June 30, 2010By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Jun 30, 2010
I am totally and completely in love with PRETTY LITTLE LIARS — no lie! I only watched the first episode because summer rerun hell had begun. I had no expectations except to play a game of "so, where else do I know the adults from." And I'm still doing that with hilarious results. I love that Jesse from LIFE GOES ON (Chad Lowe), Piper from CHARMED (Holly Marie Combs), Karen from Y&R (Nia Peeples), Sydney from MELROSE PLACE (Laura Leighton) and Chris Ramsey from PORT CHARLES (Nolan North) all play parents on the series. I like to talk to the TV, so I'm always like, "Oh, come on, Jesse..." or "Wow, Syd, that was harsh!" But I quickly realized that identifying, and identifying with, the adults wasn't the only draw!
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS is, like MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, a show primarily about female relationships: friendships, mother/daughter conflicts and, yes, even a romance. ABC Family does this so well, crafting shows that are about more than who is hooking up with whom. Sure, there are boys involved...but I watch PLL for the girls. I watch for Aria (Lucy Hale) who is the headstrong "fixer" of the group, working out her daddy issues with a forbidden relationship through her teacher, Mr. Fitz. (He's fresh out of college, so it's only mildly skeevy). I watch for Emily, (Shay Mitchell), who is quiet and introspective and struggling with her sexual identity. She and her mom (the aforementioned Nia Peeples) are visible minorities and one of her love interests is Bianca Lawson (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER)...so not only are we getting a well-told bisexual storyline, but also an interracial one involving two women of color! Whoo-freaking-hoo! BTW, it actually freaks me out more than Aria and Mr. Fitz, because Lawson is my age and I can't shake the feeling that her character, Maya, is masquerading as a teen for some nefarious plot. Love it! I could stop right there, except that I also adore the remaining titular LIARS. Troian Bellisario's Spencer is the odd duck in a family of overachievers. She's not as tightly wound as her dad and her sister Nanny Carrie...er, Melissa (ONE TREE HILL's Torrey Devitto), and wants to rebel. Then there's Hanna, played by Ashley Benson (ex-Abby, DAYS). Hanna used to be the good girl and now she's a magnet for trouble. Benson has this great way of playing the sweetness trapped under the new layer of cynicism, and I had to crack up when, this week, Roark Critchlow (ex-Mike, DAYS) showed up as her father. Yes, I spent the whole episode calling him "Uncle Mike" and wondering if he was there to help Abby through Great-Gran Alice's death.
Of course, it's not Alice's death, but Alison's that preoccupies the girls of Rosewood. Played by Sasha Pieterse, the mysterious Ali and what she compelled the girls to do last summer very much drives the story happening now. We see Alison through the LIARS' filter, as the HBIC (that's Head Bitch in Charge!). She's the mean girl with the ability to make everyone dance to her tune because of her influence and charisma. Did she die? Did she disappear? Is she tormenting her friends from beyond the grave? We don't know! And what do Jenna Cavanaugh (Tammin Sursok, ex-Colleen, Y&R) and her troubled brother, Toby (Keegan Allen), have to do with it all?
You can bet I'll be tuning in every week to find out!