Before this week, ABC’s “Revenge” was not even a blip on my radar. I’m not really a “prime-time soap” person, well, except for “True Blood” and “The OC” in its heyday and “Dawson’s Cre-OKAY FINE, shut up. Anyway, the point is, any and all comparisons to “Dynasty” or “Dallas” or “Gossip Girl” did nothing to intrigue me. Neither did the basic premise: “Centers on a young woman who is welcomed into a community filled with people who don’t know she’s only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family.” Then the show debuted this week and everyone liked it. No, everyone loved it. Everyone who watched it that is. Did you watch it? I’m here to convince you you should. The main reason, of course, is Madeline Stowe who is, yes, fine, twenty years older than that header photo. But, I don’t know, you guys, apparently she’s been drinking her daily unicorn blood and sacrificing nubile virgins left and right because, damn, the booty don’t stop.
Stowe’s enduring hotness aside, she is a phenomenal actress with a proven track record and a great choice to anchor the show. Oh, make no mistake, the sweet and lovely Emily VanCamp (“Everwood,” “Brothers and Sisters,” always makes me think of Fish Sticks) may be the lead, but Stowe is the anchor. With the exception of Gabriel Mann’s flamboyant Nolan Ross, the rest of the cast is littered with, thus far, rather forgettably attractive stock characters. But Mann (an actor I’ve liked for years and always wanted to see more of), is making some weird and eccentric acting choices. If he had been sporting a mustache, I have no doubt he would have twirled it. The show opens with a gunshot and then flashes back five months. Presumably the rest of the season will spin out the events leading up to the murder, dropping a series of delicious red herrings along the shore of the Hamptons for us to gobble up along the way.
Let’s go back to the “prime-time” soap thing, shall we? I really cannot stress how much this did not seem like one to me. The pretty young Emily VanCamp (playing Amanda/Emily Thorne) may look like Hamptons Barbie, but she’s got the technological savvy of Veronica Mars, an unexpectedly violent streak and has studied at the Sydney Bristow School Of Quick Changes And Wig Smuggling. I mentioned “Veronica Mars” and, with apologies, I’m sticking with that comparison. Imagine Veronica without Keith Mars to keep her on the straight and narrow. Now imagine she were let loose on the people who had ruined her father. Yeah, it’s good stuff. The dialogue is, unfortunately not even remotely Marsian. How Gabriel Mann delivered, “Wow those guys put the suck in seersucker” with a straight face, I will never know. But the plot (at least in the pilot) is tight and the obligatory exposition and the double-layered flashbacks were handled rather briskly and deftly. In fact, the pilot reminded me a lot of “Damages.” No, seriously, the mystery, the flashbacks and the battle of wills between a strong, ruthless older woman (Stowe) and a deceptively demure younger one (Fish Sticks) all call to mind one of the most brilliant first seasons in recent television history. But that’s the thing. That’s why I’m urging you to watch now. High concept shows like “Veronica Mars” and “Damages,” shows that center around a murder and a mystery, are usually only GREAT for a season or two. You can’t sustain that kind of tension. It dilutes over time.
For all of you out there rolling your eyes at yet another show about the privileged class enjoying their privileges, I think you’ve got it all wrong. Unlike “The OC,” “Gossip Girl” or “90210,” you’re not supposed to admire the shiny, unhappy people and their wonderful toys. You’re rooting for their downfall. It’s no different than watching period soaps like “The Tudors” or “Game of Thro-Oh, put down the rocks, I’ll stop now.
As we’ve mentioned several times this week. It’s impossible to judge a show based on its pilot. And it’s not really fair of me to constantly compare “Revenge” to superior shows. I just want you to know that I see potential. So, as autumn is upon us, why not spend a murderous summer in the Hamptons with a lot of pretty people? But do it now. Because winter and other wronged daughters are coming.
For the more visually inclined, here are nine additional reasons to watch:
The gay kid from “Gossip Girl” goes overboard with the macho posturing and “yous guys” accent to make sure we remember that, in this show, he’s straight.
Madeline Stowe’s Bitchface.
He’s not kidding with those pants.
Or that hat. He’s really very serious about that hat.
Did I mention Madeleine Stowe’s Bitchface? And her increasingly tight dresses?
Fish Sticks eyeballing that fountain and calculating how many icy shivs she could make. You know. For the stabbing.
The part where they put Fish Sticks in a dark wig and hoodie for that Lisbeth Salander/Nikita vibe.
Hunh, that chick in front looks like she forgot her dress.
And, finally, and in conclusion, to sum up, I beg of you, take a a gander at that Bitchface.
(Next week, Sarah Carlson will provide a full review of “Revenge.”)