“#The Big Leap Season 1 Episode 1 Review: I Want You Back”
To borrow a bit from Scott Foley’s Nick, you’re going to fall in love with The Big Leap, and I’m confident this series won’t break our hearts.
If anything, it’s just what our hearts and souls need, and that sentiment of what this series can offer as we emerge from bleak times is unmistakable throughout The Big Leap Season 1 Episode 1.
But I’ll do you want better. You’re going to fall in love with Simone Recasner, too, assuming you haven’t already mere minutes into this series. If the pilot hasn’t confirmed anything else, it’s that she’s a gosh damn star.
The series has shades of Glee meets UnReal with a So You Think You Can Dance edge contributed to the inspiration of a British reality series. And the truth is, I don’t know what to make or do with any of that, but I will say that it’s nothing short of charming, delightful, and refreshing.
The Big Leap bolsters an impressively star-studded cast with lovable vets like Foley, Polo, Daniels, and Perabo. And yet, this story belongs to Recasner, a newcomer, who indeed draws you in within seconds as single-mom, Gabby.
She’s your everyday woman with big dreams that got realistically derailed by life. She’s as relatable as it gets for a protagonist, but then the same is true all of the characters as this reality series they’re embarking on will shake up their lives in good ways and bad.
For Gabby and Justin (and I’ll spare you the Justin and Kelly American Idol jokes), their stories are familiar and quintessential for young millennials. The world was their oyster in high school when everything ahead of them looked promising, but then life came at them fast.
And suddenly, it’s seven years later, and neither of them pursued their dreams at NYU, and they’re working menial jobs, making ends meet, and wondering how they ended up there and if the rest of their lives will be like this.
The post-pandemic times add another layer of turbulence and uncertainty as it has left everyone of all ages, races, and backgrounds trying to find their footing after global upheaval.
Gabby: What happened with you?
Justin: I came out to my dad, he kicked me out, he said he wouldn’t help me with college. We haven’t spoken since. Which you’d know if you just called me back.
Gabby: I’m sorry, OK? I was pregnant and scared, and ashamed and depressed, and I couldn’t be anybody’s friend. But I’m here now.
In this series, it’s pandemic acknowledgment done right without dwelling on the doom but rather the lingering effects as we gather up the pieces and carry on.
For the first half-hour, much of the story hinged on the reconnection of Gabby and Justin. Their friendship is enough to give you warm fuzzies, and the trajectory of it is already captivating.
One can’t help but feel eager to delve deeper into that bond and Justin as an individual as the season progresses in hopes of filling in some of the blanks from the last seven years as Justin and Gabby settle into their friendship again in the present.
Reconnecting was as easy as breathing for them with the help of an apology and some fantastic dancing, but seven years is a long time, people change, and a lot is unknown.
These two have a lot to unpack with one another as they start a new chapter in their friendship.
And it’ll be a hell of a starting point when both of them are about to get catapulted to national fame, thrust into the public eye via a reality series that will likely have all sorts of skeletons coming out of the closet, pun not intended.
But if the first half-hour of the series firmly established the pivotal friendship between Gabby and Justin, then the second half delivered on the potential romantic dynamic between Gabby and Reggie.
And goodness, the chemistry is there.
Do you guys really need me to wax poetic about how gratifying, refreshing, and necessary it is to see a beautiful, talented, curvy, multiracial woman who is more than her size or naturally curly hair, kill it in dance routines, lead a network series, and have sizzling, sexy chemistry with a hot football player?
I can write paragraphs about how this is still unprecedented, why this representation (and the overall diversity of this series in general) is so meaningful, and how much this alone adds to the show’s appeal. But all of that should go without saying, and there’s still much more to discuss.
The Big Leap has already struck gold with the chemistry between Gabby and Reggie. So much so that I can forgive the hour for the sheer ridiculousness of Gabby’s first shot at the show getting thwarted by stripper dust.
It made zero sense that no one cleaned up the floor between routines, let alone that only Gabby got punished for slipping on it. One good threat of a lawsuit should’ve rectified that easily.
Nick: I like her coming down here and asking for another shot. That’s plucky as hell, and look at her! The hair, those freckles, I’m drawn in, and I don’t know whether she’s Black or White or what! You know what she looks like to me? She looks like America. And America needs a win!
Gabby: She really does.
Because without that unfortunate mishap, Gabby wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show how “plucky” she is and teach a stubborn hot mess of a pro-football player how to move. And we would not have been blessed with their magic.
