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SHOW PATROL

Review: Payback is pretty in ABC's 'Revenge'

By Curt Wagner

RedEye

12:13 PM PDT, September 21, 2011

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I dismissed the sudsy new prime-time thriller “Revenge” (9 p.m. Wednesday, ABC; 3 stars) when I watched its pilot over the summer, but I was too quick to judge. It’s terrifically trashy and a lot of fun.

Sweet Emily VanCamp from “Brothers and Sisters” plays against type as Emily Thorne, a young billionaire who moves to the Hamptons to get even with the rich folks who destroyed her father (James Tupper) and ruined her life—back when she was called Amanda. She rents a house next door to Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), the wealthy queen bee of the buzzing Hamptons social scene, and slithers her way into Victoria’s circle.

Creator Mike Kelley (who also created the Chicago-set “Swingtown”) has not-so-loosely based “Revenge” on “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Alexandre Dumas’ novel about a man who settles old scores. He and director Phillip Noyce pack the premiere with parties and a boatload of pretty people, not to mention secret identities, affairs, a murder, a poisoning and a backstory involving corporate intrigue and terrorists.

I’m not saying the show is perfect. These types of melodramas always stretch the bounds of believability in service of their potboiler plots: Emily’s grade-school sweetie, now the grown-up hunk Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler), was so enamored with the memory of her he called his boat by her (real) name. Yet he doesn’t recognize Amanda/Emily when they meet again. His dog, however, does.

But Emily and Victoria may be the most conniving characters in this fall’s crop of new TV shows, and you really don’t want to miss their scrumptious scheming. VanCamp gives Emily equal amounts of cold resolve, guilt and vengeful glee as she plots her vengeance. Stowe’s Victoria embodies all those qualities, plus an imposing nature that would have the “Real Housewives” of anywhere shaking in their Louboutins.

I don’t want to give too much away, but when Emily and Victoria take aim at the same target in the premiere—well, I squealed just a little bit.

They say “Revenge” is a dish best served cold, and here it’s downright delicious.