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‘The Big Leap’ seems to have all the right moves

Piper Perabo and Jon Rudnitsky in "The Big Leap."Associated Press

“The Big Leap,” which premiered Monday at 9 on Fox, is an unusual concoction. It’s schmaltzy and predictable, but it’s filled with entertaining dance moves and carefully fitted with a character — Scott Foley’s reality TV producer — whose relentless cynicism is simultaneously repugnant and a laugh riot. After about 10 minutes, I was fully onboard, despite the flaws and the overreaches, and ready for more. The show is a light dramedy about the misfit wannabes in Detroit who sign up for a dance-based reality show. Each of them is coming out of a difficult situation, more or less, and sees the reality show — which will have the contestants put on “Swan Lake” — as a kind of second chance.

The ensemble is more or less led by gleeful newcomer Simone Recasner, who plays Gabby. She’s a bored, financially struggling single mother who thinks she’s too heavy for the rail-thin world of ballet. Justin (Raymond Cham Jr.) came out to his father, was promptly kicked out of the house, and unhappily works at a bowling alley. Social media influencer Julia (Teri Polo) is in a troubled marriage and is terrified of aging, and Mike (Jon Rudnitsky, who spent a season on “Saturday Night Live”) is an unemployed auto worker who’s newly separated and depressed.


These characters along with a few other amateurs (including Piper Perabo’s Paula, a cancer survivor) go through auditions and rehearsals led by a former dancer played with enjoyable bitterness and contempt by Mallory Jansen. The show jumps among their backstories, and it tracks the bonds they’re forming while being filmed. Trying to manipulate all of the dancers, in order to build juicy storylines for the reality show, is Foley’s Nick, a guy who, when he sees a brother-and-sister team auditioning together with some creepily sexual moves, yells out, “Call research and see how incest plays in the Midwest.” As he works to create a love triangle, a divorce story, and other dramas, Nick brings a touch of Lifetime’s “UnREAL” to “The Big Leap.” He represents everything critics of reality TV despise.

When it comes to the broadcast networks, the fall season now mostly means an onslaught of franchise procedurals and reboots. And certainly there are times when that kind of viewing is exactly what the TV doctor ordered. But still, every so often something different and relatively original pops up, and, like “The Big Leap,” it hits the spot.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.