ABC Family’s Bunheads is the kind of show that carefully considered its casting for optimal throwbacks: Star Sutton Foster brings in the young Broadway fans; Kelly Bishop brings some lovely Gilmore Girls nostalgia; and for the part of sweet, older protector Hubbell Flowers, they brought in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star Alan Ruck.
That’s right, the guy who played sweet, perpetually anxious Cameron alongside Matthew Broderick is now middle-aged and sweeping Sutton Foster’s Vegas showgirl Michelle off her stiletto heels to live with him in the sleepy seaside town of Paradise. When the pilot begins, Hubbell has been chastely courting Michelle for a year, showing up backstage with flowers and expensive gifts. When he finally convinces her to come out to dinner — after she has a horrible audition where the director won’t even let her dance — she’s so depressed with her current life that she agrees to marry him. At the same time, he does give this lovely answer when Michelle claims that she’s horrible at relationships, like Godzilla:
“I promise you I won’t flee. I’ll be the one scientist who understands you, the one who knows that you’re not burning the city down because you’re evil. You’re burning the city down to protect the giant lizard eggs you just laid in a cave by the ocean. A cave no one knows is there but me.”
Over the course of the pilot, we see Michelle warming up to both Paradise and Hubbell himself, and we think maybe this May-December romance could blossom into something. (Especially once they consummate the marriage!) Plus, Michelle is even starting to bond with her new mother-in-law Fanny. Then in the final moments, Hubbell’s ex Truly bursts into the bar and says that there’s been an accident. CLIFFHANGER. Is Hubbell dead? How could they do this to us right as we’re starting to see him as a good guy for Michelle?
The thing is, this isn’t really a cliffhanger. Alan Ruck isn’t listed on the show’s IMDb page, and only for the pilot on his page. Furthermore, Entertainment Weekly‘s review unequivocably says that Hubbell dies. And now that I think about it, I remember when this show was first announced, it was made clear that the premise is how Michelle and Fanny, as widower and bereaved mother, support one another in the wake of Hubbell’s death.
So, why cast such a recognizable star in a one-episode role? In some ways it seems like a waste, but it was also an incredibly savvy casting choice: Establish a guy who we already know to be responsible and dedicated, so our acceptance of the Michelle/Hubbell romance happens faster. And though he’s gone, he’s not forgotten at all. If they try to bring in another love interest for Michelle this season, we’ll steadfastly defend Hubbell because of that mental shortcut to envisioning him as the ultimate good guy.
Do you think the show can go on without Hubbell?
Photos: ABC Family