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'Make It or Break It': Gymnastics show finds nice balance

June 21, 2009 |  4:31 pm

Blessedly, there's no singing in the ABC Family show, just lots of gymnastics and Life Lessons to Be Learned.

I know a new family-friendly show is doing its job if my kids beg me to play the pilot when their friends are over. So ABC Family, if the numbers for Monday's premiere of “Make It or Break It” are not sky high, well, half the kids in my neighborhood have seen it already. Sorry.

The good news is, they really liked it, and so did I.

"Make It or Break It" is a series about gymnasts, and what a relief that is. A combination of beauty and strength, gymnastics is one of the few sports that requires its athletes to compete as a team but also against each other, which makes it a perfect venue for all that teen angst.

More important, it is a blessedly silent break from all that singing -- Fox's satirical "Glee" better end the run of music-based kids shows or I will go smack out of my mind.

Beyond that, "Make It or Break It" is, in some ways, maddeningly familiar: scruffy but cool new kid disrupts streamlined cliquish girl world. In this case, that world revolves around the Rock, where a trio of stars is about to be ranked for state finals. There's top-ranked Payson (Ayla Kell), who's driven but still nice; pretty and romantically distracted Kaylee (Josie Loren) and spoiled rich girl Lauren (Cassie Scerbo), whose father just happens to be the primary financial support of the Rock.

Enter Emily (Chelsea Hobbs), a gangly talent discovered, Lauren notes snootily, on "a playground." She's here on scholarship because, as her clothing makes instantly clear, she's, well, poor. At least in comparison to her McMansioned peers. Emily has a single mother who's a bit of a hottie, can't keep her calendar straight and serves dinner out of cans. There's also a brother in a wheelchair. So, clearly, Emily has been forced to Grow Up Too Soon.

--MARY McNAMARA, Television Critic