Update note, 12/2018: This post remains one of the top-viewed posts on my blog. I’m not sure why, but I’m going to say it’s because of the great love/hate relationship the gymternet has with this TV show. As a result, I’ve gone through and cleaned up the layout, getting rid of broken links and making things look nicer. Also, please remember that this post was written in 2014, so it refers to things current to that time.
Yesterday I discussed what I believed Make It or Break It got wrong. Today I will be discussing what I think it did right. Let’s dive right into this, shall we?
What MIOBI Did Right:
A.) Character Development. If you say that there was absolutely no character development, that the characters were stale and flat, I will call you a liar. Sure, not every character was developed as well as some—Payson, for one, and to some extent Kaylie—but there was at least a little bit of development involved in everyone. However, it is those ‘some’ with which I am concerned. Here’s two of those ‘some’ that really stood out to me:
1. Lauren Tanner. Lauren was my least favorite character in Season 1 and most of Season 2. She was manipulative, petty, and just an all-around brat. However, as the episodes progressed, I started seeing her hidden insecurity and desperation. The video that she sent to Ellen Beales with the cut footage of Sasha and Payson was a terrible thing to do, yes, but she did it out of that desperation and insecurity and not out of sheer malice. And it is when she confesses what she did to Sasha that I see that she is developing as a person, and as a character. This is further witnessed in Season 3, where Lauren became my favorite character because she actually took responsibility for her actions, confessed them, and asked for forgiveness. In my opinion, Lauren showed the most growth, and therefore the most character development, out of all the four girls.
2. Kelly Parker. Kelly, like Lauren, was a trash-talking and cut-throat and a generally mean and not very nice girl. The viewer is automatically inclined to dislike her. However, in Season 2, where we see more of her, we find out that part of her nature is from her overbearing mother and the absence of her father, which makes us see her as more sympathetic. She, like Lauren, also pushes past her insecurities and makes an effort to change, and in so doing becomes one of the better characters on the show.
It’s interesting that the two girls who I think showed the most character development are the ones that started out as the most conniving. You might argue that Payson, Kaylie, and Emily showed just as much character development as Lauren and Kelly, but I just don’t see it as much as I do in those two. Payson, Kaylie, and Emily were pretty consistent across each season, whereas Lauren and Kelly changed the most. Of course, character development isn’t just about change, but characters changing, thinking, growing is an important part of the process.
B.) Relationships. If you didn’t watch MIOBI for the gymnastics, chances are you watched it for the relationships. There were so many relationships (and not just of the romantic variety) in this show: mother/daughter, father/daughter, husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend, friend/friend, coach/gymnast, gymnast/team, etc., most handled beautifully (and a few rather unrealistically). Here are a few of my favorite:
1. Sasha/Summer. Hands down, my favorite couple. It wasn’t just the romantic part that got me, it was also the tension, the doubts, the challenges, the frustrations, the should I/shouldn’t I that Summer was going through because of her faith and Sasha’s lack of. Summer challenged Sasha and Sasha challenged Summer (especially regarding her engagement to Steve which I thought was very well done). It was an entirely realistic portrayal of that type of relationship. The nod that they gave in the series finale made me extremely happy.
2. Emily/Damon. My second-favorite couple. Towards the end it was a bit hectic, but to me it only showed off Emily’s insecurity and Damon’s frustration and hurt. I thought that this was one of the better developed relationships. A bit cliché, maybe, but a little cliché never hurt anyone.
3. Lauren/random Olympic wrestler(whose name is apparently Jake?). These two were just so darn cute that I couldn’t help but love them. True, they never actually dated, but every time they were on-screen together I couldn’t help but smile. Too bad I’ll never get to see any more of them.
4. Kaylie/Austin. Every time Austin opened his mouth and spoke I cringed because the actor was so bad at delivering his lines, but his concern for Kaylie’s health and his determination to help her was what endeared me to him (and the fact that he randomly just appeared and caught her when she fell off the beam in competition, because audience members can totally do that all the time). This isn’t actually one of my favorite pairs; I was pretty ambivalent about them, but, hey, at least he came back and apologized after breaking her heart. Plus the two of them were in one of the funnier scenes of the series.
5. Lauren and Payson. The growth of their friendship in Season 3 was really nice to watch. They weren’t at each other’s throats or doing something to sabotage the other (Lauren apologized for her previous sabotaging in one of the better scenes of Season 3). Payson asking her dad to stay at Lauren’s house instead of Kaylie’s was touching and a sign of how close they had become.
6. Summer and Lauren. What I liked most about the development of their mother/daughter relationship was that Lauren’s attitude change towards Summer wasn’t overnight (like, for example, Carter’s random change from Kaylie to Lauren, and then from Lauren to Kelly Parker and from a nice guy to a jerk). It was gradual and due to a number of things that built up over time. Lauren went from seeing Summer as an intruder/competitor with her father’s attention to seeing her as someone who Lauren could depend on. It was beautiful to watch the two of them get closer.
There you have it, the top two things that I think MIOBI did right! Thanks for joining me for this weekend special; I’ll be back to my regular schedule on Tuesday where I will discuss Eon by Alison Goodman. See you then!