[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Big Leap series premiere “I Want You Back.”]
For a show-within-a-show about second chances, one of the hopeful dancers gets a second second chance with The Big Leap.
Over the course of the series premiere, we meet the show’s executive producer Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley), hosts Wayne (Kevin Daniels) and Monica (Mallory Jansen), and focus on a select group of the dancers (to be narrowed down to 20) hoping to be part of the company performing Swan Lake when it’s all over.
But whose story do you most want to follow? Get a rundown of what we learn about each character below, then vote in our poll.
The executive producer has been brought in “to save this stupid dance show,” he comments on his way to the theater. And it’s clear why: he knows what makes good TV. His picks are all based on how the dancers will play to the audience, as cringe-worthy as his assessment might be (“Breast cancer always plays” and “Call research and see how incest plays in the Midwest”). He’s also honest about what he’ll be putting the dancers on the show through, as he tells Gabby (Simone Recasner): exploiting any dirt they can find. So it’s no surprise that he tells his assistant Jessica to do some digging on her moments later.
But it’s when he faces his ex moving to London with his kid that we see his human side come out. “I gotta be able to see my kid. Please figure it out,” he tells (presumably) his lawyer over the phone.
When the show needs some star power, Nick looks to NFL player Reggie Sadler (Ser’Darius Blain), who’s been suspended for his third DUI and lost all his endorsements. With his brand currently “crazy drunk misogynist,” Reggie needs this as much as they need him — and he knows it. Gabby uses this to her benefit (more on that in a bit) and offers to teach him the choreography, and unsurprisingly, they begin connecting. Though it looks like that was for nothing when he gets into a fight with a couple guys who insult him and Gabby, to her surprise, he shows up for their audition.
Gabby is clearly destined to be the star (as is Recasner, lighting up the screen) from the moment we meet her. Her hopes of being a dancer are dashed after she gets pregnant at the end of high school and ends up in a 9-to-5 corporate job she hates as she raises her son, Sam. But when she sees The Big Leap ads, it’s her second chance, so she enlists her ex from high school, Justin (Raymond Cham, Jr.) to audition with her. She falls on stage (due to baby powder everywhere from an exotic dancer’s audition) and is cut. But she scores a second chance when she offers to teach Reggie. He even gives her a taste of something she didn’t expect to get: the lift at the end of the dance. (That person is the best one, the smallest one, the one that gets everything, not her, she explained to him earlier.)
However, it’s because of the two of them together that Nick realizes Gabby is “our story,” he tells Wayne and Monica. “She’s going to fall in love with him, and he’s going to break her heart.” Also in his plan: to find out who Sam’s dad is. (As Gabby told her friend in high school, she had sex with someone over Christmas while she and Justin were on a break.)\
In high school, everyone knew Justin was gay except Gabby and him … until she caught him with a guy at a party. (“We were always going to have this conversation, I just thought it would happen earlier,” Gabby’s friend commented.) When Gabby tracks him down for the audition, he fills her in on what she missed by not talking to him for seven years: When he came out to his dad, he kicked him out and wouldn’t pay for college. Without a degree, his job options are limited and he’s working at a bowling alley. He advances after the first audition when Gabby’s cut.
Julia’s (Teri Polo) looking for something new to compete with influences who are younger than she is (her posts are about how aging is a wonderful journey). Enter The Big Leap. Her husband, Kevin, and kids aren’t exactly supportive, of her online presence or her auditioning. Julia and Kevin haven’t had sex in six months and barely talk anymore. But as she will quickly find out, he’s spending the time he claims to be working in his home office watching porn. (Wait until she finds out he’s going to strip clubs; she’ll really be upset then.)
Paula (Piper Perabo), a musical theater major, wins over the judges with a Broadway-style dance — and Nick with the fact that she had breast cancer and almost died. Plus, there’s her connection to Mike (Jon Rudnitsky)…
Fresh off losing one job and being fired from teaching a spin class after he rants about his failed marriage, Mike sees the show as the perfect grand gesture to win back his ex-wife, Paige. (To his friends’ surprise, he’s actually a good dancer.)
But it’s the story that begins to unfold after the audition that really hooks Nick. Mike and Paula begin talking and dancing as they step outside the theater, and Nick’s assistant tells him that Mike was laid off from his auto factory job … and Paula worked for the same company as the vice president of restructuring. (She quit.) “So she fired him, he has no idea, and now they’re cutely flirting and dancing on a fire escape. Why are we not filming this?” Nick asks.
Then it gets better: Paige shows up, and Nick immediately keeps the cameras on them. He also refuses to let Paula leave “because of the triangle.” Paige didn’t leave Mike because he lost his job but because he shut down as a result. He may not be seeing other people, but the same doesn’t seem to be true for her.
Brittney & Simon Lovewell
Wayne thinks the two are a married couple, only for everyone to find out they’re twins. As they dance, “I feel like they’re going to kiss,” Nick says. “I don’t want to see it, but I can’t look away,” Jessica agrees.
The show is this former dancer’s brainchild, and he’s the one to welcome everyone to The Big Leap for the audition. He’s good, inspirational, not too earnest, Nick says. He’s the nice one to the very honest, harsh, and so entertaining Monica…
To the choreographer, the show would be better off called “Career-Ending Diaper Fire.” They won’t find great dancers but “type 2 diabetes.” Her responses to some of the auditions: “That just gave me a UTI,” “is she giving me a curse?” and a drawing of a frowny face. To Nick, she’s going to test through the roof. As he puts it after she yells “shut up!” at the 40 dancers who have made it through to the partner dance, “I’m turned on and terrified at the same time.”
So which character do you most want to watch after the premiere? Vote in our poll below.
The Big Leap, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox