There's no soft soap from this new avenger

US thriller Revenge starts tonight. It's a return to the Eighties, says Sarah Hughes

Thirty years ago watching television was easy. You sat down with your family and gasped at a parade of glamorous women as they fought and schemed and threatened their way across your screen.

The 1980s was the decade of the night-time soap opera and the only real decision you had to make was whether you were a Dynasty family, preferred Dallas, or even, sacrilege, were the sort of indecisive type who watched both. Now E4 is hoping to bring back those glory nights of big hair and bigger shoulder pads back with the arrival at the end of this month of their newest US import.

Revenge is a sudsy thriller set in chichi beach resort Hamptons and stuffed full of beautiful people with perfect teeth, all possessed of the ability to utter gloriously over-the-top lines such as: "Understand something, Lydia. Every time I smile at you across a room, run into you at a luncheon, welcome you into my home, let my smiles be a reminder of how much I despise you. And that every time I hug you, that warmth you feel is my hatred burning through" with admirably straight faces.

"I wanted to create a night-time soap opera because I had grown up loving shows like Dynasty," admits Revenge's creator Mike Kelley. "When were on TV 30 years ago they were so fresh and exciting. I loved the heightened emotions, all the elements of treachery, deceit, love and lust."

US network ABC, who approached Kelley saying that they were interested in doing a modern-day update of Alexandre Dumas' historical swashbuckler The Count of Monte Cristo. "They didn't really have more of an idea that that so I read the book again and thought that there were all these possibilities," says Kelley. "Because with today's audiences you can't just have a night-time soap opera about rich people, you need more."

Revenge is essentially the story of Emily Thorne, a mysterious young woman who turns up in the Hamptons for the summer and swiftly inveigles her way into the heart of the wealthy Grayson family. Emily is not who she seems. Her father was badly betrayed by the Grayson family and her sole aim is to wreak her vengeance on them.

And she doesn't hold back. Within the first few episodes people are shot, poisoned and financially ruined. Holding the whole frothy confection together are two committed performances from Emily VanCamp as the wronged but somewhat sociopathic Emily Throne and Madeleine Stowe as icy matriarch Victoria Grayson.

"Madeleine read the script, called us and asked for a meeting," says Kelley of Stowe, the ethereal star of Nineties hits such as Twelve Monkeys and The Last of the Mohicans. And no wonder, after being out of the Hollywood spotlight for a number of years, Stowe, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, steals the show with Joan Collins' levels of relish.

Yet if Revenge were nothing more than a sudsy guilty pleasure it probably wouldn't have become the success that it has. In the US it regularly pulled over eight million viewers and ABC recently rewarded it with the plum Sunday night slot recently vacated by Desperate Housewives.

So why did it work? In part, it's because under the sudsy trappings beats an altogether blacker heart. Revenge might be based on The Count of Monte Cristo but it nods to everything Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels to Alfred Hitchcock movies. Yes, it indulges in melodramatic moustache twirling but it does so with a knowing wink ensuring the rise and (potential) fall of the house of Grayson is both gloriously over-the-top and darkly compelling.

'Revenge' starts tonight at 9pm on E4

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen