10 Things I Hate About You:
Reinvention Of A Cult Classic
Its hard to find anyone who was a teenager in the 1990s who doesn't remember, or have atleast a vague awareness of the film "10 Things I Hate About You", which next to "Can't Hardly Wait" is considered by many to be the definitive teen movie of the 1990s, in a sense, our Breakfast Club, or Grease, or whatever teen aimed movie from whatever decade you were a teenager that looking back is still awesome, but also in the words of the great sage Phillip J. Frye, makes you feel ways about stuff. As a film 10 Things had everything you would need to remember the decade after the 1980s, snappy pop culture based slang, pop friendly but still enjoyable soundtrack, a parent thats trying to be hip and failing, and all the Julia Stiles being awesome that we can handle. Oh and ontop of all that, its important because its the film that launched the career or a certain recently dead too soon actor by the name of Heath Ledger. As a film, it really is one of the most enjoyable movies I can recall from my teen years, which i think is why when I read awhile back that ABC Family was going to turn the film into a tv series 10 years after the movie was made, I kind of did a knee jerk twinge reaction to the idea. I started to run through my head all the changes they'd probably make to give it a more "current" feel, I had horrible images of well cast and distinctive to each social group they are ment to be cast members being reworked to fit painfully untalented actors and actresses that look like whatever teenage actors were "hot" right now, and dreaded the idea of the replacement of the main characters Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona with Twilight style lookalikes to be "current" with what kids are "into". My fears weren't really helped by the fact ABC Family kept the casting details and plot and stuff super secret until it was just about ready to air the series. Which really was a great move on their part given the outcry about the series once it was announced. Curiosity and word of mouth really are the best promotional tools.
I must say, once I saw the series, I was actually relieved. All my fears and concerns about miscasting and gross working of the plot and the characters, much like what happened when Buffy The Vampire Slayer was made from an obscure Kristy Swanson comedy into a sci fi drama, they all went away. Oh sure, there are afew things that are different, but not really anything I'd say will take away from the over all enjoyment of the program itself. I was actually very relieved to find that 10 minutes into the pilot, I was actually laughing, not that "haha" small laugh, I'm talking actual laughter. The script, though not award winning comedy, was both current and real enough that you would believe the dialog if you were to hear it out on the street, it doesn't sound forced or hacked together by lazy writers, it actually very well written and genuinely funny. The casting is as close to the original cast in style, feel, and personality, with Larry Miller returning to his role as Walter Stratford, the father of the two main characters, Kat and Bianca Stratford. Larry is still hilarious in the role 10 years later, which I personally love, and though the rest of the cast, except for two, are basically refugees from Disney made kids programing and television movies, which is fitting sense half the cast of the original were culled from ended Nickelodeon programs aimed at the same age group, they really are a great mixture and well cast. I've always been a staunch supporter of the right actor for the right role, I guess someone in production is too, thankfully.
About 3 episodes in, I actually found myself wondering if they gave these kids a dvd of the film and told them to study their character, because it starts to get to the point the resemblance between the film and the series are almost strikingly perfect, like to the point you wonder if its gonna fall apart. Lindsey Shaw, formerly of a canceled too soon favorite of mine Aliens in America, stars as Kat Stratford, taking over the signature role of Julia Stiles, Lindsey gets all of the things that make Kat stand out perfect, her constant need to stand up for things, and rattle the status quo, her condescending at times intelligence, all of it, I'm left wondering if Lindsay grew up watching the film and knew exactly how to play Kat. Meaghan Jette Martin takes over the role of Bianca Stratford, who really isn't that hard to play, Bianca is still clueless, airheaded, self centered and obsessed with popularity and being popular, only this time, Bianca isn't the head cheerleader who everyone wants to be friends with, she's the girl trying to become popular by mimicking the most popular girl in school, Chasity Church, where in the film Chasity was the one trying to be like Bianca. Chasity in the series is probably the one cast member that is almost a twin of her movie counterpart, played by Dana Davis who most will remember as Monica Dawson from the second season of the series Heroes, she is almost an exact double of Gabrielle Union, who played her in the film, ironically dressed to look like Union's character from the first "Bring It On" film, this time out Chas is the snooty, snobby, spoiled rich girl that controls the school in general, most are afraid of her and the fits she's known to have at times. The rest of the cast is well done as well, Ethan Peck, the grandson of Gregory Peck, does a great job as Patrick Verona, which is a pretty big task given that he's stepping into the shoes of a man that most of us from the 1990s saw as the next greatest actor ever, thankfully he brings his own take to the role, not just mimicking Heath's portrayal, which i find healthy. I rather enjoy Nicholas Braun's take on Cameron James, the guy who is trying to get Bianca to notice him better then how he was played in the movie, its more realistic and also not done by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom I just hate ever so much. The secondary cast members are just great as well, though i am abit sad they didn't ask of the original cast members to appear as teachers, I think that would have been a nice homage of sorts.
The show does have afew changes from the movie, the Stratfords have just moved to the city from Ohio, in the film Cam had just moved there and is trying to fit in while trying to get Bianca to notice him. In the show, Kat's best friend, Mandella is an overweight asian looking graffiti artist who is more then welling to help Kat in all of the things she does, in the film she's a skinny blond girl that is fixated on the works of William Shakespeare. and afew other minor things to adapt for television I'd assume, but nothing that really be that big of an issue for anyone that watched the film to deal with.
I will however point out that at this point there are two things I find negative about the series, there seem to be, at this point, no references to the work of William Shakespeare, which were throughout the whole film giving that it was a modern take on his "Taming of The Shrew". I can accept that there are none, but it does leave me alittle let down. And secondly, the plot of the film itself has been completely ignored, there is no reference to the fact Bianca can't date unless Kat is dating, there is no plot that involves Patrick being paid to take Kat out so that Bianca can date, the relationship between Kat and Patrick happens by general curiosity and attraction that both are to stubborn to admit, instead the show focuses on both Stratford girls separately, Bianca as she tries to become popular, and how it always includes Cam doing her dirty work for her, and Kat and Patrick in a rather well done mindgame where they try to not admit they're fixated on each other, the only time the two stories interact is either at home, or when Kat gets in trouble for doing something to one of the popular kids. Its not the exact same thing as the movie, but I don't mind the change in plot much, though I'm sure others might have issue with that.
My main thing with this series is, it grows on you. As I stated at the beginning, I wanted to hate it, I wanted to hate the crap out of this and down it like it was some horrible entertainment abortion thats creators should have been shot in the middle of a public square for all to see, but for the life of me, I just can't do that. I find myself actually enjoying the program, sure its not gonna win any awards any time soon, but i don't care, its actually a decently made program. I explained it recently to a friend as a show i see playing out like the series "my name is earl", it will never be the number one comedy series on television, but it doesn't have to be, I see it lasting afew years, being a dependable viewership getter, and will probably fade into the background. And really i think thats enough for the series to do. Its generally enjoyable, and fun to watch, and I hope it continues to be that way for afew years. So, if you haven't seen this yet, give it a shot, you probably will be surprised.