Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
If Ted Lasso winning all of those Emmys this past Sunday doesn’t prove that we’re all searching for some feel-good TV, then I don’t know what does. One new Fall show that seems to be aiming in this direction is The Big Leap, which premiered on Monday, September 20 on Fox. Centered around a dance-themed reality show, an ensemble of quirky underdogs audition in the hopes that it can be their second chance at joy and success. It’s an undeniably hopeful premise, and the pilot enthusiastically follows through on that set-up.
Newcomer Simone Recasner is wonderful as single mom Gabby, who missed out on going to dance school for college when she found out she was pregnant. She at once conveys the love she has for her son and the crushing disappointment that she never got to live out her dreams. She’s down-on-her-luck enough to be relatable, but not too pitiable to be depressing to watch. Moreover, she’s simply a joy to have on screen, which makes the scenes she shares with her gay-best-friend from high school Justin (Raymond Cham Jr.) explode with charisma. In one scene, Gabby tries to get Justin to audition with her by spurring him into spontaneously breaking into a rousing dance number at the bowling alley Justin works at.
The series chose well with its heroine to lead its cast of misfits, but since it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows, Scott Foley plays what becomes clear by the end of the episode: the villain of the drama. As the director Nick Blackburn, Foley is bitingly funny as he quips about what middle America might want to watch, and encourages the hosts of the reality show to pick the craziest contestants possible, all while casually demeaning his assistant. I worry that he’ll become too cruel as we get that ominous line at the end about how he’s going to manipulate Gabby into falling in love with football star and contestant Reggie (Ser’Darius Blain) so that he’ll break her heart. It’s good for this follow-your-dreams group to have an adversary, but will Nick’s mining of drama for higher ratings go too far and turn the tone of the show too dark? Hopefully, the writers have a plan in store for this character. For now, I’m glad it’s Foley handling this tricky character, because his charm overcomes his character’s uglier side.
But in terms of characters lifting each other up, this series has that in spades. In the final scene of the episode, Reggie decides to do the lift from Swan Lake. Gabby, who’s been afraid most of her life that she’s too heavy to be the one who’s lifted, is in tears as Reggie holds her aloft in triumph. When he puts her down, all she can manage to quietly, earnestly say, is thank you. We can only hope for more moments like this one from this show.
Other observations we thought made this episode stand out:
- Gabby and Reggie have genuine chemistry and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t exactly follow Nick’s plan for heartbreak.
- Monica (Mallory Jansen), the dance instructor, has the best one liners of the show with an acidic delivery that burns as she seethes at having to teach a bunch of dancing amateurs how to put on a production of Swan Lake.
The Big Leap, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox