TV series review: Pretty Little Liars, series 1 (2010)
Rosewood is a little town, and in that little town, a teenage girl called Alison (Sasha Pieterse) has disappeared. Her bestest friends have all pretty much stopped seeing each other since, as Alison was the glue that held them together. Then one day, they all start getting threatening text messages on their phones – from someone who calls him- or herself “A”, who claims to Know Things and who threatens to Tell People Everything. (Think “I know what you did last summer”.) Is this Alison? But if that’s the case, where is she and why does she send threatening text messages? When a dead body is discovered and this turns out to actually be the missing girl, could it be that “A” is really Alison’s killer? But then why are her former best friends targets?
This review contains spoilers for series one.
The series follow the four remaining friends and their daily struggles as well as their attempts at trying to find out who “A” is and to find Alison’s killer. We meet Hanna (Ashley Benson), who used to be the insecure, chubby girl no one ever took notice of – until Alison took her under her wing and made her popular (read: skinny). Hanna’s mother is in financial trouble after divorcing Hanna’s dad, and that creates some tension in the family, especially when mummy takes out an unconventional loan, so to say. (Why not just sell the humongous house and downsize?!) Not to mention when adorable bad boy Caleb (Tyler Blackburn) enters her life. Before that, she just had to decide between her well-built boyfriend and the lovable yearbook nerd. Oh, life is so difficult.
Spencer (Troian Bellisario) is the over-achiever whose pushy, well-to-do parents always want her to excel at everything. Unfortunately, she often ends up in the shadow of her older sister, not to mention inadvertently nicking her boyfriends. Sisterly love? Well, those aren’t exactly the words I would use … Still, Spencer is clever and does her own thing – including getting boyfriends her parents won’t approve of. Like the ball boy at their tennis club – gasp!
Emily (Shay Mitchell) is the jock of the group, even if that term feels so wrong when applied to her. She’s in the school’s swimming team. The secret she shared with Alison was that Emily is not like other girls – she is hiding in a certain closet … The battle with her mum over her right to her own sexuality is admirable, not to mention another closeted girl (saw that one coming a mile off!). Emily is set to be a good role-model for hesitant young lesbians.
Aria (Lucy Hale) has spent the last year or so in Iceland with her family. The parents (her mum is played by Holly Marie Combs), split up when its made clear that the father had an affair. Aria’s younger brother mainly shows up to have hissy fits about the split, with Aria being the voice of reason. When Aria comes back to Rosewood, just before the new school term starts, she goes to a pub (or something like that) and meets a cute, bookish, slightly older guy called Ezra (Ian Harding), fresh out of college, with whom she really hits it off. When school starts and the would-be couple turn out to be Mr Ezra Fitz the new English teacher and Aria Montgomery the English student … things get complicated, to say the least.
Why would I start watching a show about a bunch of high school kids anyway? Because a friend cast Lucy Hale as one of her roleplaying characters’ faceclaims – the one who’s heavily involved with one of her teachers (i.e. one of my characters, as faceclaimed by Richard Armitage!) – and a show about a girl played by Lucy Hale having a secret relationship with her teacher is a definite must-see. Especially since the relationships share many similarities – even though this one makes less use of magic wands and crystal balls.
While I like the characters, the show is not without its issues. Because here’s the deal: even if it’s a distinct “I know what you did last summer” feel about Pretty Little Liars, as far as the viewer is concerned, the four girls had absolutely nothing to do with Alison going missing – let alone killing her!
The next problem is that the whole show rests on the fact that the mysterious “A” is blackmailing the girls – but if they haven’t actually done anything, why not just go to the police and say “hey, this person is blackmailing us, we think it might be Alison’s killer, or at least knows who did it – you may want to look into that”? Instead, they just panic amongst themselves and thereby dig themselves a deeper hole.
The only thing they’ve done was to not stop Alison from causing an accident, which left Jenna (Tammin Sursok) blind. Jenna’s step-brother Toby (Keegan Allen) was blamed for it, because if he didn’t take it on himself, Alison would spill the beans on some inappropriate sibling love (wink wink, nudge nudge). You see, Alison was not a very nice girl. She was the queen bee in every respect; a nasty and manipulative bitch who held everyone’s secrets for ransom. There were plenty of reasons for anyone wanting to kill her, put it that way.
Another issue is that “A” is incredibly tech-savvy. As in, impossibly so. There were several times where I thought “yeah, THAT’S credible … not so much!” Because for “A” to do what s/he has done, it requires someone who’s quite rich and be in several places at once. The idea that it’s a Scream or even Murder on the Orient Express thing has crossed my mind, and I think that’s likely. After all, we were shown an example of that. (Oh the heartbreak I felt over that one!)
Pretty Little Liars has been renewed for a second season and is currently being shown in the US and/or being recorded? Something like that. It’s a good enough show based on some flimsy grounds, but it’s rather enjoyable, as it happens. Ezra is darn cute and I can’t wait to see more of the Aria/Ezra relationship.
… So maybe 3 out of 5 friendship bracelets?
UPDATE 2021: I gave up watching after series two. It was just more of the same and it got even more ridiculous.