Television series, at their best, make you want to watch them. Get you caught up in their stories and their characters. Make you look forward to the next episode. Make you react, audibly, to what’s happening on the screen. Just make you happy you tuned in.
“The Big Leap” is exactly that. It’s the best new show this fall. I am obsessed with it.
It’s a weird mix of aspirational and deeply cynical. And it’s a show within a show.
Inside this scripted series is a reality show, also titled “The Big Leap.” A TV production crew descends on Detroit and auditions dancers looking for a second chance in dance and in life. The faux series follows the dancers as they prepare for a nationally televised performance of “Swan Lake.”
(It’s based on a real reality show — the British series “Big Ballet.”)
The dancing hopefuls include plus-size single mom Gabby (Simone Recasner, in her first TV role); Gabby’s high school boyfriend, Justin (Raymond Chan, Jr.), who, it turns out, is gay; disgraced pro football player Reggie (Ser’Darius Blaine); cancer survivor Paula (Piper Perabo); laid-off autoworker Mike (Jon Rudnitsky), middle-aged mom Julia (Teri Polo); and ambitious twins Britnney (Anna Grace Barlow) and Simon (Adam Kaplan).
It’s pretty much impossible not to fall in love with Gabby — you’ll want to stand up and cheer when things go her way. But all these characters, including hosts Wayne (Kevin Daniels) and Monica (Mallory Jansen), have interconnected storylines and backstories that feed a whirlwind of plot twists and turns.
If Gabby is the heart of “The Big Leap,” Nick (Scott Foley) is the cynical heart of the faux reality show. A longtime reality show producer, Nick tosses off funny one-liners as he single-mindedly drives the program forward. He’s exploiting the cast members to make a TV show, and he knows his principles are, at times, nonexistent.
“He’s the person who makes sure the show is what people want to watch, regardless of the ethics,” Foley said.
Not only is the show-within-the-show a remarkable indictment of reality TV overall — airing on a network that has programmed a lot of reality shows — but Nick is incredibly likable. Executive producer/director Jason Winer attributes that to Foley, who “has played so many likable, let’s say lovable, characters over the years and because he is innately such a good person.”
(I’ve interviewed Foley more times than I can remember, dating back to “Felicity” in 1998, and he’s always struck me as a genuinely nice guy.)
Winer said that he and creator/executive producer Liz Heldens have discovered that, in character as Nick, Foley “can say the most awful things and you still love him, and that’s an incredible weapon to have within the cast.”
“The Big Leap” is by no means a perfect show. It’s downright goofy at times. And, while there are some surprises, there are at least as many plot twists that you can see coming from a mile away. And Fox doesn’t help, airing promos that contain spoilers.
But this mix of characters you love, a whole lot of high energy dancing, heartfelt drama and laugh-out-loud humor makes “The Big Leap” exactly what a TV show should be. It’s engaging and just plain fun.
Episode 7 of “The Big Leap” airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox/Channel 13. You can catch up on the first six episodes on Hulu and Fox.com.
Almost a month ago, I told you that CBS’ Americanization of the Brit-com “Ghosts” is “kind of meh.” That, while it isn’t “entirely unfunny … it somehow misses the mark.”
Having seen more episodes, I’ve changed my mind. It’s worth watching. It’s the best new comedy on TV this fall.
The premise is, of course, bizarre. Samantha (Rose McIver) inherits a country estate, which she dreams of turning into a bed and breakfast. Her husband, Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), is less enthusiastic. And things take a weird turn when Samantha has a near-death experience and she can see and interact with all the ghosts inhabiting the place — a 1920s lounge singer, a 1700s militiaman, a 1960s hippie, a 1980s Boy Scout leader, a 1990s Wall Street financier, a Viking explorer from the year 1009, a Native American from the 1500s, the wife of the 1800s robber baron who built the estate, and a bunch of zombie-ish ghosts in the basement.
What was I thinking back before “Ghosts” premiered? Well, I wasn’t all that excited about the first three episodes. And that was probably, in part, because they so closely mimicked the first three episodes of the British series — so it felt like watching reruns.
But the CBS version has moved beyond remakes into its own territory. Check it out Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 2.