Make It or Break It





Paul Asay
PluggedIn Staff

TV Series Review

The world of competitive gymnastics is a soap opera, it would seem, where a floor exercise can spawn unrequited love, and a sport based on flexibility can inspire rigid obstinacy.

Three seasons in, instead of teens seeking help and advice from their parents (or not), most are calling their own shots with impunity. Gone is Emily, the young upstart outsider (and original star of the show), after both she and the actress who played her got pregnant. Taking her place is Kelly, a long-time rival of Emily’s pals Payson and Kaylie. And speaking of Payson, even after breaking her back and taking hits for crushing on her one-time coach, she’s still gunning hard for the national team. Former bad girl Lauren is slowly reforming her ways. And Kaylie, after struggling with anorexia for much of the show’s run, seems to have at least some of her issues under control. For the moment.

Not that there aren’t loads of youthful dramas still swirling. These girls are either the best of friends or the worst of enemies or both simultaneously. They go six rounds with the guys in their lives. Lauren’s sick. Payson’s still hounded by the scandalous picture of her smooching her coach. And, really, all of them are haunted by past mistakes—one way in which Make It or Break It serves up a good reminder to its youthful audience that thoughtless acts today can have heavy repercussions tomorrow.

I should note here that Make It or Break It is one of the nicer programs on ABC Family. In spite of all the cattiness we see, these girls—women—do seem to care about one another. And most are trying, more and more frequently, to do the right thing. Character development? Some of them have been working pretty hard at developing one.

On the tumble side of the things, there’s a smattering of coarse language. Revealing outfits show up both on and off the mats. We see girls behave badly and still make quite a few lousy choices. And if the show had its way, audiences would be exposed to even more problematic content. In Season 2, it introduced a bisexual male character—only to have him whisked away because the actor landed a part in ABC’s hit Revenge.

In similar territory is the issue of Emily’s departing storyline. “It occurred to me that there is no show that could do an abortion story in the same way that we could, because in virtually any other show, you can have the baby and then go back to college,” creator Holly Sorensen told “You can have the baby and accept the scholarship. But you can’t have the baby and then go to the Olympics. … The truth is one costs the other. If the goal of the show is to make the Olympics, that dream is over.”

In the end, the word “abortion” was never mentioned onscreen, but Emily’s coach did try to pressure her into one. The good news? She does indeed wind up sacrificing her dream for her baby, leaving the team and going to live with her godmother.

So it seems that Make It or Break It, just like its characters, is trying to do the right thing. But life in the gymnastics gym is always a balancing act—literally and figuratively. And this show teeters right along with its characters.

Episode Reviews

MakeItorBreakIt: 4-9-2012

“Time Is of the Essence”

The girls try to adapt to their new national coach—a guy with a successful track record coaching boys, but no experience with girls. He comes to realize that his tough, no-nonsense approach won’t fly with these ladies: Boys and girls, it turns out, require different types of motivation.

Meanwhile, Payson is still fending off questions about her scandalous smooch with her former coach—a picture of which went viral. “That stupid kiss is going to haunt me for the rest of my life!” she (rightly) fumes. But she’s even more furious when she learns that it was one of her own teammates who posted the photo in the first place. She shares another onscreen kiss with her current infatuation, a male gymnastics counterpart.

Adults drink beer and wine. Gymnasts try to keep secrets, or tell secrets, or generally act kinda nasty. People talk about the difference between “hook-up” relationships and honest-to-goodness dating relationships. God’s name is misused twice.

MakeItorBreakIt: 8-24-2010

“If Only …”

Emily is sprung from jail after being arrested for stealing medication to give to her brother. Chloe lies about having an office job when she’s really working as a slinky waitress. Lauren manipulates video of Payson impulsively (and innocently) kissing Sasha and uses it to frame their coach.

Kaylie lies about her weight, diet and exercise regimen as she struggles with anorexia. Damon dumps Emily, breaking her heart. Lauren’s estranged mother, a recovering drug addict, reappears, only to be killed in a car accident before she can make contact with her daughter. Embittered Lauren could not care less.

Foul language includes multiple misuses of God’s name along with “h‑‑‑,” “b‑‑ch,” “d‑‑n” and “BS.” “Freakin'” stands in for its harsher namesake. Adults drink alcohol. Teens kiss. Lauren scolds Summer, a Christian, for dating Sasha, a non-Christian, because she wants Summer to be her dad’s girlfriend again.

MakeItorBreakIt: 1-11-2010

“Follow the Leader”

It’s rough going for The Rock’s quartet of high-flying damsels. Payson’s pretty bummed about her back (fractured during a key competition). Emily’s mom ruins her team jacket by washing it with something hot-pink. And Kaylie learns that the new national gymnastics coach is the same guy who slept with her mother—a relationship Kaylie’s father knows nothing about.

Kaylie, Emily and Morgan start a covert campaign to get the coach fired by telling other team members lies about him—like he has bad breath, he hates to be looked in the eye … and he inappropriately touches his students. Meanwhile, Kaylie also whines about why life isn’t all about her when it should be. And just to prove her point (only not really) she tries to seduce her old, cheating boyfriend, Carter.

Pretty much everybody who’s anybody at The Rock learns shallow-but-valuable lessons by episode’s end. Dandy, right? Well, except for viewers to internalize them, they must first wade through sex-fueled subplots, drug references and a gymload of bad attitude.

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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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