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TELEVISION REVIEW

'10 Things I Hate About You'

July 07, 2009|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC

ABC Family, which may be seen as a kind of network-sized expansion of ABC's old TGIF franchise, continues its assault on the teen demo tonight with "10 Things I Hate About You," a smarter-than-some high school comedy adapted from the 1999 Heath Ledger-Julia Stiles big-screen modernization of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."

Developed by Carter Covington (ABC Family's "Greek"), with a pilot directed by the film's director, Gil Junger (also of "Greek"), the series jettisons the movie's main contrivance, in which a sweet younger sister is not allowed to date before her more difficult older sister. All that remains of the Shakespearean source material is the opposing temperaments of sisters Kate and Bianca (Lindsey Shaw and Meaghan Martin), now surnamed Stratford. There are other such references: Kate's baddish-boy eventual love interest is called Patrick Verona (Ethan Peck, grandson of Gregory); they all go to Padua High. The girls' father (Larry Miller, back from the movie), meanwhile, is now merely afraid of their having sex: "Boys want to put a baby in you."

This leaves a high school comedy that in most respects resembles other high school comedies, with cues and character constructs familiar from the various works of John Hughes, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Clueless," "Popular," "Freaks and Geeks" and on and on. As do many such stories, it begins with a new school year. There are kids who are new in town (the Stratford sisters), anxious or in no hurry to fit in. There are kids hoping to remake themselves as socially acceptable after a summer away. Here, it's tall Cameron (Nicholas Braun), the CPR-certified AV-club member who falls for Bianca, and his little friend Michael (Kyle Kaplan), wearing a porkpie hat and hoping to be seen as an "emo hipster musician." ("You play piccolo in the marching band," Cameron reminds him.) And there is, inevitably, a cheerleading Mean Girl (Dana Davis, from "Heroes"), who tells Bianca, "Every girl in the school wants to be me. And the guys in show choir."

As befits the concerns of its intended audience, the script finds room both for sex jokes and Harry Potter references (and Harry Potter references as sex jokes). (Is a "lesbian locker room fantasy" remark in the context of a teen TV comedy a sign of progress or decay? I am not at all sure.) Certain plot points aren't particularly thought through -- it's funny enough, though not that funny, that Kate uses her car as a weapon of revenge against the car of her enemy, but there are no real-world consequences to her action. Other complications are dispensed with during commercial breaks.

The combination of role and actress makes the wonderful Lindsey Shaw the main point of interest here. Shaw ("Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide," "Aliens in America") has a physicality and intelligence that fit the part -- Kate here is no shrew, just a sardonic smart girl whose well-developed sense of justice makes her ill-suited to high school. Still, this is the least of the three series to feature her. It's a good thing of its kind, and may be headed somewhere interesting, but it is still a well-worn kind.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'10 Things I Hate About You'

Where: ABC Family

When: 8 tonight

Price: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)

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