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"10 Things I Hate About You" Volume One DVD Review

Buy Ten Things I Hate About You (TV series): Volume 1 DVD from Amazon.com 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One (2009)
Show & DVD Details

Television Developer: Carter Covington / Writers: Carter Covington, Barry Safchik, Michael Platt, Erin Ehrlich, Lauren Iungerich, Jon Ross, Stefanie Leder, Robin Schiff (episodes); Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith (movie); William Shakespeare (play)

Regular Director: Gil Junger / 1-Episode Directors: Phil Traill, Rodman Flender, Henry Chan

Regular Cast: Lindsey Shaw (Katherine Stratford), Meaghan Jette Martin (Bianca Stratford), Ethan Peck (Patrick Verona), Nicholas Braun (Cameron James), Dana Davis (Chastity Church), Larry Miller (Dr. Walter Stratford)

Recurring Characters: Kyle Kaplan (Michael Bernstein), Chris Zylka (Joey Donner), Jolene Purdy (Mandella), Ally Maki (Dawn), Suzy Nakamura (Principal Holland), Leslie Grossman (Ms. Darlene Tharp), Justin Lee (Charlie Woo), Allie Gonino (Michelle), Jack Salvatore Jr. (Brad), Ashley Jackson (Tabitha Cook), Camila Greenberg (Lissa), Cody McMains (Keith)

Notable Guest Stars: Audrey Wasilewski (Carla), Sean Wing (Mr. Liam Ross), Ray Santiago (Luis), Barret Swatek (Ms. Sommers), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Vivian), Christopher Shand (Beau Brody), Jay Phillips (Security Guard)

Running Time: 223 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: TV-14-DL

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 12, 2010; Season 1 Airdates: July 7 - September 8, 2009
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99; Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Clear standard-width keepcase in embossed, cardboard slipcover

Buy from Amazon.com

You really don't see many movies made into TV series anymore. These days, adaptations usually move in the other direction. So, I guess a 10-year-old teen comedy film that barely earned back its budget theatrically is as logical a subject for episodic treatment as anything. We're not talking about any 10-year-old teen comedy, but 10 Things I Hate About You,
the appealing Shakespearean flick that has built a strong reputation over time while receiving as many cable TV airings as any 1990s movie.

"10 Things I Hate About You" debuted last summer as an ABC Family original series. This single-camera sitcom employs all of the leading characters from the 1999 film, but it plays freely with some of the established facts. For example, our stars, the diametric Stratford sisters, are now the ones who are new in town, having relocated from Ohio to California (Seattle in the movie), home of Padua High School.

For the most part, the show stays true to the film, which was inspired by William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Big sister Katherine (formerly Katarina and played by Julia Stiles, now played by Lindsey Shaw) is forward-thinking, a smart, progressive feminist who disregards momentary popularity. Kat's younger sister Bianca (Meaghan Jette Martin; Larisa Oleynik in the film) is the opposite; she's seeking status and acceptance from day one.

Kat (Lindsey Shaw) and Bianca (Meaghan Jette Martin) have different priorities, but the same cautionary father. Larry Miller is the one actor from the 1999 film to reprise his role for TV as lesson-dispensing gynecologist dad Walter Stratford.

Day one (i.e. the pilot episode) begins on the first day of school. The sisters' protective single father (abandoned in the film, widowed here, but in both places played by Larry Miller, the film's one returning cast member) has already enacted a rule allowing boy-crazy Bianca to date only when the tough, no-nonsense Kat does. Using medical supplies to teach lessons and police equipment to monitor, gynecologist Dad clearly would prefer his daughters steer clear of the opposite sex.

The girls' romances and social statuses are of chief interest to the series and their experiences with both involve the other young personalities from the film. Cameron James (Nicholas Braun, replacing Joseph Gordon-Levitt's new kid) is a tall semi-nerd who falls instantly in love with Bianca. Aiding him in his pursuit is Michael Bernstein (Kyle Kaplan; David Krumholtz in the movie), a trendy hipster who's shorter in stature but bigger in unaware nerdiness.

