Bunheads: ‘For Fanny’ is forlornly flat

I actually watched this who on 18 June 2012 when it was originally broadcast. You can still see this episode “For Fanny” on-demand, but is it really worth it?

So in the pilot, we had the set up. Michelle Simms (Sutton Foster) is a Las Vegas showgirl on the skids–she can’t get the roles she wants in the bigger Vegas shows. She agrees to marry Hubbell Flowers (Alan Ruck) because he is rich and there. She doesn’t love him, but he is rich. He does have a house, but he didn’t mention anything about his mother, Fanny (Kelly Bishop). Fanny threw a wedding reception, and Michelle doesn’t make a good impression although she finally does find a bit of piece with Fanny. Then we learn that Hubbell has been killed in an accident.

In the second episode, we learn that Hubbell is really, really dead. Surprise. I guess that makes it easier for the writer, Amy Sherman-Palladino, to find a more suitable man. That doesn’t happen in this episode. It would be too soon, too gauche.

From the title, we understand this is all about Fanny. Fanny goes into panic mode and wants to make a big spectacle of the whole affair which to her mind should include napkins with the Dalai Lama’s face and a mariachi band. Really? Looking around the house she’s decorated with various kitsch (some which might be valuable if put on eBay to be fair), it doesn’t say Buddhist. What about Hubbell? What do we learn about Hubbell? Next to nothing. Guess he was just one of those plot contrivances that didn’t need deep thought.

Am I getting a bit snippy? If the message of the first episode was, if you’re in a pinch, marry a guy to get you financial stability even if you don’t love him. What’s love. Maybe you can learn to love him and you might not even have to have sex with him. Well, maybe only once. That why the marriage has been consummated and can’t be annulled.

This second episode seems to say that if you marry out of convenience (for money without love), if you’re really lucky, the guy will die soon after. Michelle doesn’t even have to wish for it; it happens off screen so we don’t have to worry about the ugliness of Hubbell crushed in a tangle of steel that was his dorky car.

Woo-hoo. Now all Michelle has to worry about is that mother-in-law. Fanny, it seems, isn’t good at taking care of herself. Hubbell did that for her. Now we have two dependent women who try to be independent in mind, but not in the financial sense.

The girls worry about Fanny who doesn’t show up to teach class. And they don’t seem to have much to say about Hubbell. He’s really a blank slate. But the girls rise to the occasion and get a performance together to honor Fanny’s loss because no one, except Fanny, really seems to miss Hubbell.

And the ending clincher: Hubbell changed his will. All the land, the house and the studio are Michelle’s. Hubbell may have been rich, but he wasn’t wary about marrying a gold digger, even a reluctant one. One wonders about how Sherman-Palladino will work out the backstory of Fanny and her late husband? Did her husband also take care of everything?

What worked with the “Gilmore Girls” was that the characters seemed like real people who could have been you or your best friend. No one was fantastically rich and without a worry. The rich were just as messed up and not totally without financial problems. The majority of the characters were middle-class people who were just getting by as best they could and their personalities were just a notch more eccentric than your average neighbor but not unthinkable.

This story lacks depth and layered nuances. It tends to build on stereotypes or archetypes instead of giving us real people. Michelle is our straight-girl, the sensible person, but she’s decidedly helpless and not a good example of what we’d want are a role model.

For me, this episode fell flatter than a tortilla and was just as stale as last week’s leftover tortillas. Can the next episode possibly justify the trajectory of this series?

About Jana J. Monji

I've written for the Rafu Shimpo, LA Weekly, LA Times and, more recently, the Pasadena Weekly. I formerly worked for a dot-com more interested in yodeling than its customers.

Posted on July 6, 2012, in TV series, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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