“Bunheads” And Its Painful Limbo

The wonderful ABC Family show isn’t renewed or canceled —it’s been months of waiting, and it’s frustrating.

It’s no secret that many of us at BuzzFeed are fans of ABC Family’s Bunheads. On Tuesday, Louis Peitzman wrote a “Why We Need to Save Bunheads” post; a BuzzFeed fellow looked up all the cultural references in the winter premiere; some months ago, I interviewed show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and previous to that, I wrote about how the show had made me cry.

And now, 2½ months after its 18-episode first season concluded on Feb. 25, the show is in limbo. It’s not dead — like, it really might not be dead if ABC Family is simply waiting to see how its new shows coming in June do, specifically, The Fosters (June 3) and Twisted (June 11). In the ratings, Bunheads is definitely a bubble show. During its winter half-season, it averaged about a million viewers, down a bit from its first run of episodes during the summer. For ABC Family, which courts a young, female audience that loves a show like Pretty Little Liars, the audience is probably older-skewing than the channel wants, but it’s not a bomb or anything.

Yet other than not being dead, there’s little positive news for Bunheads fans to latch onto. On Tuesday, Broadway.com posted a story about how the show’s star, Tony winner Sutton Foster, will be performing at the Carlyle in New York from Sept. 10-28. Which, if Bunheads were renewed tomorrow, and the writers got writing immediately, would be, oh, right when the show would be filming. Not good!

For months, I’ve tried to find out about Bunheads’ fate through relevant talent agencies. I’ve also asked various people who work on the show — all multiple times. They know, or profess to know, nothing. On Wednesday, Foster’s PR representative did not respond to an email, nor did the show’s ABC Family publicist (whom I’ve emailed asking for updates on several occasions). And I emailed Sherman-Palladino: She hasn’t yet responded.

The BuzzFeed Los Angeles office is temporarily housed at the Sunset Gower Studio in Hollywood, which was where Bunheads filmed and had its offices — and I know that the show has given up its space. Again, not definitive news, but also, not good.

I’m not the agent for the talented cast, so I won’t harp on how disrespectful it is to them that if the show is, in fact, all but canceled, they missed out on the new jobs pilot season might have offered. And I’m sure Sherman-Palladino will go on to make another wonderful show sometime, bringing the same distinctive voice she’s now given viewers with Gilmore Girls and Bunheads. I hope she once again just remakes the same show — female-centric, funny, and smart — with some new actors, and some we’ve known from her work before. Maybe for a network that appreciates it next time.

I don’t want to give up hope, either. So let’s turn to the wise words of Time’s television critic, James Poniewozik, who months ago wrote a great essay about Bunheads called “On the Importance of Bunheads.” He wrote, in part, “You, I, and everyone will die someday — though probably not at the hands of a biker gang or zombies. But death is not the only thing that makes your life worthy of your attention. There’s growing up, finding your limitations, learning who you are. There’s being grown up, being forced to reassess your life, figuring out who you still can be. There’s wanting things and pursuing a calling — which does not always have to be building the largest meth operation in the Southwest.”

There’s a lot of amazing television out there right now. And a lot of it is thematically the same — with, as Poniewozik pointed out, life and death stakes. Bunheads is about characters who are funny and sometimes frustrated and try to have a good time and are mostly kind to each other. HBO’s Enlightened is already gone. Can we please have one show that loves people, with all of their charms and flaws?

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