[As I've already mentioned, and will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Hellcats," The CW
The Pitch: "'Glee' It On!" Or, more cryptically, "'Bring It On' meets 'The Paper Chase.'"
Quick Response: Initially snarky outsider comes to learn that a previously maligned extra-curricular sub-culture is more worthy of respect than she previously imagined? Flimsy excuse for three or four musical numbers -- dancing, not singing -- per episode? Even flimsy excuse for a cast of hardbodies to showcase their abs and pecs on a weekly basic? Perhaps no network show this fall has come closer to mimicking the "Glee" formula, complete with occasionally caustic dialogue and an apparent season-long build to "Nationals" with the fate of the Lancer University cheering program on the line. Of course, "Hellcats" is never as clever as "Glee" at its smartest (though I like the line "I don't trust any culture that builds pyramids, human or otherwise") and, in the 35-minute pilot cutdown, never as aggressively and clumsily manipulative. I like the way the pilot treats cheerleading as this ultimate evil as if its main character -- a first year law student played by Aly Michalka -- is a 21st Century version of the heroine in the '80s exploitations classic "Angel" ("High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night."). There's no question that Michalka has moves, even if those moves would be better suited for tending bar at Coyote Ugly than supporting a college football team. She's fun (and attractive) to watch, as is a chirpy brunette Ashley Tisdale. Meanwhile, the ladies (and "One Tree Hill" fans) will be perfectly happy to gawk at Robbie Jones and Matt Barr. The premise is pretty thin and the writers may not exactly understand how much work goes into being a first-year law student, but I doubt that latter point will spawn anxiety for The CW's core demo. "Hellcats" has more spirit and probably more substance than The CW's last attempt to use eye candy to lure viewers coming out of "America's Next Top Model," a little dud called "TBL: The Beautiful Life." "Hellcats" is silly and superficial, but still spunky. [Note: What critics received was a presentation. As mentioned above, it was only 35 minutes. That means that whatever eventually airs will have a minimum of seven-ish minutes of additional footage. That may be a whole subplot. Or it may be new character information. Or it may just be an additional two training/gyrating montages. You never know. In any case, that's why this isn't a review.]
Desire To Watch Again: Look, I'm not gonna lie: I watch "ANTM" and there's no reason why I won't stick around and watch a few episodes of "Hellcats" down the road. I'm not the target demo, but a little cheerleading in primetime is harmless.
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