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How ABC's 'Revenge' snuck up on us

Written By Ivan Kolev on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | 12:22 AM

Emily VanCamp and Gabriel Mann star in ABC's


Emily VanCamp and Gabriel Mann star in ABC's "Revenge."Modern day "Count of Monte Cristo" reels audiences in with love/hate characters Amanda Clarke, disguised as Emily Thorne, returns to the Hamptons to take revenge ABC was lucky to find a new female-driven drama that resonates with viewers


(CNN) -- Most of us haven't partied with the bunnies at "The Playboy Club," or fought crime like "Charlie's Angels." And with the NBC and ABC programs canceled after just a few episodes, we'll never have the chance.

But in the time it took for one alphabet network drama to get the axe, another garnered 8 million viewers and a full season pickup.

After all, "Revenge" is a language we all understand.

The modern day "Count of Monte Cristo" reels audiences in with characters viewers seem to love -- and love to hate. Not to mention plot twists to die for. Still, the primetime soap doesn't venture into campy territory. Not even while playing with traded identities and crimes of passion.

The concept is simple: Amanda Clarke, disguised as Emily Thorne, returns to the Hamptons to take revenge on the people who destroyed her family when she was a little girl.

And "Revenge" couldn't have come at a better time as far as its network is concerned.

With "Desperate Housewives'" eighth and final season underway, ABC was fortunate to find a new female-driven drama that so far appears to resonate with viewers. "Revenge" even has its own insightful narrator. (Thank you, Mary Alice Young. You can go now.)

"For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places: Absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication," narrator and protagonist Emily Thorne, played by former "Brothers and Sisters'" cast member Emily VanCamp, coos at the beginning of the pilot. Before even making the acquaintance of her victims, she's got the audience on her side.

That's not to say everyone is a fan of her narration.

With "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" in mind, one HitFix reviewer wrote, "ABC has an in-house style that says that having your female lead narrate nothingness at the start of every episode is a worthy strategy."

But whether you're a fan of Thorne's philosophical musings or not, the numbers don't lie. About 7.3 million viewers tuned in to "Revenge" on Thanksgiving Eve -- better known as the biggest bar night of the year.

Now nine episodes in, the series began in a predictable fashion -- with Emily targeting and conquering one victim every week. Each episode even ended with Emily marking a red X over the victim of the hour in a posed photograph of the Hamptons royalty.

"Revenge" has since taken a more complex turn, with the introduction of new characters, telling flashbacks and plans gone awry -- a change welcomed by some critics.

"The show has wisely realized that it needs to mix it up when it comes to 'revenging,' and it's also fruitful to have plans backfire and have unexpected complications emerge," AOL TV critic Maureen Ryan wrote in her column, "Stay Tuned."

One complication being antagonist Victoria Grayson, played brilliantly by Madeleine Stowe.

Let's just say Emily isn't the only character seeking revenge.

The perfect present day villain, Victoria is out to get her son's new love interest, her daughter's inept boy toy, her unfaithful husband and the frenemy who led him astray.

"I can believe that this person would be doing these things," Stowe told the Sioux City Journal. "It's easy for me to slide into her."

As if Stowe and VanCamp weren't enough of a sell, the show's portrayal of the Hamptons royalty might be.

"We are dealing at a particular time right now in American history where I think the average American is going to want to see the takedown of the rich," Stowe said.

Nothing like a show about rich people who hate their lives to keep one entertained during a recession.


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