January 17, 2013

I’m Addicted To ‘Revenge,’ And It Might Be A Problem

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I’m the type of person who’s incredibly bad with keeping up on shows from week to week, and I tend to do all of my TV show watching in one long burst. Over Winter Break, I spent two weeks doing nothing but watching Friday Night Lights, which ended up being one of my favorite shows in the history of television. (Who knew?) By the time the finale came, I almost wasn’t ready to give it up, and I’m not ashamed to say that I wept like a teeny, tiny child. I cried so hard that my face hurt afterward. I think it might have actually woken up our neighbors.

But as much as I loved Friday Night Lights (which, in technical terms, is a better show), I don’t think I’ve ever been as addicted to anything as I am to Revenge, currently airing on ABC on Sundays. Before I started getting caught up on it, friends actually warned me about it. One actually told me not to, as long as I have anything else going on in my life — like work, school, bills to pay or any responsibilities whatsoever. She said it would take over my life. Another advised me, that if I were going to go down this rabbit hole, that I needed to take breaks to eat, sleep, shower or, like, breathe every once in a while, or you might die. I haven’t died yet, dear reader, but if I did, I think I might go to camp TV heaven — which sounds like the most glorious of all heavens.

I’m still coursing my way through Season One, but in less than a week of watching it, I’ve gotten behind on my work for grad school, my writing, housecleaning and have foregone sleep at least once to keep watching it. Two other times I’ve stayed up until three in the morning — just because I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t sleep until Tyler’s terrible secret was revealed, because something was up with that kid and I had to find out what it was, or see Daniel Grayson take off his shirt again — which is the highlight of any episode. (Danny, I don’t care that Emily doesn’t really love you and is smitten over that Jared Padalecki clone. I could love you more than she ever would. Run away with me before it’s too late.)

I don’t always get into these kinds of shows — with the notable exceptions of Nashville and Scandal, which transcend their genres in interesting ways. For me, camp can be difficult to keep investing in for an entire series, which is why shows like Glee grew exhausting. At a certain point, the tonal leaps started derailing the show, as it turned into a mean-spirited yet preachy after school special. Ryan Murphy was having more fun making it than I was watching it. I tuned into Desperate Housewives for its first season but felt myself losing interest even when the show was still considered “good,” just because they couldn’t make me care that much about any of the characters. Sure, Gabrielle’s torrid love affairs with the sexy gardener were sumptuous in that guilty pleasure kind of way, but did it really matter to me whether she ended up with Photoshopped Abs guy or Carlos? No. It would be the same show either way.

With Revenge, I’m obsessed with what happens to these characters — even the ones that I hate. For instance, on most shows Nolan would be an utter nuisance, the kind of Michelle Trachtenberg-y distraction you can’t wait to go away, which is what he is to the other characters. But the writers find interesting ways to bring him into the story and enough of a devious undercurrent in the character to make him interesting. (Sometimes Gabriel Mann reminds me of a young, ginger, even creepier Willem Dafoe in that role.) I often want Nolan to get punched in the face by everyone he encounters, but I never grow bored of him — and I can’t wait to see which side he’s playing next. The same goes for Ashley, who gets deeper and more interesting with each passing episode — rather than being a “woe-is-the-poor-girl stereotype.”

ABC
ABC

On top of that, I’m continually surprised by how good Emily Van Camp is in the role of Emily Thorne, an actress I never thought would be able to pull that character off. Having seen her in Everwood and Brothers and Sisters, I’ve never found her interesting enough to carry a show as a lead, and her acting was often the weakest link on both shows. But with Ms. Thorne, Van Camp finally finds a role she can literally sink her teeth into, and like Claire Danes on Homeland, she’s able to take whatever the writers throw at her (take your therapist hostage, why not?) and sell it convincingly. In any given episode, she has to be convincingly nasty, underhanded, conniving, witty, snarky and charming — with just the perfect undercurrent of high-gloss camp to it. I didn’t realize how under-the-radar funny she is in the role until I saw her hanging out in the background of the Grayson’s benefit photo, sporting that Samara wig with her token devious expression. I almost died from laughter.

But while Van Camp can give each ridiculous line that tongue-in-cheek aspect it needs, no one grabs their role by the balls like Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson, who is my new spirit animal. (Fact: I want to be her when I grow up.) Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Stowe’s work (and actually forgot she existed before she popped up on Revenge), her Victoria stands beside Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes as the most delicious queen bees on TV. There’s not a scene that Stowe is in that isn’t more exciting or fun because she’s in it, and you never have any idea what she’s going to do or say next. You always feel like she’s inches away from a catfight or totally destroying someone, which makes for great drama in those moments where she pulls back the Hamptons façade enough to take someone down. IMO, that scene between Victoria and her husband’s mistress is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

I think my favorite thing about the show is that it refuses to let either Victoria or Emily be a one-dimensional bitch, as the writers (almost ad nauseam) show us the sacrifices and pain that made Victoria this way. If she’s almost cartoonishly evil sometimes, she got that way for a reason, and in a lot of ways, Emily (her mortal enemy) is a lot worse than she is. It’s more thematically deep than you were expecting, but the most intriguing thing about Revenge is that it shows Emily will have to go a lot farther to even the score and avenge her father’s death than the ones who put him there. In order to defeat evil and restore her definition of justice, she’ll have to be even more evil. Some episodes I actually wonder if Emily isn’t harboring a serious mental illness, the kinds of questions most shows would never dare to explore.

But the best thing of all is that I’m only on Season One, and I have so many almost catfights and shoulder pad showdowns to go until I’m caught up. My name is Nico Lang, and I’m a Revenge-a-holic. And you know what? I don’t even care. Who needs sleep, anyway? TC Mark

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