So, slightly more-on-the-nose than I normally like, here's the top ten reasons why I Love Ten Things I Hate About You's TV incarnation despite my natural inclination, and the incorporated ten reasons why the CW could learn a thing or two from its less scandalous cousin.
10. The witty one liners: whether it's Kat and Patrick's banter, the hilariously inane chatter of Bianca and Joey, or the touching emotional moments that keep it going, Ten Things (and my other ABC family obsession, Greek) is consistently a well-written wunderkind.
9. The fact that all the characters, even the bitchy ones, turn out to be awesome: even Chastity, the evil head cheerleader, has turned out to be a fascinating individual for whom you actually end up rooting. Joey, the vacuous boy toy keeping Bianca away from Cameron, is an adorable aspiring model of the Zoolander strain.
8. Don't even get me started on how awesome these incarnations of Bianca, Kat, Cameron and Patrick are.
7. Okay, get me started... they're amazing.
6. The fact that Cameron and Bianca don't end up together, or at least haven't yet: It's far too often assumed that if the pilot starts with X pining away for Z, X and Z therefore belong together, whether or not as the show progresses that coupling makes any sense. In the case of 10 Things, Cameron and Bianca never really did (even if Joseph Gordon Levitt was totally the better man in the movie version). Therefore, the fact that the show has done a fairly convincing job of moving them from clueless-and-in-love to friends is sort of astonishing.
5. The way they deal with alcohol and drugs. It seems like shows that feature teens tend to fall into two camps on this: either they overly dramatize alcohol and drugs into being life-or-death and good-kids-don't-touch-them (think After School Specials or Full House) or they completely underplay the issues associated with their use and/or glamorize their use (think Gossip Girl, the OC). I don't really have an issue with that. But I love that in the ABC Family world, it's not after-school-specialy, but it's also rooted in a truth that admits that it's not cool to let your parents down and lie to them, nor is it a good idea to get hammered all the time before you even have a license to get taken away with the DUI.
4. Gay characters. It's not just that there are gay characters. But, after last week's coming out episode of Ten Things, it's that these shows feature gay characters in a realistic, sympathetic, and most importantly post-whatever kind of way. What do I mean? I mean the fact that Calvin is an awesome dude who happens to date guys (often) on Greek and that Cameron (on Ten Things) was more freaked out by the idea that Alex wasn't a level 8 wizard than he was by his homosexuality. And while the characters are mostly chill, realistic portrayals of gay guys, it's also not like the shows sweep their sexuality under the rug. Instead, they actually feature these guys going through issues that gay guys have to deal with because our world still isn't perfectly post-homophobia. There's literally no other shows dealing as sincerely, movingly, and most importantly funnily with these issues than those on ABC Family.
3. Sex. This is kind of a corollary to the Drugs one, but Greek and Ten Things (although kind of brought down by the sexual horror story that is The Secret Life of The American Teenager)deal with sex in a genuine, fascinating and unique way. Characters both accept the importance of sex (and not just of losing your virginity, but of continued sexual activity) and accept that good kids are doing it (pun definitely intended) too.
2. The episode of Ten Things where Kat and Patrick decide to have sex starts with her saying, "Let's get tested." This is what I'm talking about. Rather than turning the whole thing into a public service announcement about waiting until you are ready (which is obviously once you are married), Ten Things shows a path whereby responsible teenagers can be honest with themselves about what's going on and what they desire, and therefore make good choices. They even talk in depth about protection. When's the last time a CW show had a character reaching for condoms before engaging in ill conceived coitus?
1. The fact that the characters mess up in totally kid believable ways. They're mean to their parents and they're secretive, despite the fact that they love their dad and want to do the right thing for him. they're conflicted between their desire for a social life and their desire to do the right thing. Especially Kat, whose a bad ass post-feminist genius, but still occasionally a judgmental blow hard who makes the wrong decisions and jumps on the back of a motorcycle to impress a guy.
Convinced you yet?