Last week, ABC Family introduced a brand new teen drama to their Tuesday evening schedule. Pretty Little Liars is based on a series of novels of the same name by Sara Shephard. The story follows four sixteen year old girls in the small town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, who were all close friends until the fifth member of their group, Alison, disappeared one night during a sleepover.
Pretty Little Liars is not for young teenagers. It includes under-age drinking, pot-smoking, engaging in sexual activity, shoplifting and a whole host of other moral issues. Don’t let that completely put you off though. If you push those things aside, the story is rather intriguing.
Pretty Little Liars begins a year after Alison’s disappearance and shows how the girls, Aria, Spencer, Hannah and Emily have grown apart. Aria’s family had just returned to Rosewood after being away for a year and it didn’t take her long to realise that everything has changed.
Aria’s story begins incredibly quickly in the pilot episode. It’s clear that she has a frosty relationship with her father, which we later discover is due to her catching him with another woman in the back of his car. (It’s also clear that Aria’s mother doesn’t know about this infidelity, though I’m willing to bet it comes out later.) Almost as soon as we meet Aria, she finds her way to a bar and meets a good-looking young guy who tells her he’s about to begin his first teaching job soon. Some time passes, and the next thing we see is Aria and the hot teacher groping each other in the toilets. Next day, Aria has her first day back at school and – big surprise – the guy she had been making out with is her new English teacher.
This is when things start to get weird. Aria receives a slightly cryptic text message from “A”, referring to her father’s affair, and Alison was the only person who knew about it.
But how could a girl who has been missing for a year be sending text messages, you ask? Keep reading, because this isn’t as strange as it gets!
Next we move on to Emily. Emily is introduced as a “jock”, though her appearance doesn’t entirely back that up. She looks too delicate, though as her sport is swimming, it sort of works. Emily’s big introduction comes when her mum tells her to go and introduce herself to the new family that has just moved into Alison’s former family home. On arrival she meets Maya, a girl of roughly the same age as Emily. Maya asks her to help unpack and both girls reveal that they have boyfriends. After chatting for a while, Maya asks Emily if she wants to smoke some pot, which she agrees to though we don’t see it on screen. The two later almost share a kiss, but it is more an awkward moment rather than a graphic snog,. However, it is obviously not Emily’s first girl kiss as she receives a note in her locker from “A” hinting at a previous encounter with another girl.
Hannah is the “it” girl of the group, though flashbacks showed that she wasn’t always that way. She was never chubby, but Alison seemed to often make digs about how much she ate. We first see her in the present shoplifting a $350 pair of sunglasses with a girl named Mona who used to be a dork but is now the height of trendiness. What is most striking and a bit confusing about Hannah is that she looks a LOT like Alison. It’s hard to tell whether or not this was a conscious choice she made, but either way, it’s a little bit odd. During a meal with her mother, it is revealed that Hannah’s father walked out on them a while ago and they are both still coming to terms with it. While they’re eating, they are interrupted by the police who arrest Hannah as security cameras caught her shoplifting. While her mother is talking to the police, Hannah sits in the waiting room and is about to munch on some jelly beans when she receives a text message. Bet you can’t guess who it’s from! Yep, that’s right, it’s “A”, with another bitchy weight comment.
It’s at this point you’re almost glad Alison went missing because the only thing she appeared to be known for was gossip, insults and blackmail.
When Hannah’s mum comes out of the police interview room, she tells Hannah that she’s sorted the problem and there will be no punishment. A day or so later, the reason is given to us when Hannah’s mum falls through the door, kissing the arresting officer and taking him to her room, not before giving her daughter a glance which blatantly said, “I’m doing this to save your ass.”
Spencer is the more bookish of the girls, and we first get a good glimpse of her when she returns home after school to find that her older sister and her latest boyfriend are moving into the barn in the family’s enormous garden, that Spencer had been hoping move in to. Her sister, Melissa is clearly used to getting her own way and Spencer is understandably annoyed. Later, Melissa’s boyfriend apologises to Spencer and there is some very unsubtle flirting, which is taken further the next day when he offers to massage her aching shoulders. It’s obvious that Spencer is developing a huge crush on her sister’s boyfriend but an email from “A” mocks her and warns her against kissing him. Another flashback reveals that Spencer kissed one of her sister’s other boyfriends and Alison threatened to tell her the truth, saying she was helping her to do the right thing. Spencer threatened her right back though, by telling her that she would tell everyone about “the Jenna thing”.
Towards the end of the episode, Alison’s body is discovered and they have a funeral for her. The four friends are all a little edgy after receiving notes from her but they are shaken further when they see a blind girl walking in to the funeral – Jenna. After the funeral, the four girls are approached by a policeman who says he needs to interview them all again because Alison’s case is now a murder case. When he walks away, the four girls receive simultaneous text messages from “A” saying that she knows everything.
So. Where are the texts coming from? What is “the Jenna thing”? Will the girls get close again as they try to work out what’s happening?
The only thing I think it’s safe to conclude at this point is that Alison had something to do with Jenna going blind. Other than that, I’m not sure what to think though I am definitely intrigued.
Pretty Little Liars might be brilliant, but it could equally turn out to be an amazing flop depending on the direction it takes. I am going to reserve judgement until I see where it’s going.
I am a little bit concerned about the lack of morals floating around in this show, especially as it is aimed at teenagers. A mother sleeping with a cop to keep her daughter out of trouble AND doing it so her daughter could see? That’s pretty awful. Student/teacher affair? He should know better, and I do hope there is some consequence to this, because that is a big problem with shows like this. People literally get away with murder.
If I were a gambler, at this point I would bet money on Spencer being Alison’s killer. It may seem a little too obvious as she was the one who told everyone Alison was gone, and she had a motive of sorts – mostly though, she just kinda gives me the creeps.
If you like teen drama and a little bit of supernatural, eerie stuff, you might want to give Pretty Little Liars a try but do watch it for yourself before you let your kids see it. It definitely requires a judgement call on the part of parents.
You can catch it on ABC Family on Tuesdays at 8/7c, but sadly if you’re in the UK, you’ll have to watch online for now.