“Where there’s football, could cheerleading be far behind?” asks brand new Hellcat Marti Perkins. As fall sweeps students into the crowded bleachers for football season, television screens are locked on — no, not hours of gut-wrenching football footage — but on the cheerleaders. More specifically, the Lancer University cheerleaders, tumbling and fumbling around on the CW’s new series “Hellcats.” “Mean Girls” minus the wit and “Bring it On” without the spirit, “Hellcats” is a tedious hour of everything but the “meow” its name implies.


Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
The CW

Marti “The Martyr” Perkins (Alyson Michalka, “Phil of the Future”) is a pre-law blonde bombshell forced to endure the Hellcat regime for the sake of securing a scholarship. An ex-gymnast, Marti is driven back to the mat by her costly education and irresponsible mother, a woman whose “soul-sucking presence” and drunken antics triggered Marti’s decision to depart from gymnastics in the beginning. Gail O’Grady (“American Dreams”) is the tight-lipped and plastic-surgery prone Wanda Perkins, bumbling around with her daughter’s best interests in mind, wanted or not. But her mother’s behavior should be the last thing on Marti’s mind.

Along with a jealous teammate itching for revenge and a potential love triangle secretly forming, the school is threatening to cut the Hellcats due to budget problems. According to cheerleading Coach Vanessa Lodge (Sharon Leal, “Why did I get Married Too?”), the Hellcats are in need of a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, “Hellcats” does not deliver.

Michalka is unrealistic as the alternative “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” character, complete with leather jacket and anti-establishment snarks. As oiled males and scantily clad extras decorate the scenes, Michalka’s attempts at spontaneous dance outbreaks are awkward and leave more than just her fellow cheerleaders wondering what just happened. The result is a curly-mopped Taylor Swift clone doing Michael Jackson in sparkly Converse, strange pelvic thrusting included. Michalka is shadowed by the talent of more physically experienced extras and even more so by the supporting cast.

Salvageable at least are the performances of Matt Barr (“Harper’s Island”) and Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”). Barr plays adorably cocky, yet genuine Dan Patch. With fussy, spiked blond hair and the gaze of an Upper East Side stunner, Dan is one of Marti’s multiple suitors. Pulling double duty as Marti’s best friend, Dan pleads her to stay grounded amid the sparkle and pep. Ultimately, it’s Captain Savannah Monroe who deserves the praise. Played by Tisdale, Savannah is dedicated and perky but not overbearing or disingenuous. Tisdale acts with such sincerity that she begins to evoke a sympathy and respect for cheerleading as a sport by her first scene. Offended by Michalka’s spitting comments when they meet, the Hellcats captain steps up to the plate for a steady 15 seconds. Yet even that moment doesn’t last, as a “goth” versus “cheerleader” dispute erupts and “Hellcats” once again loses steam and relatability.

Many sports fanatics would fight for a year-round football league, but let’s be thankful that “Hellcats” will be forced to pack in its pom-poms in only a couple short months. High in attitude, but low in spirit (and even lower in entertainment value), “Hellcats” shouldn’t expect to take home a trophy any time soon.

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