It must be amazingly easy to get a show or movie based on cheerleaders made: hot teens in skimpy outfits dancin' and shakin' it. Add in two teen/'tween stars and you have Hellcats, the new cheerleading show on the CW. And it's not bad.

Marti (Alyson Michalka, of the 'tween band Aly and AJ) is a pre-law student at Lancer University in Memphis, a big football school. She and her cool friend Dan (Matt Barr) look down on cheerleaders ("football groupies"). Marti even gets in a near-fight with cheerleader Savannah (Ashley Tisdale, of the High School Musical movies and Phineas and Ferb), who's extremely proud of and focused on being a cheerleader: "We bench press twice our body weight and run a seven-minute mile." When Marti loses her law scholarship, she has to turn to "unconventional scholarships" -- and wouldn't you know it, there's a scholarship for cheerleading with the Hellcats, the football team's cheerleaders!

Of course, this wouldn't be a teen show without both drama and big stakes. Marti needs to both stay in the squad or get kicked out of college, plus her cheerleader partner Lewis (Robbie Jones) flirts with her. Cheerleader Alice (Heather Hemmens), whose injury opened the door to Marti joining the Hellcats, is the bitchy enemy out to sabotage Marti -- and the team, if necessary. Marti's mom Wanda (Gail O'Grady) is an embarrassment to her daughter. And Coach Vanessa (Sharon Leal) is told that the Hellcats have to qualify for the Nationals or they won't be competing anymore -- plus her old boyfriend Red Raymond (Jeff Hephner) may be the new football coach.

Hellcats essentially reverses the formula of Bring It On (which Marti watched to prepare for tryouts), with the outsider who comes around as the star and the die-hard believer as the supporting cast. There's lots of techno and club music for the routines (which will probably be on a soundtrack album if the show takes off) and plenty of highly energetic choreographed routines. This show also has two nice teen leads. Alyson Michalka strikes a nice balance as the somewhat cool, somewhat cynical student who has to do what she once mocked -- and may like it. Ashley Tisdale may have the more perky, wholesome character, but she also gets some attitude ("You can make up for your appalling rudeness with hard word and perseverance") and is a nice foil/friend to Alyson's character. The rest of the cast is the CW's typical world of young and beautiful people.

Hellcats may be fluff, but it's enjoyable fluff. This isn't must-see television but it's a diverting little show with two good leads. Plus, y'know, hot stars in cheerleading outfits doing elaborate routines.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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