Revenge uses Emily VanCamp’s blooming-buttercup face to great advantage: As a young woman hell-bent on avenging her father’s ruination by a bunch of wealthy creeps, VanCamp smiles sweetly while plotting the thing in the title of the show. One of her prime targets is the Grayson family, headed up by Madeleine Stowe’s Victoria — and Revenge is never more sweet than when Victoria and VanCamp’s Emily Thorne square off with fake smiles, trying to extract information from each other that will result in the other’s misery.
The show was created by Mike Kelley, who also did the cult fave (but short-lived) Swingtown; thankfully, he’s got more to work with here. Revenge has been hyped as a modern take on The Count of Monte Cristo, mostly by media writers who clearly have never read The Count of Monte Cristo (count me among them). Instead, what Kelley, VanCamp, and Stowe have collaborated on, successfully, is a rejuvenation of the nighttime soap in the grand tradition of Dallas and Dynasty. Set in the posh environs of the Hamptons, it features glittering parties, stolen kisses, absurd financial dealings, and the corpses — literal and figurative — that Emily is determined to leave in her wake. The dialogue is a little flat, but the face-off acting is delicious. B+