In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW
Payback, as they say, is a bitch. Or a geek girl.
Last year's “as near as The CW can get to a hit” drama was the rather lovely Gossip Girl, which followed the trials and tribulations of very rich girls (and boys) in an Upper East Side New York private school. With nothing much else doing well in the ratings other than the usual suspects (America's Next Top Model, Smallville, Supernatural), The CW's bosses cast their nets wide for something in the same mould.
90210 was the first obvious, easy-to-build clone and had built-in nostalgia value to lift its viewing figures into the (relative) stratosphere. But given the exciting world of literature was the source of Gossip Girl, The CW also turned its attentions towards the book How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls to make sure it wasn't putting all its money on one horse.
Adapted as Privileged, it's a somewhat different show than either Gossip Girl or 90210. While those two shows look at the hardship of life as a rich teenager, Privileged is for those who never were in the popular cliques. It's for geek girls who love their books but wished they could be in those cliques.
Revenge will be theirs - complete with Spiderman quotes.
Twenty-three-year-old Megan Smith (JoAnna Garcia, “Reba”) has a Yale education, a relentlessly positive attitude and a plan to conquer the world of journalism, despite the fact that she is currently slaving away at a tabloid rag. Megan's plan is thrown off course when, in one whirlwind day, she gets fired, meets cosmetics mogul Laurel Limoges (Anne Archer) and becomes the live-in tutor for Laurel's twin teen granddaughters in the heady Palm Beach world of wealth and power.
The girls, Rose (Lucy Kate Hale, “Bionic Woman”) and Sage (Ashley Newbrough, “The Best Years”), are beautiful, rebellious and less-than-thrilled with their new tutor, but Megan is determined to win them over as she enjoys the perks of her new job - breathtaking private suite, gorgeous convertible and live-in chef Marco (Allan Louis, “Stomp the Yard”).
Even the neighbors are fabulous in Palm Beach, and Megan quickly catches the eye of Will (Brian Hallisay), the wealthy and extremely hot dilettante who lives on the estate next door and just happens to be dating Megan's estranged sister Lily (Kristina Apgar). Completing this romantic quadrangle is Megan's best friend Charlie (Michael Cassidy, “Smallville,” “The O.C.”), who is secretly in love with her. Despite her own complicated romantic and family relationships, Megan is committed to making a difference in the lives of her two headstrong charges as she navigates the treacherous waters of high society in Palm Beach.
Privileged is based on the Alloy Entertainment book “How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls” by best-selling author Zoey Dean (“The A-List”). The series is from Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Paramount Network Television with executive producers Rina Mimoun (“Gilmore Girls,” “Everwood”), Bob Levy (“Gossip Girl”) and Leslie Morgenstein (“Gossip Girl,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”). Michael Engler (“30 Rock”) directed the pilot.
Is it any good?
This is, essentially, wish fulfilment at its girliest. Megan, the smart, well-read and slightly geeky, accident-prone journalist (as per usual, not from anything recognisably close to a real publication), has to move into the lap of luxury, go to expensive parties, meet cute men, etc, purely as a result of her extreme intelligence. She gets male friends, a ready-built GBF (gay best friend) and oodles of cash, all in exchange for lording it over some pseudo-Hiltons and showing them how dumb they are.
Hmm. Happens much? No.
But, if it all was quite that simple, there'd be no drama, so the rich girls are (mostly) evil bitches who taser anyone who comes into their room before midday and don't want to play ball so easily. So Megan has to use her wiles, make them her friends, etc, to bring them into line. In the process, she has to deal with her estranged sister and the cute guys in her life. Which one will she pick, and will she even realise that there's more than one on offer?
It's not totally predictable: a number of scenarios play out, most of which happen as you'd expect (no Megan doesn't get fired in the first episode. Surprise!), but some of which do go in slightly unexpected directions. Yet if you're familiar with chick lit, you'll know the general formula.
Although well adapted for the screen, the show does betray its literary origins. Possible boyfriend number one (Will) is a trust fund kid, but don't let's pre-judge him: he wants a proper job. Like a sports photographer - because “it's all about the instant. Making a decision in the moment or missing it”. On page, where the creative arts are kings and queens in the reader's mind, that might work as a way of making him an attractive yet manly potential beau. But on-screen, he's the privileged douche who should really join the army if he's that keen on being manly and instant decision-making.
The acting's variable and usually over the top because it's a comedy and the audience needs to be told that. But Joanna Garcia is engagingly dorky as Megan and it's always good to see Anne Archer up to something.
It's kind of fun, nothing fantastic - certainly not in Gossip Girl's league - and slightly engrossing. My wife only saw the last five minutes of it: “Ooh, that's quite engrossing, isn't it?” And she does love her chick lit.
However, it'll probably grab fewer male viewers than Gossip Girl, since it has a far more feminine slant on things, with threadbare drawing of the male characters (although there are lots of girls and women in bikinis, if that's your thing, guys). And for the geek girl, it might well be a little too low brow – or close to home. All the same, worth a try, just in case it floats your boat.
Here's a great big YouTube promo for you, and there are plenty more to be found online as well. And if it stays up long enough, you can watch the full first episode in the second vid I've embedded below.
- September 25, 2008: Just how are the current US shows being advertised?
The various billboards and ad campaigns in the US for the latest TV shows
- September 29, 2008: Third-episode verdict: Privileged
A review of the first three episodes of The CW's Privileged
- June 5, 2009: Review: Royal Pains 1x1
A review of the first episode of the USA Network's Royal Pains
- January 26, 2010: Review: Life Unexpected 1x1
A review of the first episode of the CW's Life Unexpected
- June 23, 2010: Review: Pretty Little Liars 1x1-1x3
A review of the first three episodes of ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars
- September 10, 2012: Preview: Animal Practice (NBC/ITV2) 1x1
A preview of the first episode of NBC's Animal Practice
- June 15, 2015: Yes, American TV has improved since the 1990s
Has American TV improved since 1990s? I think it has