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Television Review

A show with fast cars, female bonding

'Privileged' Megan (JoAnna Garcia, right) is hired to get twin socialites Rose (Lucy Kate Hale, left) and Sage Baker accepted at Duke. (Jaimie Trueblood/The CW )
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 9, 2008
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You can always count on bratty-rich-girl shows such as "Gossip Girl" and "90210" for at least one absurdly nasty zinger. In the CW's new "Privileged," teen snoot-head Sage Baker, looking like Rumer Willis, takes a quick gander at her plain new tutor and coldly announces: "I puke cuter than that outfit you're wearing."

But "Privileged," based on the book "How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls," is more than a snap-a-minute goof on kids drowning in dirty sexy money and designer clothes. The show, which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 56, has the makings of a more sincere, "Gilmore Girls"-like take on female bonding. There are many sisterly tensions and mother-daughter longings afoot in the show's fabulous Palm Beach mansion, alongside the sports cars, swimming pools, and kitchen staff.

Megan (JoAnna Garcia, from "Reba") is a brainy Yale grad and aspiring journalist who lives with and teaches twin socialites. If she can get Rose and Sage Baker accepted at Duke, their cosmetics-mogul grandmother (Anne Archer) will pay off Megan's college loans. Of course, the spoiled girls are very unwilling students, and Sage (Ashley Newbrough) is particularly difficult. But Megan persists, and the battle becomes a mission for her after she learns why Sage and Rose are being raised by their grandmother. Garcia is an affable lead; she manages to be cynical and spunky at the same time, not an easy pair of qualities to merge.

As Megan pushes the girls to open their minds, she also has to deal with her own emotional baggage. She has a complex and unresolved relationship with her sister, as well as a developing conflict involving two very different suitors. Both men are impossibly handsome, of course; this is the CW. But one is an heir, and the other is a struggling waiter.

It's all fairly boilerplate; I don't want to overstate the virtues of this CW fairy tale, which was created by "Everwood" writer Rina Mimoun. But "Privileged" does have an unexpectedly sweet and cautionary undercurrent that you don't always find in shows that invite us to gawk at opulence.

Privileged

Starring: Lucy Kate Hale, JoAnna Garcia, Kristina Apgar, Anne Archer, Ashley Newbrough

On: The CW, Channel 56

Time: Premieres tonight at 9

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