Fall TV First Impression: Revenge, So Sweet?

The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall. To help you prepare for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next on our list is.…

THE SHOW | ABC’s Revenge (Wednesdays at 10/9c, premiering Sept. 21)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ relocated CSI, NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, USA Network’s Psych (starting Oct. 12), FX’s American Horror Story (new, premiering Oct. 5)

THE CAST | Emily VanCamp (Brothers & Sisters) as Emily Thorne; Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans), Henry Czerny (Clear and Present Danger), Josh Bowman (Make It Or Break It) and Christa B. Allen as Victoria, Conrad, Daniel and Charlotte Grayson; Nick Wechsler (Roswell) and Connor Paolo (Gossip Girl) as Jack and Declan Porter; Gabriel Mann (Mad Men) as Nolan; and Ashley Madekwe (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) as Ashley

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THE SET-UP | Emily Thorne née Amanda Clark is out for [see show title] in this sexy spin on The Counte of Monte Cristo. Seventeen years ago, Amanda’s father (played in flashback by Men in Trees‘ James Tupper, replacing Marc Blucas from the original pilot) was sentenced to life in prison for a ghastly crime. Years later, upon learning of her dad’s innocence and who was responsible for framing him, Amanda adopts a new, well-funded identity and makes tracks for the Hamptons, resolved to ruin those who ruined her childhood — including but by no means limited to society doyenne Victoria.

More of TVLine’s First Impressions: ABC’s Pan AmOnce Upon a Time and Charlie’s Angels, NBC’s Whitney, Up All Night and The Playboy Club, Fox’s Terra Nova and New Girl, The CW’s Hart of DixieThe Secret Circle and Ringer, CBS’ Unforgettable2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest

THE GOOD | My refrain of choice for those who have asked me about Revenge: This is some good, frothy fun, a primetime sudser the likes of which we haven’t enjoyed in a while. The pilot efficiently lays the foundation for Emily’s want for vindication, then affords time for her to cut one or two targets off at the knees with military-like precision. (There’s an awesome moment where she “unwittingly” exposes an affair that leaves the adulterer, the betrayed and you the viewer at a loss for words.) The solid cast is led by VanCamp, at once a contradiction of steely eyes and warm smile, and Stowe, as the prickly and very powerful Victoria. Mann also pops, playing a young Internet billionaire who owes his success to Amanda’s father.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | The pilot opens with a Damages-like flash-forward to a shocking event that I wish had held back on at least a few key details, allowing a bit more mystery about what lies ahead. The pilot was shot in North Carolina, and from thence on episodes were filmed in California; let’s hope the setting never reads false. Some critics have wondered: Can Emily’s quest for vengeance sustain a series? (Producers explained at TCA that it won’t always be about Emily’s revenge, and that at some point “summer” will end and the action will relocate to New York City.)

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THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Though Revenge has a toehold on a distinct niche and is airing opposite two greying, transitioning procedurals (in CSI and SVU), the fact remains that Criminal Minds will set a better table for the 10 o’clock slot than any ABC comedies will. Revenge must also vie with FX’s sure-to-be-noisy (yet sure-to-be-polarizing) American Horror Story for roaming eyeballs. To turn a phrase, will Revenge be the best success? I for one hope so.

Watch a video preview for Revenge, then vote in our poll below.