I haven’t yet seen the pilot of ABC Family’s 10 Things I Hate About You, but Todd VanDerWerff has, and his review has some interesting things to say about high school castes on TV, ABC Family’s programming strategy, movie-to-TV adaptations, and the dangers of seemingly trying to re-tell a movie’s story in the TV format (instead of starting the series after the movie ended, as Buffy did, or just using the basic premise of the movie in the pilot and then going off in new directions from that point on):
So, naturally, since playing up the relationship between the sisters would be the best way to make this a recurring series, the show embraced, instead, the idea of just doing the movie in incremental bits, week by week, and then strapping traditional teen plots onto that. This week, we get all of the same exposition from the movie (the younger sister can’t date until the older sister does, etc.), most of it helpfully doled out by Larry Miller, reprising his role as the girls’ father. We get an introduction to the romantic entanglements in play (sweetly dorky guy loves Bianca who loves quarterback who is fighting his attraction to Bianca because he’s dating head cheerleader, etc.). We meet the guy who’s going to drive Kat crazy (and the pilot gives him so little to do that I guess we’ll have to wait to complain about how he’s not Heath Ledger until next week).
ABC Family is an interesting network, even apart from its convoluted history, in that it’s one of the few networks doing teen-oriented programming — not squeaky-clean tween shows, not shows for the generalized 18-49 category, but shows that really concern themselves with what teenagers and college students do and what they like to see (basically, a lot like the ‘tween shows in the basic premises and relationships, and the focus on friendship — but with more edgy and PG-rated material). The only other network really doing that kind of show is the CW, and ABC Family does it a lot better; Secret Life of the American Teenager and especially Greek are shows about reasonably normal-for-TV, relatable young people, where the CW’s teen shows are really just grown-up prime-time soaps with slightly younger casts. An exception, as Todd notes, was Aliens in America, and that didn’t last.