- Tuesday, October 18, 2011
There is a very simple formula for creating TV shows. Take beautiful people, give them lots of money, add a few well-placed secrets, and you have yourself a show.
The CW, the network behind Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, and 90210, has been making money off this brand of television for years. On the surface, ABC's Revenge looks like another style-over-substance drama that somehow stumbled its way onto the wrong network. Surprisingly, this new fall edition displays much more depth than you would expect.
When Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) was just a little girl, her father was arrested on charges of terrorism and put on trial for treason. Amanda herself was sent to juvenile detention where she remained for most of her childhood.
Following her release on her eighteenth birthday, Amanda discovers that her father has died in prison, leaving her his massive fortune and private journals. Through these, Amanda learns that her father was actually framed by a large network of co-workers who sought to profit from his demise. Armed with this knowledge and her new fortune, Amanda creates the persona of Emily Thorne, and returns to her birthplace, the Hamptons, to take vengeance on her enemies.
The series has been billed as a modern day Count of Monte Cristo and anyone familiar with Dumas novel will certainly see the similarities. Revenge appeals to its viewers with the satisfaction of watching the bad guys get what they deserve. It also isn't above using glamour to attract an audience, though it does so with more class than its CW counterparts.
This is because Revenge doesn't rely on appearance alone to carry itself, and once audiences are done admiring the fashionable clothing, expensive boats, and wave-tossed beaches, they'll be surprised to discover the acting isn't half bad.
Emily VanCamp, who portrays Emily Thorne, shows some impressive acting versatility as she shifts seamlessly between doe-eyed socialite and ice-cold adversary. The same could also be said for Madeleine Stowe's performance as Victoria Grayson, the reigning "Queen" of the Hamptons, head of the conspirators, and Emily's chief nemesis.
A final nod of approval should also be given to Gabriel Mann as Nolan Ross, Emily's wealthy, tech-wizard ally who carries a heavy cruel streak along with some emotional vulnerability.
Still, Revenge does have its share of stale actors with pretty faces. Christa Allen, who plays Victoria's daughter Charlotte, gives a rather uninspired performance, and her budding romance with the young Declan Porter, played by Connor Paolo, may tempt some viewers to change the channel.
The show also suffers from the occasional non sequitur. For example, Emily is frequently shown watching video clips of her father's trial whenever she's stalking a new enemy. This may strike some viewers as odd since it's illegal to have video cameras inside most courtrooms.
As it stands, Revenge is something of a guilty pleasure on television. It won't receive the same type of attention as big fall names like Terra Nova or Once Upon a Time, but there's enough to like about the series that viewers will stay interested, and keep coming back for more.
*This article first published 10/18/2011
**Watch Revenge Wednesdays on ABC
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