It’s evident already that Gabby represents the rare person who can not only call Reggie out and he listens, but someone who sees beyond the NFL player’s bad-boy persona.
Of course, he’s catnip for a reality series. He’s someone trending for bad behavior for a collection of things that put him in the path of cancel culture after his drunken, naked antics and a misinterpreted statement about his appreciation for Michelle Obama’s ass.
Any fan of reality television has seen this move out of the playbook a dozen times before. Hell, you need only look at the recent list of DWTS contestants to know that it’s the celebrity pathway toward reforming their image, putting themselves back in the good graces of the public eye, or as a launching point for something else.
Gabby: It is a slippery slope from commenting on our bodies to wanting to own them. Gender terrorism. Reggie: You really believe that?
Gabby: Sometimes. And then other times I just want to look pretty.
Reggie: You are pretty.
Reggie is a smart addition to their series, but much of that is intertwined with Gabby herself.
She’ll be the Reggie wrangler without even realizing it. Nick’s right — love and heartbreak are in the equation for these two, but I’m not sure it’ll be quite as he predicts.
When one-on-one, the banter between Gabby and Reggie is delicious, and he’s a consummate flirt. But despite some of her snap judgments about him, you can see that he genuinely seems to like her. And he’s not one to cosign her moments of insecurity or self-deprecation when it comes to her weight.
In that sense, you quickly get a feel for what Reggie can offer to Gabby as a talented, confident woman who is still trying to stop internalizing all the negative weight microaggressions that she experiences from jackasses in parking lots, her loving mother, or society at large.
Reggie was able to walk away when he was getting criticized. However, he didn’t snap, displaying a startling lack of self-control until those idiots mentioned Gabby’s weight, as he already picked up it was something that prods at her vulnerability.
And his insistence that they do the lift in rehearsal and during the audition made you smile. Gabby needs that. Reggie quickly picked up that she’s a star, and he’s damn sure going to make sure she gets to be one.
So in that sense, the love that will come between those two won’t be one-sided, and something tells me Reggie is in danger of being heartbroken just as much as Gabby here.
But those two won’t be the only ones with a juicy love story. Mike and Paula had instant chemistry too, and given that Mike’s story is about how depressed he is, it was great to see him smile.
Nick: Jessica, let me see your notes. I want you to find out everything you can about her, family, socioeconomics, who’s the father of her kid?
Jessica: She didn’t want to say.
Nick: It means there’s something there. Can you figure it out?
Wayne: Why are we doing this?
Nick: Because she’s our story.
Monica: How is she the story?
Nick: She’s going to fall in love with him. And he’s going to break her heart.
It’s too early for him to notice how much happier and lighter he is when he’s interacting with Paula, a reprieve from his life of revolving door odd jobs after pandemic layoffs at his factory and the dissolution of his marriage to Paige.
The show does an incredible job at incorporating humor even when, on the surface, some of the subject matter could tip toward the dark. Mike’s a perfect example of that as he’s a seemingly likable, funny buffoon, but in actuality, he’s deep in the throes of depression, and his friends and wife couldn’t help him crawl out.
You can sympathize with Mike and how everything in his life fell apart, and he’s not coping well with it. You even understand his drive to get his wife back, but then when Paige gets her moment to share why she left him, well, it’s understandable.
Depression is hard on both the person battling it and their loved ones. And while there always should be space for sympathizing and understanding someone’s battle, there also needs to be a similar grace extended to their loved ones in the thick of it with them.
Stop saying I got fired. It’s not accurate. The auto industry shipped my job to Mexico, and there was a global pandemic. From a bat! A bat killed all of our grandparents! How is that my fault?
Mike can’t climb out of this hole that he’s in, and it makes him someone you root for, but Paige’s account that he drinks too much and is mean and not the man she married is valid. And despite her date with poor Patrick, she left an open invitation for rekindling things with Mike.
She doesn’t want to kick him to the curb; she wants him to get help, and that’s something he has to be willing to do on his own. Even now, all of this is about him getting Paige back, but he’s not contemplating what he needs to improve himself.
He’s treating getting Paige back as the mission instead of finding himself and his happiness again. The Big Leap could be the first step in Mike getting the help he needs when he recognizes it.
But there is a love triangle brewing between him, Paige, and Paula. The two of them connect well, and she brings light into his life.
Paula’s approach to life has changed since her fight with cancer, and she has the type of attitude that will be good for someone like Mike. Of course, the drama that will ensue when Mike learns the truth about her will be heartachingly delicious.
