Ten years after the movie, director Gil Junger joins with “Greek” writer-producer Carter Covington to transform “10 Things I Hate About You” into a promising new comedy, one perfectly suited to ABC Family. Expanding on the original’s “Taming of the Shrew” template, the single-camera pilot centers on the Stratford sisters — the tart Kat and desperate-to-be-popular Bianca — as they enroll at a new high school. Filled with pop-culture references, disarmingly edgy and smartly cast, the series appears to continue a solid roll for the cable network that was once an albatross around the neck of parent Disney.
Status-conscious Bianca (Meaghan Martin) wants nothing more than to be a cheerleader, so when she asks Kat (Lindsey Shaw) to assess her look and the response is “shallow,” she brightly chirps, “Thank you!”
Still, the Stratford girls’ arrival from Ohio (along with their ob-gyn dad, played by Larry Miller) causes instant waves at their new school. Kat clashes with snooty head cheerleader Chastity (Dana Davis), while Bianca — eager to make the squad — tries to bond with her. Meanwhile, nerdy Cameron (Nicholas Braun) fixates on Bianca, seeing an opportunity to woo her before she settles into one of the established high-school cliques. As he puts it, her social status has yet to be determined, as if she’s “about to reach into the sorting hat at Hogwarts.”
Finally, Kat draws the attention of the brooding, motorcycle-riding Patrick Verona (Ethan Peck, Gregory’s grandson), whose intensity prompts her to dub him “Hannibal Lecter.” There’s nevertheless a spark there, though one suspects the made-for-TV taming process will be a prolonged one.
Despite playing to a young audience, ABC Family is differentiating itself from Disney Channel with a more frank approach to the teenage years; here, examples range from a student’s casual use of “Get laid” to Kat’s remark about learning self-defense at her “Victims no more” class.
The adults barely register, but the program exhibits a knowing eye toward high school’s caste system, as well as a nice chemistry between Shaw (fresh off CW’s “Aliens in America”) and Martin. As if to reinforce the “Wicked”-like dynamic, at one point Chastity snaps, “Move it, Elphaba!”
Granted, given all the current cultural references, “10 Things” probably won’t enjoy an extended shelf-life, but it feels well-suited to the moment — including Kat’s liberalism and contempt for the “in” crowd. So while the checklist of assets might not add up to 10, there are several things to like about this series, which bodes well for its desire — shared by TV and teenagers — to become popular.