Pretty Little Liars Premiere

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It’s summertime, which means my television has dried up in terms of new content. Shows with multiple mini-seasons per year like The Little Couple and the abominable but addictive Toddlers & Tiaras are back, as well as the always brilliant Friday Night Lights, but other than that I swear I turn on my PVR and a tumbleweed crosses my screen. Let me tell you, I cannot *wait* for Degrassi to reboot itself in a near-daily format in about a month’s time.

I decided to PVR another new show, since Canada’s MuchMusic has started airing more and more television and less and less music, turning itself into a sad MTV clone. Lame! MM airs Degrassi these days which is doubly lame because it doesn’t broadcast in high-def even though the show is in high-def. Well, they also happen to be the only channel broadcasting ABC Family’s new program, ‘Pretty Little Liars’.

By pure coincidence it was like a perfect storm of hype managed to make its way into my peripheral. A friend on read the book and liked it. I recognized Lucy Hale, whose career I’ve been passively following for the last five years post-American Juniors, in the glossy print ads. And I happened to see a little blurb on it the day it premiered.

I finally got around to watching it last night, and, although I had trouble sleeping for a myriad of reasons, this show did not help one bit. It had an eerie creepy feeling to it that reminded me of ‘The Craft’ for some reason (I blame the autumnal colouring and Lucy Hale’s supposedly ‘goth’ wardrobe), as well as a bad film I’ve seen too many times call ‘The In Crowd’ starring er, Susan Ward from Sunset Beach.

Basically the premise is this: five girls were best friends, but in that catty, frenemies kind of way, at least when it came down to their ringleader Allie and her manipulation of them. One night the girls are drinking and Allie goes missing. Shortly after Aria (Lucy Hale) left town to go to Europe because her dad (Chad Lowe) went on a workplace sabbatical. The story picks up one year later, with the anniversary of Allie’s death and the return of Aria. Immediately Aria realizes things are not how she left them – the remaining three friends have drifted apart.

Emily is questioning her sexuality as she befriends the new girl that moves into Allie’s family’s old home.

Hannah (hey, it’s Carson from the fourth Bring It On!) has gone from being the chubby one to the it girl with a kleptomania problem and a newly single mom.

Spencer is crushed when her always perfect big sister steals away her converted barn/loft for her and her boyfriend Wren (a dreamy British med student).

Aria, feeling detached from her hometown and former friends, engages in a random hookup with an education student, who ends up being her new student teacher in high school.

As each of the girls enter dangerous territory – theft, affairs, relationship drama – they all get mysterious messages from ‘A’, presumably Allie. But by the end of the first episode they’ve supposedly found Allie’s body and held a final farewell. The remaining foursome are still jumpy however, not just because they get a simultaneous text from the grave, but because there are many other secrets binding them together and driving them apart. Including ‘The Jenna Thing’, which happens to be the title of the second episode, and seems to relate to a seemingly blind girl (perhaps the ‘A’ in question) named Jenna Cavanaugh that showed up at the funeral.

My general thoughts beyond the plot outline above? The writing was absolutely terrible. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a pilot or it’s the trite garbage kids are expected to buy these days, but it was pretttty brutal throughout. The pacing was also rapid-fire, which is probably why it felt more like a movie than a pilot episode. A ton of stuff was established, way more than what I just gabbed on about above, and there was a certain level of creepy touchiness about the main foursome that was compelling, but it also felt like ‘Okay we’re experiencing what now?’ Kudos to the writers for getting to cram in so many short scenes in just an hour – I think each girl had at least four or more to themselves – but it made for a slightly disjointed experience overall.

I am planning to continue watching the series, in part because it’s the summer. I hope it’s not a long-running series and more of a mini-series for the summer because I anticipate once the Allie mystery is resolved (if ever, perhaps it’s an omniscient Gossip Girl type situation) the show will sort of lose its momentum, a la post-Season 1 Desperate Housewives. I’d be curious to read the books but alas, I see it’s a relatively long-running series and I’ve got way too much on my reading plate to consider picking up something new.

As for casting? I suspect Lucy Hale is a little too pretty to be playing Aria, based on the offhand comment Emily or Hannah’s mom made about how it wasn’t cool that Aria’s mom (Holly Marie Coombs from Charmed) was letting her ‘run around looking like a goth’. Then again, the show includes the word ‘pretty’ in it so maybe all the girls are supposed to be as gorgeous as they are. Hannah (Carson!) was a good choice as the flashbacks had her fitting into the chubby-girl-that-doesn’t-know-she’s-pretty role as well as her groomed-and-coiffed-queen-bee current status. The girl that plays Emily is probably the most endearing so far, although she seems genuinely uncomfortable with her lesbian storyline, possibly because her gal pal speaks five octaves higher than a normal person should. And Spencer is a bit of a two-face, plus looks way older than the others, especially when they stand together (the fact she took ‘an internship at the Mayor’s’ between grades 10 and 11 didn’t help either), but it was amusing to see psychotic ‘Nanny Carrie’ from One Tree Hill reappear on my screen.

We shall see how the series plays out I guess. The fact I woke up every hour last night in the throes of a slightly random nightmare that somewhat linked to the show speaks well for it, but really who doesn’t love a bit of popcorn-y, trashy summer TV?

- Britt’s On


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