I didn’t really care for the new ABC Family sitcom, “10 Things I Hate About You,” but then again, I’m not the target audience. Although, if I were the target audience and could put aside my feelings about the decision to remake one of the few classic high-school teen comedies of the 90s (and the one that helped to launch Heath Ledger’s career), I don’t think I would’ve hated it. In fact, if you’re a demographic relativist who decided to watch “10 Things I Hate About You,” back-to-back with a new episode of Bravo’s “NYC Prep,” you’d probably laud the former as the best thing to happen to teenagers on television since Topanga, but that’s only because “NYC Prep” is one of the most agonizingly insipid, painfully narcissistic reality shows I’ve ever seen. I would take the Lindsay Shaw’s Kat facsimile from “10 Things I Hate About You” (and honestly, she’s nearly as good as Julie Stiles was) over any of the half-brained, spoiled nitwits on “NYC Prep” any day of the week and twice next Thursday.
Those familiar with the premise for the movie (which itself was based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew) will already be familiar with the setup for “10 Things.” New to the school, Kat is a self-assured loner who eschews popularity in favor of her own surliness, while her sister, Bianca, is all about rising the ranks of the high-school hierarchy, which means befriending the vaingloriously Heathered head cheerleader, Chastity (Dana Davis), and being her bitch in order to get her foot into the popularity door. This means tagging along like a wounded puppy and accepting put downs with a grimaced smile. And then, of course, there’s Patrick Verona (played here by Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory), who’s role in the pilot is minimal and largely introductory. He rides a motorcycle, which is synonymous smoldering bad-assitude.
There’s also a Ducky, Cameron James (Nicholas Braun), who is immediately smitten with Bianca, so thus enrolls his Wyatt Donnelly to help him throw a party, pulling out a gimmick as old as Tony Dow. Larry Miller, the only returning cast member of the movie, once again plays the overly strict father who won’t allow Bianca to date until Kat does. His lines aren’t nearly as good, but Larry Miller is still one of the better television character actors around.
Still, it’s bland and watered down for the ABC Family network, but “10 Things” isn’t painful or particularly offensive to the teen comedy genre. It borrows a little too heavily from archaic high-school conventions (the head cheerleader, the captain of the football team), but there’s an occasionally spicy pop-culture reference to something the target demographic has probably never heard of. And while I should lament the fact that it’s apparent each episode ends with a touchy feel-good lesson in morality, it’s actually a little refreshing to see a little of that old “Full House” magic infused into a 2009 show.
Compare that to “NYC Prep,” a reality show about a group of self-absorbed, wealthy Manhattan prep students who shop, hang out in spas, go to therapy, and chat idly about absolutely fucking nothing when they’re not having casual sex. “NYC Prep” is the kind of show that makes you happy that stoner bullies exists in public high schools — they even the playing field a little. Trying showing up in a public high school with a pink shirt, a popped collar, and a Leif Garrett hairdo and see if you don’t get your gleaming white teeth shoved back down into the back of your throat. That’s precisely what the teenagers of “NYC Prep” deserve. A nice ass kicking. Holy shit: What kind of 16-year-old monsters go on dates to fine dining establishments and order, in French, goat-cheese salads with the dressing on the side? These fuckers are all Patrick Batemans in the making. We’d all be doing a fine service to humanity if we dropped a dump truck of concrete blocks on the entire cast.
I’d like to offer a substantive review of “NYC Prep,” but I couldn’t get past the bullshit. I had the same visceral reaction to these kids that I have to hipster douchebags (L.A. version): Every ounce of my Arkansas shitkicker boiled over. What kind of dickbag 17-year-old unbottons his top two buttons? A dickbag named PC, that’s who. Has 1983 made a comeback? And the Hah-vard accents! They apparently still exist in Manhattan! “The upper East side is such a bubble,” one of the students complains in a douchester bar. “But you’re so different than that. I don’t even know why you’d associate with that. The cliche upper east-side stereotype.” I haven’t heard this much moneyed pretension since Randolph and Mortimer. In fact, 23 minutes was all I could bear before turning off the television before I reached through the screen and throttled every little bitch-ass punk on that show. I can only listen to rich motherfuckers in high school complain about being rich motherfuckers in high school for so long.