At ABC Family’s upfront in New York today, the main topic of conversation was the reveal of “A” on tonight’s Pretty Little Liars’ season finale. Even Secret Life of the American Teenager creator Brenda Hampton asked PLL EP Marlene King for a clue during their showrunners panel, but King would only say that the show, which was Twitter’s No. 1 TV Hot Topic in 2011, may bring the site down this evening after it reveals a new mystery by the end of the hour.
Also buzzworthy: Bunheads, the new show from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, debuting Monday, June 11. Two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster stars as trained dancer Michelle, who became a Vegas showgirl and is approaching the end of her career with a feeling of “Well, now what the f— do I do?” as Sherman-Palladino put it to the crowd. (“Sorry, kids, sorry. Are there children [here]? This is why I’m on ABC Family, because I care about the children,” she joked. “I think it’s better that they learn all those words from me rather than on the street or in a back alley with some dirty syringes…. I’m gonna teach them the right way to say ‘F—.'” )
Without a home, money, or friends, Michelle impulsively marries a man who’s been trying to woo her with gifts and flowers. She moves to his sleepy coastal town, Paradise, Calif., where she meets her new mother-in-law (Gilmore Girls‘ Kelly Bishop), a former dancer who now runs the Paradise Dance Academy. “The two women quickly find out that they have made similar choices, bad choices in life, and they’re much more alike than you’d think,” Sherman-Palladino said.
Sherman-Palladino is confident TV audiences will fall in love with Foster. “I’m waiting for the world to see Sutton Foster. I sound like a complete broken record, and someday, Sutton and I may be, like, in the middle of the street throwing pans at each other or something,” she joked after raving about her repeatedly. “People didn’t really know Lauren Graham, nobody knew who Melissa McCarthy was before Gilmore Girls…. I feel like that’s my big opportunity, when you find something so special and you get to be the one to completely exploit it through your own evil purposes.”
While the show is largely about Foster’s character starting over and her relationship with her new mother-in-law, it’s also a coming-of-age story for four young dancers. “We’ve got four wonderful little Bunheads who are gonna go through their own hell,” Sherman-Palladino said. “Look, the minute you put pointe shoes on, no one’s happy. You’re in pain from that moment on until you stop dancing.”
That part of the story is inspired by Sherman-Palladino’s life. “It’s very hard to believe that I was ever dainty or thin, but I was supposed to be a dancer. My mother’s horrified by this terrible career choice that I’ve made. She’s still very upset that I’m not in Cats. It’s just a little bit based on when I was going to ballet school,” she said. “It’s a very all-encompassing thing. It brings into question all sorts of issues when you’re growing up, [like] self-esteem. ‘Gee, my ass is bigger than that one.’ ‘Four of those girls is one of me.’ And it’s a very competitive world. Not all of it’s about how much heart you have. A lot of it’s about what you woke up with in the morning.”
Bringing the show to ABC Family was a no-brainer for Sherman-Palladino, thanks to the network’s EVP of Programming & Development, Kate Juergens. “I’m not the easiest person to get along with, let’s just put it like that,” she admitted. “You sit in a room with a lot of other heads of networks, and first of all, it’s about [how] they’ve got a meeting in five minutes, their soup is getting cold in the other room, they’ve got four people to fire and somebody they want killed. [Juergens] always sorta feels like she’s looking at a unicorn or a rainbow. There are puppies in her purse…. No matter how dark and just damaged you are when you walk in, when you walk out, it’s just a little bit better…. Between puppies and unicorns, and getting to show up and work with Sutton Foster, that’s it. Anybody who gives me that opportunity… If Satan did that, I’d be like ‘I’ll be on Satan’s Family.'”
ABC Family also announced summer premiere dates for other new and returning shows:
• New comedy Baby Daddy (premieres Wednesday, June 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET): A 21-year-old bachelor (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) learns he’s a dad to a baby girl when she’s left on his doorstep by an ex-girlfriend. He decides to raise the baby with the help of his mother (Melissa Peterman), his brother (Derek Theler), his best friend Tucker (Tahj Mowry) and the girl next door (Chelsea Kane), who is harboring a secret crush on him.
• New reality show Beverly Hills Nannies (premieres Wednesday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET): It’s from the production company behind The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County.
• Pretty Little Liars: Returns Tuesday, June 5th at 8 p.m. ET.
• Jane By Design: Returns Tuesday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET.
• Melissa and Joey: Returns Wednesday, May 30 with back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET.
• Switched at Birth: Returns in Fall 2012.