In Mike’s mind, his issues stem from losing his job, and Paula is the reason he’s unemployed right now. Sure, she left a career that made other people’s lives hell because of how toxic it was, but it doesn’t change that she’ll be facing her sins through Mike.
Everyone has something at stake here with this competition, and they also have things to lose as much as to gain.
Julia, a former ballerina turned aging mommy influencer, could gain the followers and sponsors she needs to maintain her blog. However, she could also lose her marriage during this competition.
Like Mike, her marriage is complex too. Julia’s hangup on age makes her prime for insecurity when her husband doesn’t express any desire in her anymore.
Julia overlooks the impact of her Influencer gig. She publicizes all the facets of her life and family to the world. Kevin’s anger over his wife broadcasting everything rather than living their lives for them is reasonable.
And he’s turned off by it, so he finds release and gratification in porn and strip clubs.
Instead of talking to Kevin about it, Julia doubled down on pursuing the show for herself, of course, but also to boost her follower count. It’s a way to reclaim some of the youth she feels as if she’s clinging to, and it’s bound to strain her marriage.
So she fired him, he has no idea, and now they’re cutely flirting and dancing on a fire escape? Why are we not filming this?!
Julia is a character who could be an acquired taste, but Teri Polo is always magnificent, and it’s so good to have her on another series!
Of course, the same goes for Scott Foley, a TV Fanatic favorite.
Somehow, Nick manages to be relentless in his pursuit of the perfect reality series that will garner all the ratings without coming across as an antagonist. It’s a rough balance, and he possibly could fall one way or the other as the series progresses, but for now, it works.
He hates his new location in Detroit, and he’s coping with an ugly custody battle with his ex-wife over his son Henry. She wants to relocate to London and cites his heavy work schedule for why she should be allowed to do so, but Nick can’t afford to be without his son.
The show within a show concept isn’t unique. In this instance, it does feel reminiscent of UnReal, particularly with the behind-the-scenes manipulations that could ruin the contestants’ lives for the sake of record-breaking ratings.
Nick doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but he’s not above exploiting what he needs for the sake of the show, even if it makes him feel bad.
And this comes in conflict with purist Wayne who believes in the show’s message of second chances and appreciation for the art, and Monica, who takes dance seriously and isn’t fond of the mockery Nick is making of it.
And Nick has plenty of juicy things to exploit on the series. For example, the impending revelation of how Paula and Mike are connected could implode the show and make for great ratings.
Nick’s pushing a love story narrative between Reggie and Gabby — it’s a goldmine in ratings no matter the effects on them. And Nick is right about there being a story to Sam’s father. Gabby has kept it under wraps for a reason, and it’ll likely be destructive when the truth comes out.
You don’t want to do this show. All these people are going to have their lives turned upside down. We’re going to look for dirt, and I’m going to exploit it, and I’ll feel bad but not too bad.
Sex worker Raven’s involvement in the show can cause issues with Julia if she discovers Kevin watches Raven at the club. Nick will probably dig into Justin’s relationship with his estranged father, and we haven’t even unpacked what’s going on with the twincest twins.
Nick wants to bring the best story he can to his reality series, and The Big Leap sure as hell intends to deliver with this show if the premiere was any indication.
Are you ready to dive into this journey?
Watercooler Gossip and Bits:
- Gabby and Justin’s bowling alley routine set to “Beggin” was glorious! I loved every single second of it. It was the best performance of the night, and Raymond Cham Jr is so dynamic.
- There were so many hilarious lines during this hour. Mike’s rampage about bats killing our grandparents was dark but funny. Also, Nick’s hand sanitizer commentary was top-notch.
- I, too, am invested in Spider-Man and the Meter Maid.
- Shoutout to the young tech guys who had hysterical commentary about porn and cheating while helping Julia.
- Gabby’s giggling over Reggie’s touches because she hasn’t been touched by a man in some time was absolutely precious.
- It got a little dusty in the room when Reggie lifted Gabby. It was A Moment™.
- Who else is all aboard this ‘ship?
- Monica as the stoic and glib judge, is perfection.
Over to you, Big Leap Fanatics.
Gabby: Sorry, a pandemic, I haven’t been touched by a man in like a year.
Reggie: You good?
Gabby: Mmhmm. Yes. Yes. Here we go. I’m sorry, it’s actually been um, much longer than a year.
Will you be taking a leap with us and tuning into this series? What’s your first impression of it? Are you sold on Gabby and Reggie’s chemistry?
Which reveal are you eager to see first? Hit the comments below, and let’s discuss! I’m excited to talk all things Big Leap with you!
You can watch The Big Leap online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.
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