If you were a 10- to 15-year old girl in 1999, you've probably seen 10 Things I Hate About You. If you weren't (and/or you haven't), it's not a difficult movie to like, thanks to a cute premise (popular younger sister can't date until elder outcast sister dates) and a cuter script ("I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"). And when it came out, it featured the cutest guys and girls of the moment: Heath Ledger (as Patrick) and Julia Stiles (as Kat) were the standout stars, but let's not forget about Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) as Cameron, Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack) as Bianca, and Andrew Keegan as Joey, either. It was like Tiger Beat magazine on film.
Well, somebody tipped off ABC Family -- about 10 years too late -- and now the teen movie has become a teen sitcom, retaining only one original cast member (Larry Miller is Kat and Bianca's father, Dr. Walter Stratford, in both). The original 90-minute film has been stretched into a serial, with the same premise but different chemistry among the cast. Kat (Lindsey Shaw) and Bianca (Meaghan Jette Martin) are the new kids in town, Chastity (Dana Davis) and Joey (Chris Zylka) are an item, and Patrick (Ethan Peck) seems to wash his hair more than we remember. But you know what? It's kind of cute.
The show has a superficial, bubblegum appeal to it; all of the characters are too young to be as attractive as they are. But the smart script helps broaden the show's audience and defy the stereotype that the cast's runway-ready appearances help create. Kat is even more culturally aware than her cinematic predecessor, serving up rapid-fire references to Muslim burkas, Driving Miss Daisy and Hannibal Lecter in the pilot alone. And Bianca spits more game this time around, telling her sister, "No more NPR. It's giving me menopause."
In short, these mini-models show some potential -- and so does the show itself.
10 Things I Hate About You airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.