First, I will admit that I LOVE IT. My original thought when I heard about the show (aside from I love gymnastics and the Olympics are over so good timing) was “Stick It with age appropriate actresses!” At least, they look like they might possibly be around sixteen, whereas Missy Peregrym, though I thought she was excellent, cannot pass as a teenager by any means.
The show has taken a lot of flak, some of it deserved–hello, the main character shouldn’t have ALL the problems–but some of it is also unnecessary. The complaints I’ve heard:
-the gymnastics isn’t elite caliber (duh, they’re not real gymnasts and the real elite gymnasts are, well, being elite. though I will say I have seen some fantastic dance pictures of Ayla Kell, she is flexible and has strength and I can’t help but wonder why they don’t utilize that. And she’s not the only one with a dance background)
-that isn’t the way gymnastics works! (I’ll be the first one to admit that the entire competition system doesn’t really make any sense. what gym decides who goes to nationals? Gymnasts have to qualify through other competitions. But let’s face it, it wouldn’t make for very good tv. There’s a reason Stick It employed a similar method as well and keep in mind this isn’t reality TV or a documentary. Though it would be interesting to have a show that followed some gymnasts for a year or two.) And they have spoken to elite gymnasts, so they have done some research on the subject.
-it isn’t appropriate for five year olds (no, it’s not. and it isn’t meant to be. i’m sorry to all the mothers whose five year old daughters like gymnastics, but ABC Family has it rated at TV-14 so clearly they’re not targeting your little girls)
-no subtlety (in part i agree on this one, like i said, Emily being poor, afraid of the vault, new, has no father, her mom’s pretty trashy, AND her brother is in a wheelchair to boot is a little over the top. Also, give us a reason to partially root for Lauren! Yes, she’s the gymnastics version of a “Plastic” but her dad dating someone who seems perfectly nice isn’t enough of a reason to sympathize. Especially because it’s DJ Tanner. Who wouldn’t want her for a stepmom?)
-poor line delivery (sometimes yes, sometimes no. they’re pretty young and inexperienced and its not like they’re doing shakespeare)
-Payson lacks personality. (Here’s where I wholeheartedly disagree, I find her to be the most interesting character minus a particular moment in the fourth episode, which I guess I’ll discuss when I do episode summaries. She is a different kind of character than typically seen on TV, but to me she is the most real. At the same time, they have had opportunities to flesh out her character more and missed out, such as when they read the notes they wrote outloud. But rumor has it there is more to come, so fingers crossed on that one.)
-too much too quickly (agreed. episode one gym destroyed episode three gym fixed. episode one friendship destroyed episode four best friends again. episode one lose the main coach, episode three new one comes. episode two we hear about sasha belov episode three he’s the coach. I understand they are trying to hook you with all the storylines and from what I understand the season is only ten episodes long, which is a shame, but SLOW DOWN so we can actually relate to what’s going on!)
-bulimia and weight issues (we have a throwaway scene for that one in the bathroom in episode one. In episode 2 the twelve year old sister asks what would supplement whipped cream that is less fattening. In episode 6 Kaylie’s father weighs her and tells her she weighs two more pounds than she used to; he then leaves the scale in the living room as a “reminder.” the things i dislike about the way they handle it is that 1) Lauren doesn’t even hide it from her friends, which is pretty unusual and 2) they dismiss it as not a big deal. they also skirt around the issue, never making it real dialogue beyond “bulimia is bad for your electrolytes.” For people who complain that this shows gymnastics in a negative light, there are gymnasts who have eating disorders and weight is a big deal. As Sparky Polastry said in Bring It On “fat people don’t go as high.” But I think there’s an appropriate way to deal with it which the show didn’t get.)
-the girls don’t look like gymnasts (no, they don’t. josie loren and chelsea hobbs are far too thin and none of the girls have the muscle–or really any muscle. They had a very hard time casting someone to play Emily so no surprise there that they wound up with someone who wasn’t the right body type. She was apparently cast only days before shooting began. But none of the girls look elite caliber and the show should have started earlier, gotten the girls on a strict exercise routine to at least build some muscle and make them look believeable. Or muscle suites? Imagine that one. To add here, Payson–Ayla Kell–is NOT fat. She’s not stick thin either, but poor wardrobe choices make her seem heavier than she is. When she’s in regular clothes she looks good, it’s only when they choose particular leotards and sweats that she looks heavy.)
I have my own issues:
–Emily gets the attention of every guy. She’s not very pretty and doesn’t have much personality. So far there’s Razor, Damon, Leo, and if you recall in the very first episode some random guy at the gym commenting on her hotness to Carter. Though I did see a picture of Chelsea Hobbs with long hair and I will say she looks WAY better. Gymnasts can have long hair, so why didn’t they just keep hers long? (since this picture doesn’t insert into the page, to see chelsea hobbs being hot go here: http://twitpic.com/9wtd9
-Kayley a little bit pisses me off is the truth. Does she even want to be a gymnast? I’ve seen no indication that she likes doing it. So stop stealing someone else’s spot and dream and go be a normal, boring teenager. I sympathize with her in regards to dealing with father (who gets “streaky with the bat” what?) but I would like to see some indication that she actually cares about the gymnastics.
-Some of the lines are just plain bad. “I don’t mean to be all up in your Kool-aid…” Really? Really? I know that in teen movies they always have bad lines (Bring It On, Mean Girls, Stick It are certainly filled with them–ie “call me, stalk you”) but a television show is supposed to be somewhat more realistic and fleshed out. Ridiculous lines like that just don’t work off the big screen. Not sure they really work on the big screen, but somehow they’re more appreciated there. (Though props to Cassie Scerbo, her line delivery makes it at least semi-plausible)
-Lauren’s sabotage. Giving a girl “the chill,” while not something I have personally ever seen, is something that really happens. Making snarky comments, teasing, bad advice, all legit (not in the sense that I endorse bullying but in the sense that it makes for good TV). But doing something that is potentially life threatening as a means of sabotage! Somewhere, somehow that needs to be addressed. Girls have died or been paralyzed from bad falls. It’s like Chuck Bass trying to rape Jenny in season one of Gossip Girl. How does that just get forgotten! (Dan befriending the guy who tried to rape his sister who he’s super close to? NO WAY!) Granted, Lauren wasn’t caught, but the fact that it’s the first thing we really see about her is just too much. Maybe, if we saw her jealousy build over the course of the show and at the end of the season she did it, maybe it would at least be understandable, though still unacceptable. Actually, I think the show should address the danger and injuries more, because that is a very interesting aspect of gymnastics. The gymnasts not only give up their childhood but they sacrifice their bodies and in some cases their lives.
-Believability. (now as I’ve said, for the most part I’m willing to suspend my disbelief. my only issue is Emily supposedly being trained by no one and being nationals or near-nationals caliber immediately after being discovered at 16, raw talent or not. fact is, you can teach yourself to do a cartwheel but you can’t teach yourself to do a bars routine. someone had to have coached her before now. if she’d been training on her own for 11-13 years she would have actually killed herself by now, with no spotter, no trainer, no proper equipment, no idea of the proper workouts…so ultimately, i guess i don’t mind her making it to nationals since otherwise we wouldn’t have a show, but if she wins nationals, or even makes the national team, i’ll be upset)
That being said, I still love the show. I can’t wait for the next episode and I’ve seen the ones that have aired numerous times. They show all the drama of being a teenager (parties, drinking, boys, sex, cliques) while also showing the struggles it take to a be professional child athlete. It’s not brilliant or particularly unique, but something about it makes me want to keep watching. So good job ABC Family.