The first premiere of the 2010-2011 broadcast television season comes tonight on our sister station, Palm Springs’ CW 5, with “Hellcats,” a drama starring Aly Michalka as a pre-law student forced to join her college’s competitive cheerleading squad after losing her scholarship.
“Hellcats” includes elements reminiscent of the current Fox Broadcasting hit “Glee” and “The Paper Chase” the 1978-79 CBS adaptation of the 1973 film about first-year law students.
While each episode of “Hellcats” will include a dance routine, the series also will deal with the life of Michalka’s character as an undergraduate student at the fictional Memphis-based Lancer College.
One story line will have her assist a law professor (Gale Harold) trying to free an inmate serving a life sentence under a three strikes law, according to executive producer Kevin Murphy.
Murphy likened “Hellcats” to such late-1970s and 1980s films as “Breaking Away,” “Flashdance” and “Vision Quest,” with “characters who are in difficult circumstances, often economic circumstances, who kind of come together, and they form these relationships that happen in sports teams where sort of a de facto family is found.”
Inspired by the 2009 book, “Cheer: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders,” “Hellcats” was an underdog to make the schedule, according to Dawn Ostroff, the president of The CW’s entertainment division.
“It was a script that we developed, having no real sense of what it would be in the end,” Ostroff said earlier this summer at The CW’s portion of the Television Critics Association fall press tour.
“When we read it, we really all were so surprised that we liked it as much as we did because it had characters that had some depth to them.
“We liked the idea that the main character was really struggling to be able to stay in school, had a real drive to become a lawyer, was doing this as a way of keeping a scholarship.
“The fact that it had big production numbers in every episode — people loved watching the cheering and the dancing — we think it could really work of us after `America’s Next Top Model.”‘
One factor helping “Hellcats” make the schedule was another of its executive producers, Tom Welling, stars as Clark Kent on The CW series “Smallville.”
“When this project started coming together, we knew that this was going to be a perfect fit for The CW and I know that there were some relationships that I had at The CW who, if it wasn’t for “Smallville,” I would not have had, so I was able to go to them and speak to them very easily,” Welling said.
Michalka, who was born in Torrance, has a measure of fame among the young female audience The CW targets through her singing duo with her sister AJ formerly known as Aly & AJ and role in the Disney Channel series “Phil of the Future.”
However, the best-known cast member is Ashley Tisdale from Disney’s “High School Musical” movie series. On “Hellcats,” she portrays the peppy captain of the cheerleading team whose catch phrase is “Positive outcomes only.”
“I think it was a cool coincidence that we both just happened to come from a musical background and the Disney world,” Michalka said. “That was not some genius person’s idea (that) we are going to case these two girls that have been in this area before.
“I think it was just something where we happened to be right for these roles and we happened to fight for these roles really hard.”