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6 Shows like Bunheads: Whimsical Small-Town Charm

Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributorIf you feel like you would fit right into the whimsical town of Paradise, there are a few more shows like ‘Bunheads’ set in charming little towns you may consider visiting. Fall in love with Bluebell, a town ruled by the Southern Belles in ‘Hart of Dixie’, or stroll through the Winter Carnival in Stars Hollow, home to the ‘Gilmore Girls’. ~ Roxanne Sancto

Every day in your house is like a Kristen Wiig Film Festival.

We get where Michelle (Sutton Foster) is coming from – her mother-in-law Fanny’s (Kelly Bishop) decorative tastes are beyond eccentric; the entire house is filled with dolls, statues, framed paintings, pictures and any other useless knick-knack imaginable. Even for a show girl who’s used to the glitz and glamour of Vegas, Fanny’s style is simply too much.

Michelle and Fanny don’t often see eye-to-eye and that’s not just where their styles and life philosophy is concerned. Fanny, who runs the Paradise Dance Academy, has an extremely strict and old-school approach to teaching dance, whereas Michelle likes to keep things firm but light-hearted and goofy.

It takes Michelle some time to get used to the tranquillity of the close-knitted community of Paradise, but once she settles, the desire to ever leave again evaporates. If you felt your heart warm to the idyllic town of Paradise and the many caring characters within, you’re bound to feel the same about the shows similar to ‘Bunheads’ listed below!


Shows Similar to ‘Bunheads’…

‘Gilmore Girls’ (The WB, 2000)

The best part about TV series like ‘Bunheads’ are its bubbly (Bo), goofy (Michelle) and eccentric (Truly) characters and what do you know? A lot of the ‘Bunheads’ regulars also walk the streets of Stars Hollow, home to the ‘Gilmore Girls’ and many other lovable characters.

It seems as though ‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘Bunheads’ creators, Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Daniel Palladino, have a thing for small American towns that seem to be stuck in time – and we get why! There’s something so magical about close-knit towns that thrive on unity and town-spirit as opposed to all the latest trends of the surrounding big cities.

Though the atmospheres in both towns are very similar, the ‘Gilmore Girls’ aren’t all too enthusiastic about dance, the world of sports, and physical exertion in general. But they would do extremely well in a pie eating contest.

Similarity Match: 95%
‘Bunheads’ and ‘Gilmore Girls’ share the same writers and creators which can be felt in the shows’ backdrop and characters. The characters on ‘Gilmore Girls’ are more fleshed out, which could be due to the fact that ‘Bunheads’ was cancelled after season one.

‘Hart of Dixie’ (The CW, 2011)

Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) is as highly strung as New York City itself. She is a competent doctor who’s on her way to become a successful cardio-thoracic surgeon. But although she has the top grades and the know-how, she lacks bedside manners. Before she can become a surgeon, she has to become a doctor with heart.

Unexpected circumstances bring her to the town of Bluebell, Alabama, where she starts working as a GP at the local doctor’s office. The locals don’t take too kindly to the big city girl with her short shorts and blunt ways at first, but Zoe is determined to break the ice.

TV series like ‘Bunheads’ and ‘Hart of Dixie’ make us feel at home in their fictional towns. There’s always something happening in Bluebell and whenever Zoe joins in the activities, you can count on the towns’ parades and festivities to end in chaos!

Similarity Match: 85%
Zoe Hart and Michelle Simms are both big city girls whose lives change when they move to small towns. The setting and characters in ‘Hart of Dixie’ focus on the southern town spirit, whereas Paradise in ‘Bunheads’ isn’t quite as traditional.

‘Parks and Recreation’ (NBC, 2009)

No one is as excited about Pawnee as is Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the town’s deputy in the Parks and Recreation department. To Leslie, Pawnee is one of the greatest towns in the world and she is determined to get everyone else to see that, too.

