Adam R. Holz
PluggedIn Staff

TV Series Review

A college football cheerleader is the last thing Lancer University pre-law student Marti Perkins ever expected to be. But when she loses her scholarship, the Memphis native is forced to swallow her pride and get creative to finance the rest of her education. Her only hope? Competing for one open spot on Lancer’s elite cheerleading corps, the Hellcats.

It’s an unlikely turn of events for this feisty, independent young woman who’s more comfortable wearing black than a blazing yellow-and-blue miniskirt. But Marti’s experience as a high school gymnast and passion for dance attract the attention of coach Vanessa Lodge, who knows her team needs an infusion of new moves if it hopes to compete at Nationals.

But almost as soon as Marti dons the skimpy Hellcat uniform, she’s confronted by the fact that competition within the team can be even fiercer than anything she’s likely to face on the floor. And if the team’s complex relational dynamics didn’t infuse Marti’s life with enough drama, there’s also her dysfunctional relationship with her well-meaning but alcoholic mother, Wanda, on whom she spends equal energy trying to take care of and avoid. And then there’s her best friend, Dan, a townie with a secret crush on her who’s not convinced her newfound cheerleading career is the best thing that’s ever happened.

With Disney alums Aly Michalka (known for her band Aly & AJ and the TV show Phil of the Future) and Ashley Tisdale (of  High School Musical fame) onboard, this college-age series may very well attract more fans than its CW siblings. But speaking of CW siblings (such as  90210 and Gossip Girl), Hellcats clearly follows their lead when it comes to Drama. (Note the italics and the capital D.) Its bare, impossibly sculpted midriffs and sexual material fit the network like a cheerleader’s miniskirt, too.

(The series is based on the book Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders.)

Episode Reviews

Hellcats: 4192011

“Woke Up Dead”

Dan is making a zombie movie for his film school application, with the Hellcats acting. Blood, decaying bodies and entrails are the main features as the team fights off the undead with guns (only one is fired) and in hand-to-hand combat. A zombie’s head is kicked off. Conservatives take a poke or two when a hidden gun arsenal is revealed.

Dan decides it’s all for naught, though, when he views his competition’s much artier pieces, feels suddenly ashamed and gives up on his application. His girlfriend, Savannah, secretly applies for him, telling him later, “You have to do what makes you happy.”

Wanda confesses that Marti’s father was a drug addict who might still be alive—though for years she’s claimed he died when Marti was 3. Marti doubts her father’s love but is assured by Wanda that he loved her deeply. Close to getting exposed by Alice (a journalist), Betsy, who writes term papers for athletes, threatens to reveal the names of all her clients—Alice’s ex-boyfriend among them. To no avail, Alice tries to call off the story. Couples kiss. Language includes “h‑‑‑” and “b‑‑ch.” Women wear tight, low-cut tops and short skirts.

Hellcats: 982010

“A World Full of Strangers”

Sensual images permeate this premiere as cheerleaders dance through suggestive routines. Female Hellcat uniforms reveal midriff, cleavage and leg. The cheerleaders’ shower is coed: One woman carelessly opens her towel in this “public” setting. (We see bare shoulders.) And a towel-stealing stunt leaves Marti naked. (We see her covering her breasts.) Her savior, Lewis, first quips, “Shower and a show,” then drops his own towel for her, clearing the room by inviting the other guys to inspect his anatomy. “I like getting naked,” he says, and implies that he wants to see “more” of her.

Other sexual stuff includes references to oral encounters, spanking, groupies, promiscuity and a song that instructs, “Shake it like a porn star.” Profanity includes three misuses of God’s name and isolated instances of “d‑‑n,” “a‑‑,” “b‑‑ch” and “h‑‑‑.” There’s a gag about an obscene hand gesture and a crude mention of a bodily function.

Positive themes include emphases on optimism, teamwork and family. But Marti’s relationship with her mom leaves quite a lot to be desired. And she describes Lancer as a school where “football is god.” It’s said that ancient Egyptians, Aztecs and Freemasons having “earned their place in hell … right next to the cheerleaders.”

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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