ABC Family’s Brave New Girl is the kind of small-town girl that makes for the kind of story you’d expect from an after-school special.
All the elements are here. There’s the blond-haired, blue-eyed Holly (Lindsey Haun, Get to the Heart: The Barbara Mandrell Story), the heroine who has to overcome humble roots to make it in a snobby, big-city music school. Her adversary is practically perfect in every way. And there’s the supporting cast of an overdosing roommate; the blonde, blue-eyed good-guy boyfriend at home; and the dark, mysterious guy with a touch of danger. Oh, and did I mention her blonde, single, well-meaning, “best-friend” mother (Virginia Madsen, Dune, The Rainmaker), who embarrasses her daughter?
The story is based on the book A Mother’s Gift by pop superstar Britney Spears and her mother Lynne Spears, who serve as executive producers. Holly, not surprisingly a Britney clone, is a high-school grad stuck in a small Texas town who dreams of attending a prestigious music school. Her mother secretly tapes her singing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” outside the fast-food joint where Holly works and sends it to the school.
The school’s review board is about to pass on her, but one professor — who, keep in mind, instructs classically trained students every day — hears something he likes in her voice. She is, of course, awarded a partial scholarship to attend the Haverty Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Then it is off to the school in Philadelphia, where she meets Grant (Nick Roth), the dark-haired musical genius and object of every girl’s attention. He is immediately smitten with Holly. Next she instantly befriends her quirky new roommate, appropriately nicknamed “Ditz” (Jackie Rosenbaum). And finally she encounters her antagonist, the stuck-up musical prodigy Angela (Barbara Mamabolo) — who happens to be African-American.
Upon arrival at Haverty, her Texas twang, lack of classical training, and nonexistent knowledge of music theory are sources of embarrassment. But she manages to overcome all of this in less than a semester to prepare a flawless performance for the school’s recital. She also prepares a surprise for the judges.
From its pop-infused soundtrack — oh yes, it does showcase Britney’s latest song — to its oversimplified character development, Brave New Girl disappoints. But ABC Family’s biggest error is the decision to have the only African-American cast member portray the antagonist. Mamabolo may not be portraying an over-the-top villain, but making her the bad guy in a cast full of fair-skinned blondes does raise eyebrows.
Brave New Girl premieres Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.