ABC‘s Revenge feels like something that was initially developed for ABC Family more than anything else. Even among shows like Desperate Housewives, it seems like it would be more at home alongside Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But, I probably don’t mean what you think I mean by saying that.
The show follows Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp), and her integration into society among the elite of the Hamptons. She’s fabulously wealthy, attractive, and filled to bursting with charm. Nevertheless, the in-crowd of this social circle is not exactly something you can walk right into, no matter what you’re obvious qualifications.
Of course, things aren’t going to be that simplistic, not least because we need some referent for the show’s title. It turns out that Emily is actually the daughter of a man that this particular group of rich people ruined many years ago, and Emily is finally ready to make her play at taking them all down.
For a fantastic effort at laying out all the twists and turns, see the below official copy.
As I mentioned, the show plays out like some cousin of Pretty Little Liars (or much ABC Family fare) that we decided to throw a lot more money at, but I actually mean that in a good way. I’m actually a pretty big fan of many of these shows, and largely because they have the right sensibilities behind them. They’re really pretty screwy efforts, and they face that fact. Their aim is to put together some watchable entertainment that many may call “guilty pleasure,” but are at least, “pleasure.” While shows like Desperate Housewives and even Grey’s Anatomy (now that it has gone completely loopy – I’ll let you decide when that happened), have their fans, something about their too serious presentation of events of questionable rationale makes them hard for many to sit through.
The general are of Revenge may make for a similar response for some viewers, but not as many. After the first two episodes, I consider it a fairly real recommendation to say that the show is basically all those shows you already know that are far on the side of drama, and far on the side of appealing to women, only it doesn’t suck. Make of that what you will, but it’s as clear an explanation as I can think of to immediately let you know what you’re in store for when you tune in.
On the other hand, I must confess that if you are a huge fan of all those other shows, I have no idea what your response will be.
Clearly built around the appeal of such shows, with (much as I doubt they want me to say it) a smattering of soap opera thrown in for good measure, the key focus still manages to spin things around just enough to make for something that is hard to properly classify. Not only revenge, but a kind of young twenty-something revenge against those who destroyed her father, which is rather different than most “straight-forward” ideas of revenge. Wondering what her plan is, how she could possibly manage something that counts as “real” revenge, and how she’s going to orchestrate her machinations given that she is so prominently on display, are just a few of the elements that pull you into this one, even if you can hardly imagine the possibility.
The acting is perhaps not the best you’ll ever see on television, but it’s a lot better than you may expect, and frankly, it isn’t that sort of show. As possibly the perfect example, Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) comes across as only slightly believable as the internet (or something) tycoon who has some serious connections to Emily’s past. He’s smarmy and borderline insufferable, as perhaps the “dot com new money” are supposed to be, but he’s also quite interested in the idea that someone seems interested in taking people around him down. Whether it’s simply acting that isn’t great, or great acting because it’s tricky to look like you aren’t acting well, it’s where the acting is meant to be here. Nolan is hard to get behind, because you aren’t supposed to, and because the drama we’re after here is looking for stereotypes, not characters. Again, make of that what you will.
Filled to bursting with that other guy from that show you like (and Madeleine Stowe), there’s someone to make a quick connection with for just about every viewer. That is, in some bizarre sense, also the kind of show this is. It’s nonsense really, but it’s fun, watchable nonsense, and, “Hey, that’s so-and-so,” is as much reason to tune in as anything.
If this all seems confusing as a recommendation, guess what, it’s that kind of show too. It has a lot of things going for it in terms of keeping your interest, even the fact that it apparently has a built-in shelf life (where to go once the revenge is exacted?), and that’s more than you can say for most anything that will come to mind as being in a similar genre. It’s fun, and it pulls you along to the next episode, which is all anyone ought to be after here.
Official Website: http://abc.go.com/shows/revenge
**NEW Website: http://whatisrevenge.com
Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson
Emily Van Camp as Emily Thorne
Gabriel Mann as Nolan Ross
Henry Czerny as Conrad Grayson
Ashley Madekwe as Ashley Davenport
Nick Wechsler as Jack Porter
Josh Bowman as Daniel Grayson
Christa B. Allen as Charlotte Grayson
Connor Paolo as Declan Porter
Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) is the newest arrival in the Hamptons this summer. By all appearances, she’s a friendly and sophisticated “girl next door,” whose disarming charm and generosity allow her seamless access to the restricted circles of Hamptons high society. But the affluent, exclusive world she’s immersed herself in is tied to a dark family history, and Emily Thorne is anything but what she seems. When Emily was just nine, her father was framed for a horrific crime by neighbors he trusted, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Emily never saw her father again and spent her childhood consumed by rage, loss and betrayal. 17 years later, she has returned under an assumed identity with one endgame – REVENGE — every social overture a carefully planned chip at the foundation of her sworn enemies, until their lives come crashing down around them. Emily’s goal is unwavering, and her sharp mind is always five steps ahead. But when her past begins to catch up, her true heart may get caught in the crossfire.
Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) is the glamorous, powerful matriarch of the Grayson family and reigning Queen of the Hamptons social scene who holds a much darker secret — her culpability in the events that destroyed Emily’s life. Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) is head of the Grayson family, a shrewd and successful tycoon who operates with questionable moral integrity and is willing to do whatever it takes to slither out of potentially scandalous situations.
Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman) is Victoria and Conrad’s son, who finds himself unable to resist Emily, unaware that he is the entrée she’s counting on to bring down the family that’s invested so much in him. Charlotte Grayson (Christa B. Allen), the daughter of the Grayson clan, fits right in with the “mean girls” of the Hamptons, but she has a curiosity streak that draws her to boys from “the wrong side of the tracks.” In public Nolan Ross (Gabrielle Mann) may be unfamiliar with Emily, but the truth is he shares a link to her past, her present, and her secret.
Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler) is the son of a dock worker, who’s spent his life helping his father manage the Stowaway Tavern. He’s always had aspirations of escape, but dedication to his hard luck family has conspired to keep him home. When fate brings Emily into his life, Jack is unable to shake a déjà vu-like sense of connection to her. Declan Porter (Connor Paolo) is Jack’s well-intentioned kid brother who’s intrigued by the wealthy world of these elite vacationers and finds a target in Charlotte Grayson. Emily’s closest friend, Ashley Davenport (Ashley Madekwe), is the go-to event planner who hopes to gain entrée into Victoria’s good graces and solidify her status among the Hamptonites.
“Revenge” stars Emily VanCamp (“Brothers & Sisters,” “Everwood”) as Emily Thorne, Madeleine Stowe (“We Were Soldiers,” “The Last of the Mohicans”) as Victoria Grayson, Henry Czerny (“Mission: Impossible,” “Clear and Present Danger”) as Conrad Grayson, Josh Bowman (“Prowl”) as Daniel Grayson, Nick Wechsler (“Roswell”) as Jack Porter, Gabriel Mann (“The Bourne Identity”) as Nolan Ross, Ashley Madekwe (“Secret Diary of a Call Girl”) as Ashley Davenport, Christa B. Allen (“13 Going on 30”) as Charlotte Grayson and Connor Paolo (“Gossip Girl”) as Declan Porter.
“Revenge” is written and executive-produced by Mike Kelley (“Swingtown”), along with executive producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey (“Twilight”). The pilot is directed and executive-produced by Phillip Noyce (“Salt”). The series is produced by ABC Studios.