The CW does a certain kind of show really well–teenage girl melodramas that put stock characters in outrageous situations. The best current example of this show is probably Gossip Girl. There’s a bitch (Blair), a slut (Serena), a bad girl (Jenny), a dumb pretty boy (Nate), a conniving cad with a heart of gold (Chuck), and a tortured intellectual (Dan). Sometimes these categories even fuse; after all, Chuck is just another scheming slut, right?
But one of the CW’s newest shows, a cheerleader-themed dramedy called Hellcats, is a totally different spin on a classic formula. Really, I swear! Hellcats takes place at the fictional Lancer University, and includes a cast whose various dilemmas far outreach the limited Upper East Side spectrum of Gossip Girl. Like any CW show, Hellcats has some characters with obvious stock traits, but who would have thought that part-time sex kitten, full-time drama queen Alice would reveal her sassy nascent feminism in the span of a few early episodes? Appropriately enough, my viewing buddy and I cheered every time Alice told a controlling male figure in her life where he could shove it. As characterizations soldified over the first half of the show’s season, it became clear that Alice’s bitchy attitude had more purpose and motivation than Blair Waldorf’s shallow subterfuge.
The best thing about characters in this particular CW offering is that characterization is finally consistent. When a character expresses an emotion or says that she’s going to do something one week, her feelings and goals don’t switch the next. If something crucial does change a character’s outlook on life, the process of decision and indecision is exposed to the viewers. This manner of revelation creates an uninterrupted linear narrative, in which everything makes sense in the context of preceding events. Anything remotely believable is pretty hard to come by in the world of teen girl melodrama, so this makes Hellcats a great option in the genre. I’m also fairly certain that every episode passes the Bechdel Test, but I’ll have to address that again later. Stay tuned!