I could tell you that Pretty Little Liars is one of the best shows on television, with exemplary acting that makes the sparkling dialogue crackle with life. I could tell you that this show has the hallmarks of a classic. I could tell you that and I would be lying. I could also tell you that this show is unwatchable and that I could barely make it through the pilot episode, let alone any of the 22 that fill out the first season and I would once again be lying.
Pretty Little Liars is not going to win any major awards, it has some of the clunkiest writing on TV (although not as atrocious as ABC Family’s other hit, The Secret Life of an American Teenager) and some of the worst line reads this side of a student film. On the other hand, it does have some excellent actors who make the most of their situation and deliver some good work, and the series has a mystery that kept me coming back for each episode, no matter how much I wanted to give up on it.
The show is a cross between the mystery/soap opera world of Desperate Housewives and the catty/soap opera world of Gossip Girl. At the heart of the show is the mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of popular queen bee, Alison (Sasha Pieterse- seen entirely in flashbacks), who went missing one night while having a sleepover with her four friends. A year after she’s gone missing, things have changed in the small town of Rosewood.
Aria (Lucy Hale) and her family have returned from a year abroad. She discovers that the small clique she belonged to has splintered apart. Hanna (Ashley Benson), once the frumpy, hanger-on of the group has lost her baby fat and taken over as the most popular girl in school. Spencer (Troian Bellisario) has become more driven and overachieving… and bitter. And star swimmer, Emily (Shay Mitchell), is struggling with accepting that she is a lesbian.
Home life for each girl is in disarray, as well. Aria harbors the secret of knowing her father (Chad Lowe) was having an affair on her loving mother (Holly Marie Combs). Hanna’s mother (Lara Leighton) is trying to make ends meet after her husband has skipped out on them. Spencer must deal with the blow back of having kissed her sister’s fiancé, and Emily must keep her feelings a secret from her overbearing mother.
While all of these changes are going on, the girls begin receiving text messages from the mysterious “A,” who seems to know all of their secrets, past and present. Is it Alison? Impossible, her body has turned up and they just buried her? Is it Jenna (Tammin Sursok), the bitter blind girl who lost her sight thanks to a prank the girls did (that went horribly wrong)? Perhaps it’s Jenna’s stepbrother, Toby (Keegan Allen)? No, couldn’t be him. He’s already wanted for Alison’s murder. Then who? I know one thing: by the end of the season we don’t find out! Gaaaaaaaa!
I want to hate this show, I really do. But I can’t. Pretty Little Liars is the definitive guilty pleasure. Like New Kids on the Block or Hudson Hawk, this show is so awful, it’s addictive. And the mystery keeps pulling you back in. Just when you think there isn’t another bad line delivery or terrible piece of dialogue, some intriguing part of the overall mystery pops up and you find yourself saying, “Oh no they din’t.” Yes, you really resort to lame TV phrases utilized on That’s So Raven.
Here’s what I suggest: set your DVR for tonight’s second season premiere of Pretty Little Liars. Then, go out and get season one on DVD. It won’t take you long to get through the entire season, maybe a week. Then you’ll be all set for season 2. Plus, when you get the DVD set you’ll get all of the groovy bonus features like the behind the scenes featurettes and deleted scenes. Pretty awesome, huh?
Then again, you may write me a nasty email because you’re now addicted to a show that makes you feel dirty for watching. For that, I apologize.