so I thought I’d check in on one of those series that has managed to hold my attention up to this point.  My attention, though held, could easily get distracted.  Here’s my intervention for the CW’s Hellcats.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year whether I thought I’d be more likely to be watching Hellcats or Life Unexpected, I’d have said the latter. Turns out, I would have been completely wrong. While back eps of the latter continue to languish on my DVR (amidst news that it is likely to be canceled soon), each week I find myself enjoying Hellcats more and more (primary difference between the two shows?  Hellcats actually features some likeable, 3-dimensional characters, unlike Life Unexpected). Here are a few reasons why I like this show—along with a few frustrations.

1) Ashley Tisdale continues to hit it out of the park as the sympathetic and inspiring Savannah. Her ongoing efforts to make peace with her family are quite touching, even as she moves further away from them by dating the non-religious, former “player”, Dan. Somehow, Tisdale has provided Savannah with a unique confidence, even as she brings the character a subtle vulnerability. Props to her. I also like how Savannah makes Dan a better man. Current nonsense exploring the potential that Marti and Dan are “soulmates” threatens this much more interesting pairing. But more about that below.

2) Coach Vanessa’s (Sharon Leal) romantic storyline made me nervous as first because the program seemed to want to give the adult characters a more soap-opera-y storyline than the kids. That said, her relationship with Derrick (D.B. Woodside) remains one that intrigues me. They struggle with jealousy and career priorities, but they also talk through their issues openly. The football coach who threatens their love affair hasn’t proven psychotic or dangerous—rather, his interest in Vanessa seems relatively sincere. I need more information about their past to understand why I should invest any emotion in the Vanessa-Red relationship—an adulterous affair with a student does not inspire confidence in Red Raymond’s integrity. But if the show proceeds to examine the pain and anguish that youthful indiscretion caused for all involved, it might become a valid parallel for the mistakes the Hellcat kids are definitely going to make in the weeks to come. I also wish I could see Vanessa mentor the kids more explicitly, as she did in a tender scene with conniving Hellcat, Alice. Vanessa can be an adult and not be boring, CW writers.

3) Speaking of Alice (Heather Hemmens), her relationship with QB Jake is a vast improvement from her toying with ex, Lewis (the superfine Robbie Jones). Jake is as much of a jerk as Alice can be, but this means we sometimes see Alice on the ugly end of antics she typically directs against others. This week the tension between Alice and Jake as they competed for the attention of a reporter elicited conversations about gender, support, and politics. Jake is likely too much of a bad boy to last long, but I could see these two developing a Blair-Chuck type tension, one that can make the show’s least likeable characters more understandable and appealing. There seems to be more to Alice than we have seen, and I appreciate the writers refusing to let her be all bad.

Now, the less good, even downright ugly.
1) Marti (Alyson Michalka) still drives me freakin’ insane. And let me tell you, this ridiculous storyline about her trying to free an innocent prisoner is among the worst storylines I’ve ever seen on the CW. Remember who is your target audience here, CW—young people who want to see pretty people doing dangerous things and leading exciting lives. Marti being stressed about balancing schoolwork and cheerleading is a perfectly valid storyline for her—we really don’t need these unbelievable plotlines to get that she is special and driven. I’ve started fast forwarding any scene that involves her law teacher, her fellow pre-law student (whatever his name is), and the prisoner with a guitar (with whom she once played a duet—no kidding).

2) Why are all the characters suddenly starting to sing? First Marti, now Vanessa. Do the writers want to turn this into a musical instead of a cheerleading show? Keep the focus on the academics and the athletics, writers. Leave the singing to the actors as a side gig destined to fail.

3) Marti’s mother was getting better—getting a promotion at work based on her own effort and otherwise acting more like an adult. Then she went and pulled that stunt with Dan—telling him she read her daughter’s diary and therefore knows that Marti loves him. WORST MOTHER EVER! No wonder Marti is such a crappy, whiny, pathetic, and annoying charactger.

Conclusion: The writers for Hellcats have some good things going for them. Trouble is, the worst parts of the show involve the LEAD character. Putting Marti with Lewis should have helped make her as likeable as he is—instead, it is making Lewis seem like a chump. Save Lewis! Save Hellcats! Fix Marti. Please.  Or just kick her off the team.  Savannah and Alice could be the show’s stars and I’d be perfectly content.

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