Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

TV
cover art

Revenge

Series Premiere
Creator: Mike Kelley
Cast: Emily VanCamp, Madeline Stow, Gabriel Mann, Nick Weschler
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm ET

(ABC; US: 21 Sep 2011)

Tweener Soap

A pale update of The Count of Monte Cristo, ABC’s new drama Revenge gears Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale toward the Gossip Girl set. The first episode is full of rich, beautiful socialites, lavish parties, and enough betrayals and secrets to fill a sorority house. In short, Revenge is another primetime tweener soap opera.


The series begins with a murder at an epic, end-of-the-summer Fire-and-Ice-themed engagement party, then flashes back to the beginning of the season. When Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) arrives in the Hamptons, everything is not as it appears. First off, her name isn’t really Emily Thorne, and she isn’t there to soak in the luxurious atmosphere and social scenery. Her name is Amanda Clarke, and she’s there to exact a meticulous, long-gestating retribution against the cadre of wealthy evil-doers who framed her father for financing a terrorist plot, besmirching her father’s good name and ruining her life.


Revenge is populated by airy, exaggerated characters who give gifts of Van Goghs to their darling friends as mere tokens of affection, like party favors, and men in salmon-colored slacks and captains’ hats, despite a purported dislike for all things from the sea. Everyone seems to be sleeping with everyone else, schemes and deceptions abound, and the whole debacle is ruled over by Victoria Grayson (Madeline Stowe), the undisputed queen bee of the Hamptons. Not only does she have the clout to banish rivals from her domain, but also, twice in this episode, she stands at a microphone, before a party she’s hosting, and gives a speech.


If Victoria represents this sensational modern aristocracy, she’s set against a handful of wrong-side-of-the-tracks style folks. They’re the hardworking, year-round residents who hang out at the local dive bar. Chief among them is Jack (Nick Weschler), the dreamy childhood love interest who still holds a torch for our protagonist: indeed, he’s named his boat “Amanda.”


Jack’s yearning and Amanda’s scheming help to establish the series’ melodrama. This is made repeatedly visible through intense bouts of staring into the ocean while cutesy indie-rock jams play, followed by extravagant flashbacks. At one point in the present, Emily/Amanda runs into Jack, who doesn’t recognize her, and Sam, his aging yellow lab, who also happens to be her childhood dog and somehow still alive after all these years. I told you things were going to get messy.


This moment might be enough to make you throw up your hands and walk away, but if it isn’t, the voice-over may do the trick. It reminds you more than once that this isn’t a story of forgiveness, but one of vengeance… in case you’ve forgotten the show’s title. That title seems simple, and the first episode doesn’t suggest its execution will be sophisticated. Important plot points that should be fleshed out are instead glossed over with throwaway lines of dialogue and characters are left undeveloped, sacrificed for cheap momentum.


In other words, Revenge is too much like the herd of similar programs that already exist (many on the CW). The story is silly, but not trashy enough to make it your latest guilty pleasure. And it’s set up a challenge, making a limited storyline stretch over a season or more. Maybe Revenge will find its way. It is possible. After all, the source material isn’t too bad a yarn.

Rating:

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle, and is working feverishly to finish his degree in creative writing through the University of New Orleans Low-Residency MFA Program. His thesis is a post-apocalyptic, zombie, spaghetti western, much to the chagrin of most of his advisors. He likes dogs, beards, and Steven Seagal, and rants about movies at thelastthingisee.blogspot.com and BeyondHollywood.com. Recently he fulfilled a lifelong goal, appearing as an extra in a zombie movie.


Media
Related Articles
18 Aug 2013
The second season didn't live up to the promise of the first. Will 'Revenge' make a comeback in season three?
By PopMatters Staff
13 Jan 2013
Whether its animated nonsense or reality bite, broadcast bits this cheesy and fun demand indulgence -- and we gladly say 'Yes' to such small screen excess.
26 Aug 2012
Created by Mike Kelley, Revenge is a delicious throwback to nighttime events like Dallas and Dynasty, except that the camp is subverted to the point where it becomes almost Tarantino-esque.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.