Should I Watch Make It or Break It?

Slate's Culture Blog
May 5 2011 2:45 PM

Should I Watch Make It or Break It?

What is it?
Make It or Break It follows the travails of four elite female gymnasts as they work toward their dream of Olympic stardom. Along the way Kaylie, Payson, Lauren, and Emily struggle with problems that beset teens everywhere--boys, betrayals, and embarrassing parents--and some that are strictly for gymnasts: injuries, delayed puberty, and the difficulty of persuading the coach that you can stick a double Arabian dismount.

You'll like it if it you don't think elite is a dirty word.
In a TV landscape packed with sectionals and regionals, Make It or Break It doesn't mess around with local competitions. These girls are going to worlds and, if the show keeps getting renewed, maybe all the way to the Olympics. The show isn't afraid to explore the sacrifices the gymnasts and their families make so they can achieve their dreams.

You won't like it if you're unable to suspend disbelief.
Apparently, ABC Family doesn't have a big budget for special effects. The actresses are all as cute as buttons, but they look nothing like elite gymnasts--they're much too mature. The editors do a decent job of disguising the use of body doubles, but even so the routines are laughably basic for world-class competition.

You'll like it if you enjoy high-school dramas but don't care to look at classrooms.
All four gymnasts--even spoiled rich girl, Lauren--are likable, but they have to deal with a lot of issues. Kaylie is battling an eating disorder and coping with her parents' breakup. The cost of Payson's training forced her father to take a job thousands of miles away from the rest of the family, and, oh yes, she broke her back falling from the uneven bars at the end of Season 1. Lauren is a scheming manipulator, but her mom was an absent drug addict and her father is a rich pushover-yeah, she really doesn't have it too bad. Emily, meanwhile, has faced more problems than the entire castof Glee: poverty, a mother with a love of low-cut blouses, a brother in a wheelchair, a criminal record, a rock-star boyfriend, and teenage pregnancy, just to name a few.

You won't like it if you take the show's moral to heart.
For a show that makes a lot of impassioned speeches about focus and single-mindedness, it sure spends a lot of time pointing the camera at cute boys and forcing the girls to fight over them.

Bottom line:
Make It or Break It is a high-school show about kids who never set foot in a high school, and like most ABC Family shows, it has a mini-obsession with teenage pregnancy and Christian living. Still, the focus on young female athletes who have a chance to be the best in the world through hard work and sacrifice is unusual and sometimes even inspiring.

Previous installments:
Should I Watch RuPaul's Drag Race?

Should I Watch Being Erica?
Should I Watch Harry's Law?

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June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section.