Tisdale Sells, Michalka Sizzles in CW's Hellcats
Television Review: Hellcats, "Pilot"
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 18, 2010
Re-published: September 8, 2010
Alyson Michalka of the sister act Aly & AJ shows off her sculpted abs and incredibly sick moves in the CW's latest offering, Hellcats. Michalka plays Marti, a law student attending a fictional Memphis-based college on a scholarship that gets cut without her finding out until the last moment. Out of desperation -- and against her own sensibilities -- she tries out for the school cheerleading squad, the titular Hellcats, and enters a world unlike the one she knew, and totally apart from the one she expected.
I'd put off watching the pilot for this series, because -- like Marti -- my expectations were way off base. I was pegging this to be some attempt to create "Bring it On: The Series" (and the franchise does get a humorous cameo nod). I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, there's the cattiness one would expect in a series involving popular girls and the outsider. But there's genuine friendship that evolves as well. Marti initially finds herself on the outs with cheer captain Savannah (Ashley Tisdale, "High School Musical"), but soon enough finds herself in an unlikely friendship. Tisdale's character is introduced as a stereotypical blend of naivete and superficiality, but then quickly evolves beyond expectations into someone who truly cares about what she does with a contagious commitment. Don't call her a "football groupie," or she'll school you on just how physical her practice regimen is -- and she'll do it logically and convincingly and truly shut your mouth.
Gail O'Grady plays Marti's dysfunctional mother who means well but always brings way more baggage to the table than Marti is capable of handling. She's flighty and irresponsible and will be the mental and emotional obstacle for Marti as her college career progresses. Marti will also have to wrestle her way out of a love triangle between herself, her "best bud" Dan (Matt Barr) and hunky cheerleader Lewis (Robbie Jones), the latter of whom provides the catalyst for the real cattiness angle to the show; he's just broken up with teammate, Alice (Heather Hemmens), giving her just that much more reason to hate Marti (you'll have to watch the pilot to find out the other reasons).
CW alum Tom Welling serves as the executive producer for this series, indicating that he's going to remain a presence at the network even after the final season of Smallville has run its course -- because if the energy of the pilot is any indication, Hellcats is going to be getting at least one contract renewal. The story is engrossing, the dance moves are stunning, and Michalka herself is displaying some serious acting chops that we didn't get to see in fluffier pieces like "Cow Belles."
So how do I rate Hellcats? Let me put it like this: GIMME AN A!
Hellcats premieres Wednesday, September 8 on The CW.