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October 10, 2015

'Pretty Little Liars' Presents a Good Teen Mystery

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 7th 2010 8:03PM
The cast of 'Pretty Little Liars'If 'Pretty Little Liars' was on a broadcast network instead of ABC Family, it would probably not have a chance in hell of succeeding. Its target audience, the same group that eats up 'The Vampire Diaries' and 'Gossip Girl,' don't watch their TV on the couch. They watch it online, on their iPods, and just about anywhere else they can catch it that doesn't involve a cable box.

So, given who the show's audience is, and the fact that this series is based on a series of young adult novels by Sara Shepard under the same name, it's fair to say that ABC Family could have at least a modest hit on their hands. And the good thing about the show is that it's smart enough to not just be about teenage drama and kick-ass boots. It's actually got a pretty good mystery behind it, one that could at least sustain the show for a few fun summer runs.

After a brief introduction of five scheming high school friends, the action picks up a year after the lead schemer of the group, Alison (Sasha Pieterse) goes missing. In that year, the remaining four friends -- Aria (Lucy Hale), Spencer (Troian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Ashley Benson) -- go their separate ways. But they come together after they start receiving notes, texts, e-mails and IMs from someone with the signature of "A" who seems to know all of their secrets. Does that mean Alison is back and threatening them? Or is something more sinister happening?

The central mystery of what happened to Alison and why she or someone else is trying to get to this group of friends is what holds this show together. The pilot only shows tidbits of why this group was friends, and why Alison was such a central figure in the group. And, we only get to see a little bit of what makes this group the "pretty little liars" of the show's title -- Aria seduces an older guy by saying she was a college student, Hannah shoplifts some sunglasses.

But there's something to be said for revealing what's going in in small bits rather than giving the viewer exhaustive exposition in the pilot and hammer it over and over again in the subsequent episodes. And the producers and writers do a nice job of doling out just enough of those bits to make things move along but not enough to make things confusing.

Oh, and since there are six novels to draw from, a fan shouldn't have to worry about that age-old question with new serialized shows: "how will they do a second season?" The girls are just damaged enough, with enough mystery swirling around their individual family lives, to keep things interesting: Aria's dad (Chad Lowe) is keeping something from her mom (Holly Marie Combs, shockingly entering the "mother of teenager" phase of her career), Hannah's mother (Laura Leighton) uses her looks to get her way, among other shenanigans.

'Pretty Little Liars' (debuting on June 8 at 8PM ET) makes for good summer fare. And, given that teenage girls have made the novels a hit franchise, there's no reason why they won't make this show a hit. They just won't be watching it from the couch.

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Jan Jelinek

I agree- Holly Marie Combs as a mother of a teenager does not work for me and I think any interaction between her and her daughter will be unrealistic.

This reminds me of the movie that just played on Lifetime- "7 Deadly Sins" which was also adapted from books-- that story was about high schoolers with some adult secrets thrown in.

Lucy Hale (Aria) needs to do something with her eyebrows- they are too thick and I think they make her unattractive and it is hard to look at her up close. I don't get why she has them that way.

June 09 2010 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually I have been a big fan of Ashley Benson from Days of our lives and my daughters our fans of the books and I am a big fan of Holly Marie Combs from Charmed as our my Daughters and a Fan of Laura Leighton from Melrose and all three of us were glued to our seats last night and this morning at the office this appears to be the general consensus. We tend to glue ourselves ever Thursday for Vampire Diaries and then can't download it fast enough from iTunes to re-watch it and psychoanalysis each and every scene again and again so only time will tell. Last nights episode was excellent and it was nice to see Chad Lowe on TV again. Time has been good to him. I remember him from when Life goes on. He was always in his brothers shadow and it is unfortunate.

June 09 2010 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds good. But, wow, I don't think I buy Holly Marie Combs as the mother of a teenager.

June 07 2010 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rachel's comment

Well, if Shiri Appleby can be mother to Britt Robertson on Life Unexpected, why not Holly?

June 08 2010 at 5:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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