If you’re not following the Pro Cheerleading Podcast on Twitter (@procheerpodcast), then you may have missed a few of my tweets spreading the word that there are currently two new shows about cheerleading and one on the way. Why this excites me I’m not even sure because I am one of the strange humans out there who does not really watch TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc. other than sports and NFL Network shows. BUT, I am trying to be a good consumer of all things cheerleading as best I can and will do my best to follow along with these programs and share my random thoughts and reactions on Twitter. It’s 2020, I’m trying new things, feeling all motivated and ish so publicly posting that I will be watching these shows will hopefully inspire me to hold myself accountable. So here goes nothing!
Let’s get the one that’s still in the works out of the way so we can get right into the juicy new shows. Ali Larter (who will forever be known to me as the lady who Beyoncé beat up for trying to steal her man Idris Elba in the movie “Obsessed”) is going to be the star and executive producer of a comedy called “The Sidelines” about a 40 year old single mother of two who decides to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming an NFL cheerleader. The show is based on a book written by Laura Vikmanis who is a consulting producer, ‘It’s Not About the Pom-Poms: How a 40-Year-Old Mom Became the NFL’s Oldest Cheerleader–and Found Hope, Joy, and Inspiration Along the Way.’ This kind of sounded like my story for a minute there but I was a few years shy of 40 before I had my mini mid-life crisis and decided to audition to cheer in the NFL.
Anyway, the story line is that Ali auditions and makes the squad for a Detroit football team and becomes the mama bear to the younger ladies on the squad while also going through her own journey of rediscovery. Sounds like something I could get into but I’m a little concerned that the show is a comedy – not that it needs to be a drama series but hopefully they will get the humor right without perpetuating outdated, tired, unrealistic and not that funny stereotypes of NFL cheerleaders. And for the record 40 isn’t that old so hopefully Ali isn’t acting like she is struggle bussing to get her groove back because that can get old quickly. It’s not clear when this show will be on air but we shall wait and see…
Mkay, nowwww the first show that I want to talk about only to entice you to watch it with me is the USA Network’s adaptation of the novel “Dare Me” by Megan Abbott centered around the relationships between two high school cheerleaders and their new coach. The show is a medley of a coming-of-age, drama, and murder mystery that follows the changing dynamics between best friends Addy and Beth after their new coach, Colette, takes over the squad to prepare them for a regional cheerleading competition. Each episode seems to be moving very slowly to develop the characters before it builds up the anxiety of wanting to know who died and whodunit. I’m not the most patient person in the world so I’m hoping that the pace doesn’t drive me nuts and make me lose interest.
I’m not going to summarize what happened in each episode because I really want you to watch it for yourself, but I’ll give my two cents so far on the characters that I am intrigued by. Beth is being portrayed as this dark, jealous, mean girl, bad ass type who thinks she runs the squad. She clearly has some daddy issues since her father had an affair with a woman who lived across the freaking street, moved out to go live in their house, and had a daughter who cheers on the same damn squad as Beth! Why her mom didn’t end up moving is beyond me but she’s still getting it on with her ex, seems to be addicted to prescription drugs or alcohol, and thinks moving would’ve meant letting them win. Needless to say, Beth’s home life is pretty jacked up and while I don’t usually gravitate toward villains, there’s something about her that makes me wonder if she’s really the true villain of the show after all.
Bottom line, Beth’s not feeling Colette taking over as coach and expects Addy to hate her too. Addy seems to either admire Colette or have a crush on her, not sure which one, but the bond between them is pissing Beth off and making her jealous. I’m counting on Beth to keep me entertained during this Sunday’s episode by doing something exciting – if not, she’s no longer my favorite character. Addy seems to be a bit of a follower as Beth’s sidekick and really wants to use cheerleading to make something better of her life and get her out of this small town. I think I like Addy… but right now she feels a little too naïve, safe and dare I say it…BORING! She’s got a little spunk and drive so I kind of anticipate her taking advantage of all this individual attention from the coach in order to get ahead on the squad. Maybe Addy becomes the real villain, we shall see…
Last but not least – the newest show “Cheer” just started streaming on Netflix this week and it’s already getting a ton of buzz. This show is a 6-part docu-drama series following this powerhouse coed cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas full of big personalities with pretty diverse backgrounds. Have you heard of Navarro College or Corsicana, Texas? Me neither but apparently, this small town hero of a cheer team won 13 national titles between 2000 and 2018 under their coach Monica Aldama. The show starts with the team 68 days away from the 2019 national competition season as they start practicing and preparing for their 2-minute routine of crazy high flying pyramids, Cirque du Soleil-ish stunts, tumbling and dance. I only watched one episode so far because I am not about that binge-watching life – 6 whole hours in a row?!? I just can’t bring myself to do it but maybe I’ll find time to finish the season over the weekend.
All I can say for now is that this show proves that the world of competitive cheerleading is in a league of its own. Competitive cheerleading is estimated to be an industry worth $2 billion annually so it's a very big business with super high stakes for the athletes. I’m not even talking about the significant financial investment it takes for these athletes to participate in competitive cheerleading in order to eventually compete at the collegiate level. I’m referring to the huge physical sacrifice of their bodies to contribute to this sport due to the risk and reality of very serious injuries. The athletes featured in this show are insanely talented and the physicality that it takes to pull off these unthinkable stunts and pyramids just shows that they are a different breed. One of the cheerleaders threw major shade and said something to the effect that what they do requires a higher skill level than professional cheerleaders because basically they are just dancers. Girl, please don't even get me started! Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s hard to even compare competitive cheerleading to pro cheerleading because they are really different sports but there are a lot more commonalities than differences. This show will definitely trigger lots of thoughts and interesting questions along the way on this topic.
The one thing that surprised me in the first episode was repeatedly hearing many of the cheerleaders express that the national competition in their last year of college would be the end of their career and that there was nothing that exists for them to pursue on a professional level. I found that a bit shocking and a little sad to think that our world of professional cheerleading is not viewed as the next progression in their careers. As much as I have conflicting thoughts about the changes in the pro cheerleading industry over the past couple years, it really reinforces what I’ve come to realize that this evolution is absolutely necessary to usher in this new generation of athletes. When I think of the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans cheerleaders with coed cheerleading teams that perform stunts at NFL games or the NBA stunt teams like the Portland TrailBlazers, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz – it makes me want to yell through a megaphone – “HEY, YOU STILL HAVE OPTIONS SO DON’T STOP DOING WHAT YOU LOVE!”
I’ll be tweeting out random thoughts such as these, hopefully not feeling the need to yell in all caps, so make sure you follow the Pro Cheerleading Podcast on Twitter! If it gets really deep and I have too much to say than Twitter characters will allow, an update may find its way in a future blog post. Until next time, keep your eyes on the sidelines…and on Netflix and USA Network!