10 Things I Hate About You -- TV Review

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About 400 years on, Shakespeare comes to this: high school antics drawn with intermittent charm -- in crayon.

To summarize: "10 Things I Hate About You" is ABC Family's new series, based on the 1999 hit teen comedy, which itself was loosely based on "The Taming of the Shrew." Boiled down into a half-hour series, there's little left to suggest the Bard other than the lead family's surname (Stratford).

But that doesn't mean the show has nothing to contribute. "10 Things" revolves around two sisters, social climber Bianca and confrontational outcast Katherine, who have relocated to sunny Padua High School. They step into the slipstream and are absorbed with such speed that by the end of the first day, they've been through cheerleader tryouts, attended a kegger and caught the eye of no fewer than three boys.

In other words, don't expect a realistic, or even a "Beverly Hills, 90210" high school experience. These students are so well-costumed, primped and coiffed that it wouldn't be out of line for Zac Efron to kick off a song-and-dance number. (This is Disney, of course.) But though High Gloss High School is an acceptable patina these days, the writing is more hit-and-miss: When the head cheerleader insists she must date only the starting quarterback, it's hard to know if that's parody or if Ward Cleaver is showrunning.

Speedbumps aside, "10 Things" has genuine appeal. Larry Miller reprises his film role as Papa Stratford, and his dry, acerbic wit adds a modern splash of real life. (Too, Kat, when she mumbles about a newspaper article: "Are you talking to me or the Democrats in your head?") And the interplay between the sisters is the show's most sharply drawn of all the relationships thus far: "How do I look?" Bianca asks; "Shallow," Kat replies. "Thanks!" says Bianca, never happier.

The same could be said for "10 Things." It looks shallow, and probably is, but it just couldn't be happier that way. That's why finding the gems beneath the shiny surface are so rewarding.

Shakespeare might be turning in his grave, but he's probably got a smile on his face while doing it.

Airdate: 8-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7 (ABC Family)
Production: ProdCo.
Cast: Larry Miller, Lindsey Shaw, Meaghan Martin, Ethan Peck, Nicholas Braun, Dana Davis
Executive producers: John Ziffren, Carter Covington
Writer: Carter Covington
Producers: Shawn Wilt, Michael Platt, Barry Safchik
Director: Gil Junger
Director of photography: Greg Gardiner
Production designer: Mark Hofeling
Costume designer: Mandi Lane
Casting: Brett Greenstein & Collin Daniel, Tess Sanchez