Cheerleading is not a sport. This is actually legal fact now.
However, there are in fact schools that offer cheerleading scholarships, so the main premise of "Hellcats" isn't entirely unbelievable. Still, the idea that a competitive cheerleading (or "stunt" or "tumbling") squad would still have a scholarship available after the semester had started is unlikely. It's even more unlikely that a law student with no cheer experience, no matter how hot she is (and even with gymnastics experience), would earn that scholarship.
Once I got past that suspension of disbelief, I tried my best to enjoy "Hellcats", which takes the premise behind "Bring It On", moves the setting to college and focuses on the reluctant cheerleader character rather than the peppy cheer lifer (in fact, "Bring it On" was actually featured in the pilot). But it was hard.
The pilot progressed as formulaically as possible, taking care to make sure we understood that the law student (played by Aly Michalka) hated the entire concept of cheerleading, but was also amazing at it. And her back-and-forth attitude was painfully annoying. One minute she's dissing the cheerleaders to their face, the next she's outwardly celebrating making the team, only to go back to making snide comments about the entire concept a minute later. In addition, the love triangle they're setting up between her, her friend Dan (Matt Barr) and male cheerleader Lewis (Robbie Jones) is so painfully telegraphed that my head actually hurt. On top of that, the show -- set in Memphis -- featured some of the worst southern accents I've ever heard outside of "True Blood".
As for the big tryout scene (in the middle of the episode), I've known my fair share of cheerleading and dance team coaches and NOT A ONE would be impressed by someone breaking choreography mid-tryout. In fact, most of them would have kicked the competitor out of the tryout right there.
That's not to say I disliked everything about the pilot. The story between cheerleading coach Vanessa (Sharon Leal) and new football coach Red (Jeff Hephner) intrigues me, and I can't wait until they get into the whole backstory. I like the budding rivalry between Michalka's Marti and Alice (Heather Hemmers), the girl she replaced. And Ashley Tisdale's Savannah -- the overly peppy head cheerleader who embraces Marti as a way to get to victory -- was right on point. I knew a dozen girls like her in college (though in my case, they were on the dance team, not the cheerleading squad). Plus, the puts D.B. Woodside back in a school setting for the first time since his days as Principal Wood, and anything that reminds me of "Buffy" is good in my book.
"Hellcats" isn't perfect, and has many the pitfalls of a paint-by-numbers CW show, but that doesn't mean it's destined for failure. Just last year, "The Vampire Diaries" had a weak premiere but became one of the network's strongest shows. And I think now that "Hellcats" is past most of its "setup" phase, it could be solid. And even if it's not, it's got some view-worthy eye candy.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.