ABC Family // 2009 // 230 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 18th, 2010
Based on the hit movie.
The television version of 10 Things I Hate About You has a lot going against it from the start. First, very few movies go on to become successful TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind, but it's a small field). Second, ABC Family has been going through a number of changes in recent years, which makes it a tough time to start a show aimed at a demographic that was toddling when the original movie was released. Finally, the cast includes a bunch of relative unknowns filling the shoes of a cast of amazing actors in the original film. Despite all of these hurdles, 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume 1 manages to succeed on its own terms handily, turning in a teen sitcom with a lot of heart and sass, and some intelligence.
Kat (Lindsey Shaw, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide) and Bianca (Meaghan Jette Martin, Camp Rock) Stratford are sisters who both attend Padua High. Kat is the older, responsible outcast and Bianca is the younger, bubblier social butterfly. The series follows them as they negotiate love and life in high school.
All ten episodes of the first series are includes on two discs:
* "I Want You to Want Me"
* "Won't Get Fooled Again"
* "Don't Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation"
* "Don't Give Up"
* "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
* "Light My Fire"
* "Dance Little Sister"
* "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)"
* "Don't Leave Me Like This"
I loved the film version of 10 Things I Hate About You. Even ten years on, it stands as a solid entry in the teen-comedy genre and I admit to thinking "sacrilege" when I heard that ABC Family, of all networks, was turning it into a sitcom. After watching this first series, I don't think it has any hope of supplanting the original film in my heart, but taken on its own merits, the show is solid, succeeding for many of the same reasons as the film. In my review of 10 Things I Hate About You, I highlighted two aspects of the film that contributed most to its success: the cast and the dialogue. The film was almost perfectly acted by a group of relative unknowns with a script that that was clever and quotable in equal measure. Surprisingly, both those traits have made it into the series, and if they're not as strong as the film, it's the fault of the television medium and not the actors or writers.
In the series, Kat Stratford has lost none of her sass, and to her goes the lion's share of the best dialogue. Where the film stuck with pretty general rebellion (women's equality being the most obvious), the series has the opportunity to address contemporary issues like health care reform. Kat's take-no-crap attitude leads to some of her better lines, like when someone calls her car a dinosaur and says she can't park up front, Kat drives forward anyway and says "I guess my car wanted to Jurassic Park here." Larry Miller (reprising his role from the film) gets almost as many good lines as the girls' father, warning them about sex, STIs, and boys. I can't help but laugh when he tells the girls that genital herpes is on the rise. The other characters get their digs in as well, and, although the quote quotient isn't quite as high as the movie, the show does a respectable job keeping the good lines coming.
Those lines are generally delivered with remarkable aplomb by the cast. I don't know if any of them have the futures of the film's cast, but with few exceptions they all handle their roles well. Lindsey Shaw does sassy and sensitive well, and her dark looks contrast well with Meaghan Jette Martin's blond and bubbly persona. Joey Donner has been turned into a daft (but not evil) male model in the show and he's played with airheaded mastery by Chris Zylka, and his girlfriend Chastity (who is pretty evil) is played with abandon by Dana Davis. The real chops, however, come from Larry Miller. His role in the film was that of slightly weird and overprotective father. For the series they take that role and turn it up to eleven. For instance, if either of the girls misses curfew, they have to pee in a cup so he can test their urine. Yeah, it sounds really creepy, but Miller actually manages to make his character sympathetic and funny instead of just plain icky.
ABC Family has produced a double-disc set for Volume One of the series. Despite putting four or six episodes on a disc, the video transfer looks clean and bright with no obvious compression or authoring difficulties. The surround audio is a bit of an overkill, although both the dialogue and use of pop music come out clean. Extras include some bloopers, a pair of featurettes, and some audio commentaries. The bloopers are pretty standard, while "10 Things I Hate vs. 10 Things I Love" is a featurette that puts the cast and crew in front of the camera discussing what they love and hate about various things, including high school, their fellow castmates, and even William Shakespeare. "Backstage Pass" is a peek behind the scenes with the two leads. There are also commentaries by the cast and producers on selected episodes. These tend to be jokey, familiar affairs with a mix of jokes and production info. In a bit of cross-promotion there's also a copy of the pilot episode of the channel's Make It Or Break It series.
A couple of things bother me about 10 Things I Hate About You. One is Cameron. I don't know if it's the writing or the acting, but I just don't think he works in the series. In the film Joseph Gordon-Levitt made Cameron dorky but relatable. In the series he's much more two-dimensional. I hope this is something they address as the series continues.
I'm also not a huge fan of the look of the show. There's a certain hazy quality to the light that reminds me very strongly of the way that other shows shoot their dream sequences, so several times while watching the show I was expecting (in grand sitcom fashion) to see a character suddenly wake up as if from a dream. It's not an unwatchable look, but it is distracting sometimes.
I went in skeptical and came out converted. By the end of these ten episodes I wanted more of 10 Things I Hate About You. It's obviously a show for those who enjoy either sitcoms or teen comedy, but if you can get past that there's some good acting and writing to be found in the simple premise. This solid DVD release is an excellent way to catch the show for those who missed its initial run.
10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Family
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 230 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Official Site