Leslie has big dreams for Pawnee and if anyone can turn them into a reality, it’s her. She’s highly ambitious, bubbly and optimistic – much to the chagrin of her stoic superior, Ron (Nick Offerman), and her cynical and sarcastic intern, April (Aubrey Plaza).

‘Parks and Recreation’ has a refreshing approach to comedy and features many guest appearances by people like Louis C.K., Will Arnett, Andy Samberg, Kristen Bell and even bands and artists like The Decemberists, Wilco, Ginuwine and Ya La Tengo.

Similarity Match: 75%
The people of Pawnee have a different sense of humour compared to the people of Paradise. But the characters on both ‘Bunheads’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’ share their love for their towns in common.

‘Dance Academy’ (ABC3, 2010)

Tara (Xenia Goodwin) is a talented, devoted dancer who’s stuck in farm-ville and has no real outlet to perfect her technique. Imagine her elation when she’s accepted to the ‘Dance Academy’, a prestigious dance school in the big city!

At the National Academy of Dance, she focuses her strengths on more than just ballet, learning the techniques of hip hop and contemporary ballet as well. With the help of her new found friends, Kat (Alicia Banit) and Ethan (Tim Pocock), and her teacher, Miss Raine (Tara Morice), Tara begins to thrive in her new environment.

‘Dance Academy’ runs for three seasons. As of 2015, a film sequel has been in development, titled ‘Dance Academy: The Comeback’. Let’s see how our favourite characters have grown since the beginning of the series!

Similarity Match: 60%
The small town feel of Tara’s home soon makes way for the big city. But similar to TV shows like ‘Bunheads’, the focus of ‘Dance Academy’ is on characters training to become professional dancers.


If You Like ‘Bunheads’, You Will Like…

Series similar to ‘Bunheads’ are attractive because their surroundings feel homey and familiar, and the characters all seem to have each other’s back.

There’s something really soothing about being invited into a community that still believes in pulling together during difficult times – we could use a lot more of these types of communities in the real world!

If you’re on the look-out for yet another small town experience, check out ‘Everwood’.

‘Everwood’ (The WB, 2002)

Sometimes we need a fresh start in life and this is the case for the Brown family. Following the passing of Dr. Andrew “Andy” Brown’s (Treat Williams) wife, he decides to move to the small Colorado town, Everwood, with his daughter, Delia (Vivien Cardone), and teenage son, Ephram (Gregory Smith).

Things are difficult at first. Andy has to prove himself to the town’s Doc Harold (Tom Amandes) and Ephram is going through all the confusing emotions a teenager must go through on his way to manhood – including an unrequited crush on Harold’s daughter, Amy (Emily VanCamp).

But after several situations show the Brown family that Everwood is a real community where people depend on each other and care for one another’s well-being, they realize that they have found a good home.

There’s little comedy and a lot of drama in ‘Everwood’, whereas in Paradise, things tend to work the other way around. But both shows focus on a warming sense of community.

‘Flaked’ (Netflix, 2016)

Chip (Will Arnett) is a recovering alcoholic who likes others to think of him as a bit of a self-help guru. To the outside world it may look like Chip has it all figured out, but in reality, he’s just really good at lying to himself and others.

He runs what could have, at some point, maybe have been a furniture shop but the only people that ever step inside are the colourful characters of Venice Beach – friends, bums and members of his AA group. When the shop runs at risk of being shut down, Chip begins to question his motives.

Venice Beach is a relatively small neighbourhood but not quite as intimate as Paradise. The sense of community here is slightly more impersonal, but the solidarity is felt throughout the protagonists’ circle of friends.


The nice part of living in a small town is, if you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does.

Establishing rules of privacy can be a tad difficult in towns with a small population and if you’re not used to your neighbours knowing the ins and outs of your private life, it can be a challenge to get used to it.

But if TV shows like ‘Bunheads’ and ‘Hart of Dixie’ have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes, it’s really great having a community to help you along the way when you’re feeling lost.

Which community would you like to have rooting for you?

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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