1. I adore the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, and also the source material (Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew) so that makes me very excited about the idea of this series. And also, it makes me more critical. I love seeing Larry Miller return as the overprotective obstetrician dad, though. Bonus right from the start.
2. Minus from the start – the idea of the Stratford family having moved into a new school. I can see why they did it, but it feels like the easy way out. New kids navigating the waters of a new school. Blah.
3. Another minus – any non-Larry Miller adults. In the film version, the principal is played by a loopy and thoroughly inappropriate Allison Janney, and the soccer coach by the ever smarmy and hilarious David Leisure. They were idiots, but charming idiots. No such appeal here.
3. Second bonus – Dana Davis! I have loved Dana Davis since The Nine, and been so pleased to see her on Heroes and Bones. The girl just glows. This role, though? She plays Chastity (in the film Bianca’s bff/second fiddle, played by Gabrielle Union) as a Mean Girl; head cheerleader, most popular girl in school, cartoon evil. She’s committed to the role’s unpleasantness, I’ll give her that, but I’m not in love with the direction of the character.
4. I don’t love it, in large part, because it requires a whiney, servile, desperate Bianca constantly sucking up to Chastity. She’s not merely vapid, she’s determined to be vapid. I suppose it gives Bianca something to do other than being pined for by various boys, but ick. The movie did a surprising job of making her character likable despite her aggressive shallowness, but the series? It’s set up a major roadblock here. We’re supposed to view her willingness to demean herself as pluckiness and grit? No, not so much. A big reason not to like the whole “new at school” thing.
5. Lindsey Shaw as Kat – well, the jury is still out. There’s something pleasantly confident in the set of her jaw. She’s not as – hmm, how to say this – outsized or aggressive a personality as Julia Stiles’ Kat. She lacks the layers of irony and the biting wit (although this is probably because the writers lack biting wit). And she’s much more unsettled and intrigued by Patrick Verona than she is irritated, a different choice from the film and one I don’t know how to feel about. And I didn’t believe for one second that she could stare him into leaving. I’ve a little bit of experience at that (having spent my teen years shielding my insecurities with chilly reserve) and I just wasn’t buying it.
6. Ethan Peck (grandson of Gregory) is so not trying to be Heath Ledger. Which is probably a good thing. I have big starry hearts for Ledger in that role – roguish, rough around the edges, essentially honorable, confident, and in every way Kat’s equal. Peck seems too pretty, off the bat, and tremendously zen, mysterious rather than dangerous. Was this deliberate, to make the show more accessible to younger viewers? And either way, if she’s already this interested in him, what will that do to the whole baroque plot of him being paid to court her?
7. Which brings us to – Cameron. Oh God. Nicholas Braun is no Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not even close. I can see they were aiming for the puppy dog eyes, but what they got is a soulless dope. A HUGE disappointment. The character was the impetus for most of film’s plot, but I can’t imagine him moving anything here. He seems very Disney sitcom to me, and not in a good way. I suppose it could at least be said that he does seem like he’s the right age.
8. Joey Donner. So far, he seems to be Bianca’s soulmate in utter shallowness. Absolutely led around on a short leash by girlfriend Chastity. The only thing he has in common with the film character, as far as I can tell, is his name and modeling ambitions. Andrew Keegan was a vivid and enjoyable villain. This Joey seems – neutered. The show has traded the complexities of his various entanglements with both Stratford sisters for what at least seems initially to be the more straight forward bitchiness of Chastity. I suppose anyone who watches will have to let me know whether that was worth it.
9. Then we have the hangers-on. I can’t decide whether Mandela as thuglike vandalist is weird or cool, or whether artistic and threatening will trump waiflike and snarky, but you do feel immediately that if Kat would take to her immediately, she’d be just as drawn to Verona. And I think we want that to be a little less obvious, no? Finally, the tiny dude in the David Krumholtz role is perfectly fine, I suppose, if you can get over the fact that he’s not actually funny.
10. There’s enough in this story that could have made for a good show down, a lengthy and epic battle of the sexes, but I don’t think this show is going to be it. If anything, the Chastity/Kat rivalry seems more potent than any romantic possibilities. A less than inspiring start.