TV Eye

Something To Cheer About

<i>Hellcats</i>
Hellcats

The fall TV season is about to explode on the small screen, and the little netlet that could is bolting from the gate with its new season before the big networks. The advance noise has been all about the CW's version of Nikita, but I really think the heat is behind Hellcats, the new series about competitive cheerleading, which I really didn't want to like but do. More than I want to admit.

Hellcats has all the earmarks of a CW show: beautiful young people leveraging for power in a small, self-contained pool (in this case, a university setting), with nearly nonexistent adults – those that are around are either marginally responsible for or are so engrossed in their own problems (usually romantic) that they are clueless to the dramas of the young folks around them. There is also the cool background music, the who-is-in-love-with-whom subplots, the evil backstabber, the perpetually peppy girl, and the good girl at the center of it all, trying to keep her head on straight. In this case, the good girl is Marti Perkins (Alyson Michalka), a pre-law student at the fictitious Lancer University in Memphis, Tenn. Responsible and driven, she plays the adult in the two-person household she shares with her mother, Wanda (Gail O'Grady, NYPD Blue). There is affection between the two, but the mother-daughter bond isn't exactly tight. Marti is pining for the day when she graduates and leaves the town and her mother behind – which seems unlikely, since Wanda is emotionally needy and not too bright. Marti's dream of independence is jeopardized when she discovers that her financial aid has been suspended and that Wanda kept the information from her to spare her daughter worry. Failing to get Wanda to understand the gravity of the situation, Marti then scrambles to find out what her options are before she is dropped from enrollment. As fate would have it, the Hellcats, Lancer University's cheerleading squad, are all on full scholarship. Once Marti discovers this, she resurrects her old gymnastics moves, buys a copy of Bring It On for inspiration, tries out for the squad, and once in, enters the den of devious cheerleaders. Actually, there's only one devil-eyed girl, Alice (Heather Hemmens). She's the one Marti replaced when she broke her arm during practice. As Alice sees it, Marti is quickly moving in on her territory, including the hunky squad-mate Lewis (Robbie Jones, One Tree Hill). He and Alice used to be an item – past tense – but that doesn't stop Alice from feeling territorial.

If you're into these young-adult soap operas, Hellcats so fits the bill. But I have to say, the cheerleading scenes are thrilling enough to wade through all the snarky catfights and long, smoldering stares. No word on whether Michalka does her own stunts, but the way it's filmed, it's hard to tell if it's her and a double or her doing it all. Either way, it's a treat. And for those who gag at the saccharine goofiness found in Glee (Fox) or the sometimes maudlin-soaked emo in Friday Night Lights, I suspect that Hellcats may fill the need for that harmless pleasure and perhaps draw a similarly rabid loyal following. What it lacks in feel-good geekiness and chest-banging drama, it makes up for with some real kick. Entertaining, pure and simple.

Hellcats airs Wednesdays at 8pm on the CW.

Other CW premieres:

Sept. 9: The Vampire Diaries at 7pm, followed by the series premiere of Nikita at 8pm

Sept. 13: 90210 at 7pm, followed by Gossip Girl at 8pm

Sept. 14: One Tree Hill at 7pm, followed by Life Unexpected at 8pm

And elsewhere, Outlaw, starring Jimmy Smits as a Supreme Court justice who leaves the bench to really seek justice, premieres Sept. 17 at 9pm on NBC.

And finally: The next Geeks Who Drink trivia throwdown will be held Sept. 29 at Jax Neighborhood Cafe (2828 Rio Grande). The theme for this challenge, dubbed Masters of the Whedonverse, will be Joss Whedon, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and more. Who wants to be on my team? Send me a message at tveye@austinchronicle.com. For more information on the event, go to www.geekswhodrink.com.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Hellcats, Nikita, Aly Michalka, Alyson Michalka, Gail O'Grady, Heather Hemmens, Robbie Jones, Outlaw, The CW, Jimmy Smits, Joss Whedon, Masters of the Whedonverse, Geeks Who Drink

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