Preview: Revenge

The Countess of Monte Cristo

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC. Starts September 21

Revenge is a funny old thing, isn’t it? A dish best served cold, apparently, it’s been the subject of fiction throughout the ages. One of the most famous novels of revenge is the Count of Monte Cristo and some bright spark at ABC – a network always on a perpetually failing quest to come up with some new, decent dramas – has hit on the idea of updating the novel by moving it to the Hamptons and making it a soap opera.

Pretty young ‘Emily Thorne’ is getting married to Daniel Grayson, but just as her engagement is announced, his dead body is (apparently?) found on the beach. Flash back five months and it turns out Emily isn’t really Emily, but is in fact the daughter of one of the Grayson family’s old enemies, a man who died shamed after being accused of crimes he didn’t commit.

Emily has a plan. After years in juvi, she’s gotten out to discover she’s rich thanks to her father’s investments and that her dad is really innocent. So she decides to revenge herself on those who set him up.

And to do that, she’s going to destroy all their lives – in as ridiculous way as possible and by becoming really, really pretty. 

Here’s a trailer.

Wealth, beauty and status define the people in this town, but one woman is willing to destroy everyone for the sake of revenge.

Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp) is new to the Hamptons. She’s met some of her wealthy neighbors, has made a few new friends and seemingly blends into the town. But something is a little odd about a young girl living in a wealthy town all on her own, and the truth is that Emily isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. In fact, this was once her old neighborhood, until something bad happened that ruined her family and their reputation. Now Emily is back, and she’s returned to right some of those wrongs in the best way she knows how – with a vengeance.

Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson 
Emily Van Camp as Emily Thorne
Gabriel Mann as Nolan Ross
Henry Czerny as Conrad Grayson
Ashley Madekwe as Ashley Davenport
Nick Wechsler as Jack Porter
Josh Bowman as Daniel Grayson
Christa B. Allen as Charlotte Grayson
Connor Paolo as Declan Porter

Is it any good?
The first 15 minutes or so is yawn-inducingly soporific and pretentious beyond belief, but after that it does get better. But not much. 

Its biggest flaw is that it’s incredibly ridiculous. In an age when anyone with Internet access can learn how to make a bomb, poison someone, hire a hitman or worse, the idea that an incredibly rich young woman would go around trying to get people socially ostracised as revenge for destroying her and her father’s lives is just daft.

Instead of doing something sensible, mistress of disguise Emily instead goes around sneaking into people’s hotel rooms wearing wigs and slipping mild food poisons into people’s soup in the hope that when they get to hospital, their wives will see they’ve probably been having an affair because they’re wearing the wrong kind of bathrobe. This is beyond silly: this is Final Destination silly.

We also have the very soapy backdrop. Problematically for someone doing her best to exact revenge anonymously, Emily’s moved to the Hamptons where she grew up, and everyone from business partners to childhood friends to dogs find her very familiar, despite her cunning prettiness. Naturally, she has to deny everything, so even the boy/man she used to love must be ignored in case it destroys her incredibly elaborate revenge scheme. But maybe she can still love him…

The cast is also variable. Emily Van Camp is pleasingly engaging and despite weighing about 80 pounds or something, her character can still (apparently) do some nifty self-defence moves.  It’s nice to have a well-rounded, female lead, at least, even if it’s a slightly mental one in this case. Van Camp can also switch from the sweetness and light ‘Emily’ to the real, ex-juvi, ex-foster home ‘Amanda’ (IIRC) with relative fluidity as well. Hopefully, once this gets cancelled, she’ll go onto something better.

Meanwhile, the show’s real star, Madeleine Stowe, who seems to have a thing for films and TV shows called Revenge, is massively over the top but clearly enjoying herself, while everyone else is as bland as the Hamptons sand (incidentally, Marc Blucas ain’t in this any more, despite what that trailer might suggest). 

While it’s nice to have the classics acknowledged, this is a very thin adaptation of the original novel that makes little sense, isn’t compelling to watch, has no really engaging characters beyond Emily and her accomplice(s) (no, no clues) and is really just a nastier Gossip Girl (complete with Connor Paolo) for adult women. It probably won’t last long, I’m afraid, and I’m not recommending it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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