June 9, 2010

Dirty Secrets

Caught the premier of Pretty Little Liars last night on ABC Family. I know ABCF has a pretty good reputation for original programming (I've heard good things about Greek, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and the short-lived Ten Things I Hate About You) but this is the first one I've watched from them. It can be a little tough to judge a whole series by the pilot (because some get much better but others get much worse with subsequent episodes) but so far, I'm in.

The show opens with five 15-year-old girls drinking and generally getting up to shenanigans in what appears to be a cabin in the woods but might turn out to be a potting shed on the grounds of one of the ginormous estates in this Pennsylvania town. One of the girls, Alison, appears to be the "Heather" of the group as she taunts them all with the "secrets" that they share. The next morning, after one girl supposedly heard a scream, they all wake to find Alison missing. (I say supposedly because this Bellisario girl is a pretty terrible actor and her lack of affect made it impossible for me to determine if the character actually heard the scream or if she was lying.)

Cut to a year later, Alison is still missing, the other four girls are no longer close and Alison's parents are moving away.

Aria (Lucy Hale) and her family are just back from a year in Iceland where I presume her father was a guest professor at a university. She wastes no time implying she's older than she is and making out with her new English teacher in the bathroom of a local bar. Spencer (Troian Avery Bellisario) is incredibly uptight and type-A and has spent a year getting perfect grades and renovating the family garage into a loft that she expects to move into until her sister Melissa (Torrey DeVitto - a.k.a. OTH's Psycho Nanny) comes home with her med-student fiance and takes up residence there. Former "chub" Hanna (Ashley Benson) has cultivated a dandy eating disorder and taken up shoplifting since her dad moved out. She's also taken on a minion and become the new "Heather." And Emily (Shay Mitchell), after what appears to have been a pretty boring year, is befriending (and kind of kissing) the new girl, Mya (played by an atrociously wigged - at least I hope that abomination is a wig! - Bianca Lawson), whose family is moving into Alison's old house.

On the anniversary of Alison's disappearance, all four of the other girls receive messages from "A" that allude to secrets only Alison knew about each of them - Aria's father's affair with a student, Spencer's propensity for making out with Melissa's boyfriends, Hanna's eating disorder, and Emily's lesbianism - which freaks each girl out. Emily mentions it to Aria but before they can confab with the others, Mya's mom's construction team unearths human remains and the town has to drop everything to attend Alison's funeral.

While at the funeral, the girls are taken aback by the arrival of a blind girl that no one wants to talk about so I assume that one of the many horrible things they did before Alison kicked involved said blind girl. They discover that they've all received the mysterious messages from A and then promptly all get a menacing text message from A. As if that isn't creepy and annoying enough for them, the local detective (Bryce Johnson) lets them all know that while the Missing Persons case has been closed, he's opening an investigation into Alison's murder and they're all suspects.

A decent plot with the potential to be very interesting indeed but what I was finding particularly interesting last night was the casting of the parents. Chad Lowe is Aria's student-screwing father who is counting on his 16-year-old daughter to keep his secret (creep!) from her mother, Holly Marie Combs. Nia Peeples is Emily's mom. Laura Leighton play's Hanna's recently dumped mom who can't take any more hits to her family's rep so she fucks detective Bryce Johnson in order to expunge her daughter's recent shoplifting bust. And I believe I heard a rumor that Alexis Denisof might make an appearance as Hanna's father which would be awesome.

If nothing else, this does make for a fun way to help pass the summer. Thank God for basic cable and their summer series!

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