What the F, Paramount+? Not only did you not greenlight a second season of your brand new series Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, but you pulled it off your streaming service entirely – even doing so a week earlier than projected!
In your eyes, this series never existed at all. Yet, you barely gave audiences any time to discover it.
We all know that there are way too many series on way too many streaming services to actually consume. Sometimes it takes a bit for something to catch on. Schitt’s Creek is a perfect example. Until it landed on Netflix, it was just a cute show on some weird network that some people talked about. When its first few seasons began streaming on the popular platform, it suddenly became a cultural phenomenon. Almost overnight.
With ‘Pink Ladies,’ the show initially debuted in April with weekly episodes. After ten weeks, audiences could finally binge (usually the preferable option in this day and age) and fall in love with the show. And we were seeing it happen.
Justin Tranter, the show’s main songwriter, saw his “Crushing Me” – a song about two characters crushing on schoolmates – blow up on Tik-Tok with users utilizing the song to talk about their own secret crushes – many from the LGBTQ+ community.
As a result, more and more people were discovering the show and starting their binge.
Phenomenons can take time, and I was convinced ‘Pink Ladies’ would blow up.
There is a lot that Paramount+’s marketing team could have done to build word of mouth and let people understand exactly what the show was. It wasn’t just a Grease rip-off, cashing in on the musical’s iconic status. It was a fully realized world using familiar locations and characters while exploring storylines that weren’t explored during the time the show takes place. Or even the time when Grease became popular. It faithfully mirrored the style of the 1978 film but also made it its own original thing.
But that’s not the most offensive part of this whole “cancellation” surprise. It’s that Paramount+ – in order to do a write-off – essentially erased the show from existence. And that’s a slap in the face to not only the show’s fans but the creative forces that created the show in the first place.
Many know I’ve been a champion of this show since I first saw it. As a critic, I was able to access the first five episodes before its premiere and found myself bingeing all of them in one night. Not to go too personal, but this show brought me a euphoric sense of joy in a year where I saw my mother pass away and was desperate to find a way to escape the pain of losing her. Along came Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, a show that takes place when my mom was actually in high school! And with that, I was transported to a different time and place with well-drawn characters, a jubilant setting, fantastic musical numbers, and some of the best artisans I’ve seen working on a show in a long time. In my original review, I stated that the entire creative team was “firing on all cylinders,” and I meant it.
Whenever I go back and watch a sequence, I’m stunned (and a bit giddy) at the dedication and fire that the cast has – even the background dancers/actors are highly committed. You can choose any performance on this show (any of the three per episode) and witness artisans putting their all into something they clearly love and respect. From the set design, the costumes, the direction – especially of the musical performances, the choreography, the cast (all of them are superstars), and the songs themselves, there’s a joy emanating from the actors that adds to the infectious quality of the show. You rarely see a show where every aspect of it is barreling forward at 100 percent. And you can also tell it’s done with love.
There are a lot of good shows out there, don’t get me wrong, but there was something about Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies that hit differently. Maybe it’s because of what I was dealing with at the time. Maybe it’s simply because I love a good musical. Perhaps it’s because I love to see actors enjoying the hell out of themselves and giving it everything they’ve got. I don’t know. But we haven’t had a show like this in a long time. Sure, there have been mild comparisons to Glee, but that’s mostly because it takes place in high school and has many talented people leading the cast.
But this goes beyond singing covers of familiar songs. It goes way beyond simply copying a music video shot for shot. This is completely fresh and original and, by all definitions, true art.
And with Paramount+’s cancelation, they essentially said, “Art is worth nothing.” Yes, I get that the entertainment business is, well, a business. But more and more, it has become apparent that many of these streamers are run by people who don’t care about the people creating their entertainment. And that’s a shame. So much hard work went into making this show, and they didn’t even give it six months to catch fire.
Even worse is that the show’s writers tackle many issues that are still relevant. Its focus on POC and LGBTQ+ topics, along with regular ol’ straight people (haha), is to be commended, and that’s not something that should be taken lightly. Seeing these stories is important, and with Paramount+ wiping the show into the ether, they’ve essentially taken those issues and made them disappear.
In a bit of hope, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies is available to be shopped to other networks since Paramount+ has wiped its hands clean of it. Fingers crossed that another streaming service will see the value in this incredible series and know how to market and promote it as it should be.
I feel for the cast and crew of this show, some of whom I’ve interacted with on social media and who have – across the board – been humble, kind, and indulged my constant adoring posts that hopefully don’t make me seem like the creepy obsessive critic, but rather a fun gay uncle!
For now, I have my pink vinyl on its way and can listen to the songs and relive the show in my head whenever I want. If you want to check out performances, those are still up on the Paramount+ YouTube page. But I expect those to disappear any day now, so jump on it fast!
Here’s hoping “Pink Ladies” will rise again and make Paramount+ realize they lost the drag race.