Kat meanwhile takes adversarial interest in quiet bad boy loner Patrick Verona (Gregory Peck's grandson Ethan Peck, Americanizing Heath Ledger's breakout role). Kat also finds a friend in obese graffiti artist Mandella (Jolene Purdy, Donnie Darko), the series' most drastically-reworked character (on film, bony Susan May Pratt was a Shakespeare-loving drama queen). Also retooled is Chastity (Dana Davis, Gabrielle Union in the film), a character who has been elevated to pampered head cheerleader, superintendent's daughter, and villain/frienemy to both Kat and Bianca. Also appearing in a somewhat reduced recurring role is Joey Donner (Chris Zylka, blonde unlike Andrew Keegan). Less vile than in the film but equally vapid, this football jock/aspiring model wields love triangle potential in between Bianca and Chastity.

With the long form come arcs, some adapted and some invented. Among the latter, the sisters each assume an extracurricular of interest. Kat becomes a yearbook photographer. Craving to be a cheerleader, Bianca must first settle for playing school mascot Percival the Penguin.

Cameron (Nicholas Braun) takes Michael's (Kyle Kaplan) advice to try peacocking, but the pink shirt, hat, and scarf look only give Bianca more reason to suspect he's gay. Ethan Peck (Gregory's grandson) dials up the dreaminess (or something like that) for this locker hall shot of Kat's "interesting" bad boy love interest Patrick Verona.

Unsurprisingly, the series pales next to the fine film in every way (starting, of course, with profanity). But on its own merits, it's not bad at all. The show is fast, snappy, kind of smart, and actually funnier than you might expect if, like me, you fall outside the network's primary teenaged female demographic in both age and gender. The edgy humor that earns a TV-14 rating
(ABC Family is, after all, "a new kind of family") doesn't feel forced or out of place; in fact, it keeps us closer to the movie's tone than would have been possible back when the movie was new.

"10 Things" loads on the cultural references. These teens are extremely well-versed in a few decades' worth of pop culture and contemporary celebrity gossip/news. Such comedy is more a reflection of industry intertextuality than adolescent realism, but as long as you recognize the swiftly-dropped allusions, you'll enjoy them. They may be the most original thing about this series, which hits nearly every beat from the film in the first episode, down to closing with a female cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." Many of the movie bits that are unused there (like Kat's drunken revelry) eventually turn up, except for the integral hiring plot, which is dropped. Beyond that, you might recognize some minor story points borrowed from fellow '99 high school tales "Freaks and Geeks" and Varsity Blues.

It is probably for the best that not too much effort goes into trying to match the film's characterizations. On the whole, the acting is quite alright. Leads Lindsey Shaw and Meaghan Martin are appealing, especially Martin who's actually high school aged. Larry Miller, an entertaining man you'd kind of hope would be above reprising his role for cable television, happily feels quite at home here, providing humor and heart in the dinner scenes he's mostly limited to.

As the dorky gentle giant who's mistaken for being gay, Nicholas Braun is okay, but never feels right for a part that recalls '80s John Cusack. I miss the comic timing Braun displayed in Sky High and has yet to recapture. As his advisor, metrosexual Jewish doofus Michael, Kyle Kaplan handles some witty material decently but without us warming to him. Dana Davis has the perfect look and sound down for her archetypal prima donna. Finally, third-billed but not excessively featured, Ethan Peck looks distractingly like his legendary grandpa. That's probably a good thing because it draws attention away from the fact that this Peck comes from the Kyle XY school of wooden delivery. There is none of the mystique and danger that the younger Heath Ledger gave Patrick.

Like fellow Mouse cable property Disney Channel, ABC Family plays by its own rules when it comes to season lengths and windows. "10 Things" ran for 10 episodes from July to September. While that sounds like a short season, the studio is calling next week's two-disc DVD release of those episodes Volume One. Not coincidentally, a second 10-episode batch ordered in September was supposed to start airing this month (January 2010). It has since been delayed until the spring, which gives you plenty of time to catch up on the first ten "10 Things" with this DVD (all ten episodes are also available to watch on ABC Family's official show website).

Chastity (Dana Davis) is surprised to learn that the new student that put her in a neck brace is related to the aspiring cheerleader on her left. Kat and Mandella (Jolene Purdy) are less than welcoming to spritely girls' bathroom intruder Charlie Woo in "I Want You to Want Me." Discussing a party neither is invited to, Cameron and Bianca realize that they're not as popular as they'd like to be.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (27:01) (Originally aired July 7, 2009)
In their introduction to Padua High, Kat runs into Chastity, who Bianca separately tries to impress. Cameron tries to get noticed by Bianca by hosting a party on his mom's night out. While the DVD doesn't designate this episode as extended, it does run over 5 minutes longer than the other shows.

2. I Want You to Want Me (21:24) (Originally aired July 14, 2009)
To raise money for their expensive new pom-poms, the cheerleading squad holds a carnation sale. The purchased flowers draw mixed reactions for buyers and their intended recipients, not all of whom are reached.

3. Won't Get Fooled Again (21:50) (Originally aired July 21, 2009)
Kat gets a fake ID to secretly see a band play in an over-21 setting. Bianca sneaks out to crash a party with Cameron. The nights out and the girls come together.

As rumors of a student-teacher romance swirl, Bianca is called into Principal Holland's office and comforted by the school shrink (Leslie Grossman). Trying to be both independent and socially responsible by single-handedly converting her car to biodiesel, Kat has to endure taunts from shop guys. Bianca and Dawn discover the best way to build a paying audience for their live webcam show is a lesbian kiss.

4. Don't Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation (21:48) (Originally aired July 28, 2009)
To clear her reputation as a goody two-shoes, Bianca starts a rumor that she's dating an older man, which escalates into accusations against a young teacher. Kat's objection to Patrick's littering lands both of them detention duty.

5. Don't Give Up (21:48) (Originally aired August 4, 2009)
Bianca works with Joey to keep him eligible for football. In a move for both women and the environment, Kat tries to convert her car to biodiesel by herself. Taking Michael's advice, Cameron sets out to prove to Bianca that he's not gay but a viable guy for her.

6. You Can't Always Get What You Want (21:47) (Originally aired August 11, 2009)
In need of shopping money, Bianca and her friend Dawn start a live pay webcam show, whose popularity increases with its homoeroticism. Kat complains about a teacher's lenient grading methods, only to get her grade dropped to a B-.

Per brush fire evacuations, the Stratfords show up at school with Bianca still in her sweets pajamas in "Light My Fire." Cameron and a roll of cookie dough are there for Bianca to soften the blow of her getting stood up on her first day. Chastity and Kat stand together to rally against school uniforms in the Volume One's final episode.

Disc 2

7. Light My Fire (21:56) (Originally aired August 18, 2009)
Brush fire forces everyone to evacuate for a night at the school. There, Bianca stands up to Chastity, Kat and Patrick talk, Walter meets a friendly divorcιe (Wendi McLendon Covey), and Cameron is racked with guilt over the possibility he started the fire.

8. Dance Little Sister (21:42) (Originally aired August 25, 2009)
The Fall Fling is here and with Kat agreeing to go with Patrick, Bianca plans the perfect first date with "shy" player Beau. When she's stood up, Cameron is conveniently there for her.

9. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party) (22:16) (Originally aired September 1, 2009)
With Dad away at a conference, the Stratford girls have the house to themselves for a weekend. Wild drinking party, anyone? Kat lets loose and, drunk on spiked watermelon, Cameron professes his feelings to Bianca, who grows fed up with hosting duties.

10. Don't Leave Me Like This (21:43) (Originally aired September 8, 2009)
Padua introduces a dress code and new security measures, stirring Kat's activist bent to protest. Joey and Bianca do more kissing, to Chastity's jealous suspicions. The worst episode of the lot, this is kind of a stupid end to the otherwise enjoyable half-season.

Under the influence of alcohol, Kat gets uncharacteristically wild to the amusement of everyone but party-hosting Bianca. Chastity (Dana Davis) is the head cheerleader. Joey (Chris Zylka) is the football team's starting quarterback. Naturally, they date... kind of.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Getting the now standard 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation once reserved for film, "10 Things I Hate About You" looks pretty dapper. Being shot on film, the show maintains a professional appearance, and the DVD preserves it with a clean, colorful transfer unmarred by any major concern.
With a little less compression (something the two discs should have more than afforded), the picture would be perfect.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also satisfactory. There is, of course, no laugh track, but the track delivers lively music -- including nice instrumentals by Richard Gibbs, who returns along with his themes from the film -- and good atmospheric chatter.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Disc 1 supplies an audio commentary on the pilot episode by actors Lindsey Shaw and Larry Miller, developer/writer/producer Carter Covington, and film/episode director Gil Junger. It's a decent track, spirited enough to easily fill the short runtime with both specific production information and some thoughts on the show's guiding intentions.

A second commentary accompanies "Light My Fire" featuring writer/executive producer Robin Schiff along with actors Dana Davis, Nicholas Braun, and Ethan Peck. This better track has more to share about both the episode and the series. With Braun amusingly leading the discussion, the topics covered include similarities and differences between actors and their characters, actors working together, and the show's future.

Emily (Chelsea Hobbs, left), the new gymnast at the Rock, is welcomed by Kaylie (Josie Loren) but shunned by Lauren (Cassie Scerbo) in the included "Make It or Break It" pilot episode. Actress Meaghan Jette Martin explains how two loves (reading and writing) make a hate, rendering book reports one of 10 or so things she hates about high school in the featurette.

The set's longest extra is perhaps the least relevant, but the 44-minute pilot episode of "Make It or Break It" is nonetheless a smart and satisfactory use of available disc space. This ABC Family drama, which makes its DVD debut alongside "10 Things", plays like a serious version of Stick It. That's to say it's set in the world of competitive teen gymnastics. At Boulder, Colorado's disciplined, reputable "The Rock", three longtime friends (Ayla Kell, Josie Loren, Cassie Scerbo) are threatened by a talented new arrival (Chelsea Hobbs) whose natural skills could shake up their standing as leading gymnasts. Serving up rivalry, secret romances, and different kinds of invested parents (among them: Susan Ward, whose apparent conception at age 7 explains her semi-deadbeat status; Peri Gilpin of "Frasier"; and Anthony Starke), the show starts bad but improves while its first episode ends with a series-changing twist.

"10 Things I Hate vs. 10 Things I Love" (12:25) is the DVD's most general featurette. Here, all of the show's regular cast members and developer/producer Carter Covington weigh in (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) on the things they like and loathe about their characters, high school, dating, parties, cliques, Shakespeare, and working TV hours. This fun piece is spiced up with show clips and fun graphics.

Larry Miller and guest star Wendi McLendon-Covey crack up in the Bloopers reel. Meaghan Jette Martin and Lindsey Shaw welcome you to competing school tours in the "Backstage Pass" promotional short. Disc 2's animated main menu serves up five rectangular montages at once.

A short but enjoyable reel of Bloopers (2:24) shows us a number of occurrences of contagious scene-ending laughter.

Finally, "Backstage Pass" (3:37) has lead actresses Lindsey Shaw and Meaghan Martin describing the show (which is liberally excerpted) and taking us on separate tours of the fake school set. Though this short is intended to promote the show for those who haven't seen it, it's a nice little inclusion.

Disc 1 opens with trailers for When in Rome, "Make It or Break It": Season One, and "Gary Unmarried": The Complete First Season. To these, the Sneak Peeks menu adds promos for Blu-ray, The Last Song, 10 Things I Hate About You: 10th Anniversary Edition, "Greek": Chapter Four, "Army Wives": The Complete Third Season, The Boys are Back, Surrogates, and "10 Things I Hate About You" on ABC Family.

The discs' main menus use five rectangles of different sizes to montage the series and its ab-revealing exploits. Inside the slipcovered clear keepcase are booklets advertising ABC TV and Blu-ray plus a coupon for $10 off the new 10th Anniversary Edition of the 10 Things movie, this DVD, or four other recent multi-disc ABC Family sets. The discs feature character images as does the keepcase interior that also lists episodes and extras.

Kat and Bianca briefly see eye-to-eye at the exciting realization their father has just left them home alone for the weekend. Padua's Fall Fling dance gives Patrick (Ethan Peck) a rare opportunity to see Kat (Lindsey Shaw) in a dress.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I can't say that I expected an ABC Family series adapted from 10 Things I Hate About You to be any good, so enjoying TV's "10 Things" was a pleasant surprise. The show isn't without some faults, like not all the acting is up to par and the material is all well-tread. But it's generally entertaining, quick-witted, and true enough to the film while being aptly tailored to fit the open-ended design of small screen programming.

Delivering top-notch picture/sound plus bonus features that impress in both quantity and quality, this Volume 1 DVD isn't likely to disappoint the show's fans. The price could be a little lower for such a short set, but then there's much more content here than on a single movie carrying the same tag. And compared to the types of random episode compilation discs offered for Disney Channel series, this is a far superior presentation. The only thing missing is deleted scenes and their absence probably means they weren't worth including.

More on the DVD / Buy 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 8, 2010.



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