MTV Geek's Steven Smith Compares 'Justified' and 'Bunheads': 'Bunified'

By Steven Smith

For those of you wondering when the geek-delving into comparisons and contrasts between F/X’s "Justified" and ABC Family’s "Bunheads" was happening, well look no further. These are two of my favorite shows and you can show your judges robes to the door. Oh, it’s that kind of column people. Let’s begin:

"Justified" follows the misadventures of talented though severely flawed Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens as he struggles with his job, his ex wife, and situations involving well crafted dialogue.

"Bunheads" follows the follies of former Las Vegas showgirl and social screw up Michelle Simms who finds herself teaching dance at seaside town, mentoring teens, and landing in situations involving super fast dialogue.

SEE? Practically the same show. Oh, need more proof?

Sutton Foster is 5’9” and Tim Olyphant is 6’. COINCIDENCE? Pretty sure, as they are off by an inch but the truth is both of these fine programs boast tall mother f’ers as their leads. Also, these fine performers were featured on episodes of "Sesame Street" (I have kids.) Plus "Justified" has bullets; "Bunheads" has ballet – that’s a vowel and consonant away from the same word. Truth.

Here’s the deal, I’ve been a fan of "Justified" since it’s premiere and the same for "Bunheads". I also got my wife hooked on both series, neither of which was an easy sell. That’s not true, for "Justified" all I had to say was Timothy Olyphant and she was in. For "Bunheads", this took some doing but she came on board. And for me, what can I say, I dig shows about ballet as much as I like Elmore Leonard (full disclosure, I was a dance major in college – what?! Bring it!).

Some would call "Bunheads" a guilty pleasure but I’m proud of my fandom for Sutton Foster, who I saw in "Shrek the Musical" where Fiona farts. Farts on Broadway! She was great, the musical wasn’t. But the cool thing is I read a blurb about "Bunheads" in a magazine and thought, “That looks cute.” And it is. Damn cute and zippy dialogue, which would be spoken by no normal human being. But that’s the point of TV, right? It’s not supposed to be real. Real is boring. And sad, frankly. "Bunheads" puts all the snappy comebacks and pop culture references you wish you could say in real life onto the smaller than a movie screen. Sidebar: No high school student today would ever reference Annie Hall, nor would they when I was in high school.

I don’t need to go on about the awesomeness that is "Justified". The show is written well, acted well, shot well, there was season involving a body shoved down a well (mineshaft, whatever) and of course my favor for the program could being and end with Timothy Olyphant. He is the embodiment of cool yet remains completely flawed. His character skirts the law ever so slightly to get his man yet he remains at heart a man who can’t get out of his own way.

This sentiment mirrors "Bunheads’" Michelle except where Raylan uses a gun (not always to best of ends), Michelle uses her razor sharp wit (usually never to the best of ends) but both characters are drowning in heart and untapped potential. Michelle, to truly be the person she can be and not the supposition she places on herself, and Raylan to put a little bit of responsibility ahead of his ego and to stop being his own foil.

"Justified" and "Bunheads" are swelling with B stories and amazing casts who support their leads beyond what the word support is defined as. Raylan is countered by Boyd, his old friend but the scarred side of the coin, where Michelle is at first at odds with her mother-in-law Fanny but now the other half of the whole that is her dance studio, mind you with less guns.

One could say "Justified" is my brilliant artistic series with an edge, while "Bunheads" is my lighthearted fluff that allows my brain to turn off but I say thee nay. There is edge to "Bunheads" and it usually involves choreography. And there’s lightheartedness to "Justified", Patton Oswalt anyone?

I smell crossover, people. And it involves oxycontin and ballet.

Steven Smith WAS a dance major in college though could never do the splits, his podcast Going Off Track has official Geek Samm Levine on this week, and he’s serious about a Justified/Bunheads collabo – think of the merchandising!

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