The fiction: Revenge, season one, episode thirteen. Broadcast: 18/01/2012. Director: Kenneth Fink. Props master: Ross Anderson.
The newspaper: Hamptons Guardian
Part soap opera and part modern-day Count of Monte Cristo, Revenge centres on a dastardly plan concocted by protagonist Emily Thorne. She’s the daughter of a terrorist, except he wasn’t really a terrorist and she’s out to wreck the lives of everybody who was in on the conspiracy. Naturally, they’re all obscenely rich and spend their time in the Hamptons, a ridiculously expensive collection of villages and hamlets in the United States.
By episode twelve Emily’s revenging plan sees her burning down the house of an author who’s written a book about her dad – except he’s omitted the parts about him not being a terrorist. But the real revenge comes from the fact that his latest manuscript only exists as one typewritten copy at his house.
Even though it’s exactly the same superstitious and sentimental rubbish that ruined James Caan’s day in Misery, this author – Mason Treadwell – hasn’t learnt the lesson and swiftly loses his next book.
In the next episode, Emily’s sojourn into pyromania has hit the front page of the Hamptons Guardian, a daily broadsheet paper that doesn’t exist in our world. It seems like a fairly decent paper, cramming at least four stories above the fold.
It seems as if the Treadwell story is just a big picture and a caption, with little in the way of a story – but I suspect there’s a cross-reference to an inside page that the we don’t see.
Kudos to the Revenge team for design a newspaper that looks like the sort of upmarket affair befitting of the wealthy readership it would have in the Hamptons. The story to the left of Emily’s revenge set-piece concerns issues of labour and unions, just the sort of “troublesome pleb” stuff that would keep Hamptons-dwellers mildly angry at breakfast. It’s not nice for newspapers to keep its readers annoyed at the world, but it does help sell them.
The caption is a bit of a letdown, repeating both the phrases “local author” and “up in flames”. That is unforgivably shoddy subediting, and should certainly not have made it past a quick proofread let alone to the printing press. Worse still, journalists have more than one phrase for things being on fire: “engulfed in flames” would at least provide some variation, but options also extend to “razed to the ground”, “ablaze”, “raging inferno”, and so on. Journalists are never ones to shy away from cliché phrases like this and here they even had a reason.
However, given that it is dark when Emily sets the fire it’s possible that it was a very late addition to the paper. If it were rushed into print at short notice, that could also explain the lack of further detail – there simply wasn’t time to gather enough news to write up an article, and the Hamptons Guardian barely managed to get the photo, headline and caption out properly.
To momentarily return to our own reality, there is some lovely attention to detail below the photo to the right, where there seems to be a line of credit for the photographer. It’s smaller than the caption text, and long enough to suggest it probably is a dual credit – one for the headshot of Mason Treadwell and another for the burning building.
Who took the photo is unclear, but they must have been pretty late to the scene or they were in on Emily’s revenging. Otherwise they would have been able to photograph her, given that she decided “sneaky” wasn’t as good a look as the Unflinching Walk.