The Big Leap

big leap tv show





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

They’re called “reality shows.” But the level of actual reality in them can be akin to the amount of real fruit in Fruit Loops.

The number of ghosts in Ghost Hunters seems questionable. Back in the day, Duck Dynasty could feel more scripted than some sitcoms. Even reality competition shows are heavily edited to create narratives and pull heartstrings.

But with The Big Leap, Fox has created, literally, the most unreal reality show of them all.

Tripping the Heights Lambastic

Fox’s The Big Leap is, in fact, a scripted show, which chronicles the lives and loves of contestants for a Fox reality show called … well, The Big Leap. With me so far?

That fake reality show is a dance competition, but it positions itself as a kinder, gentler sort of competition. Instead of a Darwinian contest where just one dancer is left standing at the end of the season, 20 will be left to, at season’s end, craft a performance of Swan’s Lake. (That premise makes The Big Leap a little like Netflix’s really great Voices of Fire.) 

The show’s marketed as inspirational catnip—a “second chance” for the contestants. And loads of the contestants leap at that chance (so to speak) with all their feet.

Laid-off auto worker Mike Devries hopes to use the competition to woo his wife back. Professional football star Reggie Sadler wants to turn the tide of bad publicity that’s swept away most of his career. Middle-aged influencer Julia Jenkins—saddled with a porn-addicted husband—is seeking greater fulfillment outside house and hearth. And Gabby Lewis, a plus-sized single mom, is just looking for that elusive second chance to find the life she feels she was meant to live. 

But while the show has an inspirational premise, producer Nick Blackburn knows that reality shows need more than that. They need drama. They need dirt. They need scandal. This show sure might change its contestants’ lives—but probably for the worse.

Tawdry Tango

The Big Leap—Fox’s real scripted dramedy, not its fake reality show—is a study in meta programming. Fox has been a hearty purveyor of salacious reality TV for decades. So it’s with no little irony that it turns the spotlight on the industry itself, to expose the foundation on which many reality shows are built.

But while the fictional reality show may be more rotten than it pretends, the real scripted show aims higher. Sure, it’s early as we write this review. But it seems almost certain that The Big Leap wants to take its characters through some telegenic journey of redemption—where people learn something about themselves, fall in love and even get the second chance that the reality show promised.

But while that’s nice and all, and while the show is pretty clever in spots, inspirational TV doesn’t mean clean or problem-free TV. Not these days.

Granted, the content stays well within the bounds of the show’s TV-14 rating. Language can be rough, but we don’t hear s- or f-words. Private parts are kept off screen—though sometimes through creative means. (In the opening episode, we see a viral clip of a drunken, naked Sadler spiking a pizza, a black bar covering his middle.)

But The Big Leap still sambas with sex and sexuality pretty frequently. One contestant is a sex worker, at least one other is gay. One dance pairing—a brother and sister—dance so seductively together that Nick wonders whether incest might be a ratings draw. Couples kiss passionately, dance seductively and talk about their love lives frequently. And, as mentioned, porn narratively shows up, too.

Religion, meanwhile, seems largely absent at this point, except for a glancing reference or two to yoga. This show may be called The Big Leap, but it sure ain’t a Leap of Faith.

The Big Leap is a show about a show. But the show itself may show too much.

Episode Reviews

Sept. 20, 2021: “I Want You Back”

Several Detroit residents try out for a new Fox reality show called The Big Leap: Former ballet dancer and current midlife influencer Julia hopes to rekindle her own relevance; sad-sack Mike wants to reverse recent setbacks; single mom Gabby would love to reunite with her former high school dance partner, Justin. When Justin’s accepted and Gabby’s not, though, she gets a second chance to compete—dancing with a damaged, volatile football player.

We see a flashback to Gabby and Justin in high school. The two had been dating for years, though the rest of the school knew Justin was gay. When Gabby catches Justin kissing another boy at a party, she’s sick—literally. But it wasn’t all from shock. She admitted to a friend that she’d had sex with another guy a few months earlier, and she’s pregnant with his baby. (In the present, she’s raising the child as a single mom.)

Julia, meanwhile, finds evidence suggesting that her husband has been masturbating while he’s supposed to have been working. She takes his laptop to a computer center (to uncover his oft-cleared browsing history) and is told that he’s been going to porn sites 10 times a day (many sites with comically lewd names). While the center’s employees argue whether looking at porn is infidelity, there’s no doubt in Julia’s mind: “The internet is his girlfriend!” she shouts. (It explains why they’d not had sex in six months, though.) We see a scene of Julia’s husband at a strip club, stuffing a dollar bill into an exotic dancer’s boot.

The dancer (who obviously dresses quite provocatively) also auditions for the reality show, mentioning that she’s an adult film star, too. (She likes to be called a “sex worker” professionally.) She dances suggestively for her audition, and a later contestant slips on the “stripper dust” she tossed about. A brother-and-sister team dance provocatively for their audition, too. “Call research,” the producer says. “[Find out] how incest plays in the Midwest.”

A contestant is disappointed to learn that the real Swan Lake doesn’t include an “ecstasy-fueled lesbian sex scene.” Breasts are touched and commented on. We see a man naked (his genitals obscured with a censor bar), another man shirtless, still another wearing a skimpy singlet and several women in cleavage-revealing outfits. There’s discussion about how long someone lasts sexually, as well as where babies come from.

We hear a reference to a yoga pose. Characters drink beer and wine. A man gets into a fight with two others and chucks a cinderblock into a car windshield. People joke about murder and suicide. A child admits he “peed [his] pants” during a spelling bee. Characters say “a–,” “d–n,” “crap” and “h—” a few times apiece. We also hear God’s name misused five times.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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