Tomorrow means a new episode of Hellcats, and today we have an advance review of “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother.” Even if it was written by someone whose experience with cheerleaders consists of fighting with them in high school.
As that no doubt informs you, Hellcats is not exactly the kind of show I’d watch if I wasn’t working on it. However, you can’t give me a series with the underrated Gale Harold (in something that for once isn’t dark or requiring him to be a complete jerk) and not get me curious, so I’ll admit that I watched last week’s episode, “Beale Street After Dark,” and was actually alright with it. This episode picks up somewhat where that one left off, with more complications thrown into the characters’ personal lives (as always): Marti (Aly Michalka) is doing a “will they or won’t they” with Lewis (Robbie Jones), who gets mixed up again with Alice (Heather Hemmens) before Marti gets down off the fence – sound familiar? Savannah (Ashley Tisdale) gets forced to choose between her family and her boyfriend after her mom (the always great to see Teryl Rothery from Stargate: SG-1) disapproves of Dan (Matt Barr) – also pretty familiar. The capper is an open mike night Wanda (Gail O’Grady) throws to earn herself a promotion at the bar, which also allows Michalka an excuse to sing Sting’s “Brand New Day.” Unlike Sting, I can actually understand more than every third word she says, possibly because you may remember she was one-half of the Disney pop duo Aly & AJ. Needless to say, no one is going to claim that Hellcats is reinventing the teen soap wheel.
However, you can’t exactly fault the writing staff when A) the show is airing on The CW, which has cornered the market on teen-to-twentysomething programming, and B) the shenanigans on the show aren’t that far removed from how people at the college age actually act. I might not have been in with that crowd, but I can still recall a friend of mine who dumped another friend of mine for yet a third friend of mine he’d been cheating on his then-girlfriend with, so it’s hard to complain about what goes down between Marti, Lewis and Alice. They’re just a lot better-looking than my friends and I were at that age.
When it comes down to acting, the cast is able to carry the load; I didn’t see anyone stand out, but I didn’t see anyone fall on their face, either, which is all you can ask for on a series of this nature; we’re talking about a cast that’s all relatively young and inexperienced, with material written for a more youthful age group (and let’s face it, people in that age group are not exactly known for their attention span). The show presents us with two solid plots revolving around Marti and Savannah’s mothers and their relationships with them (hence the title), which are relatable and as such, worth following. The only thing that’s cringe-inducing are some of the classic motivational cliches tossed out by cheerleading coach Vanessa, and those slightly hokey flipping-cheerleader transitions between scenes. They might have sounded cute, but in execution, they just look ridiculous.
If there’s one warning I have for the show, it’s to not marginalize or eliminate the adults in the cast. In my eyes, Smallville suffered when it killed Jonathan Kent (John Schneider) and turned wife Martha (Annette O’Toole) into the Red Queen, rather than just appreciating them for the awesome parents they were. Hellcats has an interesting group of adults, from O’Grady and Rothery to Sharon Leal, D.B. Woodside and Gale Harold (who is unfortunately absent from this episode after making an interesting debut last week), and hopefully the writers can find a way to make good use of them.
Put everything together and you have an episode that might not be earth-shaking, but certainly advances the characters’ storylines and on that count alone, is worth watching. I don’t think any regular viewers will be saying that they wasted their time with this one. I’m disappointed that the writers didn’t continue to work in Gale Harold’s character after introducing him last week, but considering he’ll be back next week, I’ll forgive them that. “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother” certainly won’t disappoint fans of Hellcats: throwing a wrench into the formula is always entertainment, even if it’s a familiar one. You can see it for yourself tomorrow night at 8 PM on The CW.