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TV Review: Revenge
A young woman from The Hamptons sees her father wrongly imprisoned. She waits a decade or so, gives herself a new name, dyes her hair and moves back to the posh neighbourhood in a bid to get even with all the aristos who screwed him over. This is what would happen if The OC and Desperate Housewives had kids.
Apart from all the good-loooking people (of which there are many) Madeliene Stowe is the best thing about this pilot. Her character is a scary and ruthless she-wolf who crushes opposition. We smell a showdown..
Where's the comedy? One of Desperate Housewives' many strengths was the way it released the pressure on a dark storyline by throwing a us a few comedy curve balls. Maybe this will come as the series develops?
As you might expect from a TV series which opens with a quote from noted Chinese bookworm Confucius, Revenge takes itself pretty seriously.
Maybe ABC haven't noticed that their hit show occasionally veers perilously close to being a trashy soap, but a touch of originality and a cracking villain make up for the absence of irony, turning a potential yacht-crash into a promising debut. Plus, it's all about sexy rich snobs getting their comeuppance - what more could we ugly poverty-stricken Brits ask for?
"Since The OC, shows like this seem destined to be played out in sun-drenched upper class Beach-burbs"
The central theme is refreshingly simple. After her father was framed and sent down for being a terrorist (surely there are easier ways of setting people up?) Amanda Clarke returns to the uber-posh community she left as a child, armed with a fresh identity (Emily Thorne - for as American glam-metal act Poison foretold, "every rose has it's thorn" - We so get symbolism..) a new hair colour and a burning desire to exact revenge upon everyone who contributed to her deceased father's demise.
As luck would have it, none of her enemies have bothered leaving The Hamptons and apparently we'll be seeing her pay them back one by one in the weeks to come.
The whole 'revenge procedural' schtick is a fresh premise, yet the locale is predictable. Since The OC, shows like this seem destined to be played out in sun-drenched upper class Beach-burbs.
Anyway, chief among the aforementioned antagonists is Victoria Grayson, an overbearing and manipulative social tyrant played wonderfully by Madeleine Stowe. Her shark-eyed passive malice is one of the best things about this debut, but her ambiguous role in the incarceration of Emily's old man opens a satisfying web of deceit which bodes well for the series.
It's clear that these two iron-willed ladies will collide spectacularly before long (they're already eye-balling each
"It's not difficult to see why the show won the 'Best Guilty Pleasure' category of this year's TV.com Awards"
other like randy teenagers) but just now Miss Thorne is cleverly using her would-be nemesis to do her dirty work for her.
Emily VanCamp just about manages to hold her own as the double-edged lead, but she's been lumbered with an unenviable task because her character reveals nothing of herself. Indeed if it wasn't for a series of heavily-drawn flashbacks, we wouldn't know anything about her.
Presumably we'll see her grow in due course and she did show some range by batting her eyelids at her two suitors (as per tradition, a rich lad and poor lad) before coldly feeding Lydia to Victoria.
If this all sounds slightly familiar then that might be because Revenge was snapped up to fill the approaching Desperate Housewives-shaped hole in E4's schedule. The two shows certainly aren't dissimilar. We've got hell-bent women jostling on the social ladder, twists galore and American upper-class types having their dark pasts revealed, but the one thing that Revenge is missing is black comedy, which might offset the sinister undertones nicely as the series develops.
Either way, it's not difficult to see why the show romped to victory in the 'Best Guilty Pleasure' category of this year's TV.com Awards over in America. It's an honour that looks well-deserved.
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