10 Things I Hate about You: Season 1
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10 Things I Hate About You: Season 1

Over the years there have been numerous attempts to migrate a successful movie to television. While this may seem to be a simple matter in practice it is more commonly a road to failure. The notable exception is of course ‘M*A*S*H*" which actually exceeded the movie in terms of popularity. One of the latest tries is ’10 Things I Hate about you’. The film version just celebrated its tenth anniversary and significant boosted the early careers of Julia Styles and the late Heath Ledger. This series is part of a rather extensive retooling of the original programming for the ABC Family cable network. As part of the every growing Disney family this network is picking up the demographic after they age out of the tween oriented Disney Television. Most of the series follow a simple mandate to address important real life issues vital to teens but in such a fashion that they and their parents will be completely entertained. I have had the pleasure to review several of these shows and have to note they are not only excellent for the entire family they are among the better shows on at the moment. The basis of this new direction working out so well is they take established formulas and provide a twist to assist in teen identification. Since this is down without the typical absent parent or even worse the idiot parent allowing both sides of the generation gap respect and a chance to be entertained. With the show under consideration here there were several additional obstacles to overcome most notably a cast that would go on to ‘A list’ fame. What the creators of the series did correctly was not to even try to duplicate the film as much as they took the fundamental plot devices and apply them to a weekly format. This avoids the reason so many migrated movies fail; you have to be able to appreciate the different demands of the two formats and in this case that potential forcible was well avoided.

The primary developer for this series was Carter Covington who is also responsible for another ABC Family hit ‘Greek’. The movie tried almost too hard to reinvent the Shakespearian comedy ‘Taming of the Shrew’. What Covington managed to accomplish was to isolate the family dynamic established in the film and use that as the foundation for a character driven series. It is risky to move away from the situation part of a sit-com but it works here, even in just the first couple of episodes it evident that the characters and their individual personalities will propel the story lines. In the film the focus was on the rule that the young, popular daughter Bianca
(played on TV by Meaghan Jette Martin) has to wait for her extremely serious, decidedly unpopular sister Kat (Lindsey Shaw) to date first. While that premise is employed here it would quickly wear thin on its own. The television series incorporates the familiar theme of sibling rivalry and the character arc taken by each of the sisters as they move towards adulthood. It may sound strange for a light hearted sit com but there were true flashes of pathos here that gave a bit more dimension to the characters than is typically permitted.

Starting out in a new school is an especially stressful for any teenager but for Bianca Stratford it is the direst event of her 15 years. She lives for popularity and as everyone knows there is only one chance to make a first impression. Bianca the key to popularity is to gain the approval of the current social Queen Bee and head cheerleader of the school, Chastity Church (Dana Davis). Bianca has done her research plotting every like, dislike and daily movement of Chastity so she can insinuate herself into the popular girl’s good graces. The degree of planning and plotting put into this would make a four star general green with envy. The largest impediment to the success of this plan is Kat who on the very first day at school has a run in, literally, with Chastity. In the parking lot Kat is trying to slip into a spot when Chastity pulls in with her mini cooper. Kat pushes ahead ripping off the bumper of the little car and when both are called into the principal’s office Kat learns that due to the wealth and influence of Chastity’s father nothing will every stick to the spoiled rich girl. When Chastity discovers that Bianca is Kat’s kid sister she takes it out on her failing her during cheerleader tryouts. In an unexpected show of sisterly solidarity Kat becomes the photo editor for the yearbook making it clear that if Bianca is not on the squad every picture of Chastity will be horrible. The head cheerlead puts her on the squad but only as the mascot. This begins the central journey taken by the two sisters towards a mutual understanding. This is continued later on in the season when Kat tries to shed some of her reserved image by sneaking into an over 21 club to see a band perform. On the same night Bianca wants to go to a party but got grounded for coming in late. Their father, Larry Miller reprising his movie role, is overly harsh with Bianca to the point of a breathalyzer and urine drug test but hardly asks Kat where she will be. The girls find out about each other’s deception and initially plan mutual blackmail but covers for her younger sister when everything comes out in the open. This is typical of the methodology of the series, putting the overall character arcs ahead of a quick and predicable laugh. The cast is excellent with great chemistry that truly sells the premise. Once again ABC Family has the potential success on their hands.

Posted 12/30/09

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