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Dead Girls Who Text, Underage Sex, Kind of Perplexed – A First Look at ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars”

Yesterday, I wrote a blog entry about the television shows I planned on watching this summer.  My awesome blogging buddy Amy, over at Imaginary Men, suggested I add to my roster ABC Family’s latest attempt at undermining its reputation for being the “Good Little Christian Cable Channel.”  The show, entitled Pretty Little Liars, is based on a young adult novel series of the same name, which was written by Sara Shepard, and produced by Alloy Entertainment (a.k.a. the folks responsible for the Gossip Girl series).

And, boy am I glad I did!  This show is a snarky recapper’s DREAM!

But before I get started with my official recap, let me take a moment to discuss some of the casting decisions for this show . . . particularly the casting of its adults.  Now, on most teen shows, “adults” aren’t generally given all that much to do.  Rather, their limited screen time tends to fall into one of two categories.  There is the: “I’m a sweet, but bland, parent with no discernable personality, who has absolutely no clue about what my kid does everyday” type; and the “I am a raging a-hole parent, with no redeeming qualities, who is totally intent on screwing up my kid’s life” type.  Based on what I’ve seen from the pilot, this show is no exception.

Surprisingly, however, some of the “adults” on this show, were given an impressive amount of speaking lines in the pilot.  And I’m thinking that this anomaly probably can be attributed to who they are.  Ready to feel REALLY OLD, fellow 90’s era TV watchers?  Try this on for size . . .

One of the character’s moms is played by Holly Marie Combs.  You might remember her as Piper, the “smart sensible sister” on the television series Charmed, who also happened to be a bonafide witch.

Her husband on the show is played by Chad Lowe, brother of THIS GUY . . .

(Sorry Rob!  We know you are supposed to be all “respectable” now.  But some of us still remember your sex tape scandal . . .)

As for Chad himself, a few of you might remember him as “Jesse” a.k.a. “the loner kid with the earring, from Life Goes On, who just so happened to have AIDS.”

But more of you probably remember him as the former Mr. Hilary Swank.

This time, let’s try to say NO to drugs, Chad!

Next up is Laura Leighton, who you might recall playing “that crazy slutty b&tch Sydney” from the OLD Melrose Place . . .

 . . . OR “that crazy slutty middle-aged DEAD b&tch” from the NEW (and recently cancelled) Melrose Place.

Oh, and even though she doesn’t technically play a “parent,” I would be remiss not to mention Torrey Devitto, who plays one of the Pretty Little Liars’ obnoxious significantly older sister.  Torrey is perhaps best known for playing Crazy Nanny Carrie on One Tree Hill.

This was the storyline that made me stop watching One Tree Hill.  It was THAT BAD!

She is also the lucky chica rumored to be engaged to THIS GUY . . .

That’s right boys and girls, Crazy Nanny Carrie and Vampire Stefan apparently do the nasty together, on a regular basis.  It’s a good thing vampires can’t have kids, because otherwise, he would DEFINITELY have to hide HIS from her!

Anyway, now that I’ve written virtually an ENTIRE blog entry on the supporting cast of this show, perhaps its time I get on with the actual recap.  So, here goes . . .

It was a DARK and STORMY night!

Bet you thought the above-referenced tired cliche went out of style during your grandma’s time.  NOT SO!  Because that is exactly the setting for our opening scene, which takes place in an old dirty barn, that probably smells like horse poop, in a small town in Pennsylvania, one year ago.  This is where we meet the girls for the first time. 

First up is Aria (Lucy Hale), who we KNOW is supposed to be the “loner bad girl” because she wears black and has (gasp) a pink stripe in her hair.  Then there’s Spencer (Troian Bellisario), who is obviously the “smart girl,” because she wears argyle sweaters.  Third, is Emily (Shay Mitchell), a.k.a the jock.  She’s gotta be the jock, right?   Because what other high school girl would wear SNEAKERS to a dirty barn party!  Finally, there is Hanna (Ashley Benson), who we instantly realize is the “fat dorky girl who is about to become thin and popular” because she wears . . . wait for it . . . baggy t-shirts and hoodies.

The girls are chatting away when they hear A NOISE!

But when they go to investigate, it ends up only being the soon-to-be-dead, Alli (Sasha Pieterse).  At least initially, Alli is provided with very few defining qualities, aside from being kind of mean.  She also has a habit of saying weirdly foreshadowing things that no human being would ever actually utter in real conversation.  Here’s an example: “It’s important to share secrets.  It keeps us close.”  

Yeah, whatever, girlfriend!  Your days are numbered . . .

Later that night, the girls are asleep on the dung covered barn floor (still in their dress clothes and shoes, of course — too poor to buy PJs and slippers, I guess?), when one of them wakes up and realizes that two of them are missing: soon-to-be-dead Alli, and “smart” Spencer.  Spencer comes back, looking really creepy, and says that Alli is GONE! 

And no one suspected this Spencer chick of any wrongdoing, why, exactly?  Oh, that’s right .  . . “smart girls” who wear argyle CAN’T POSSIBLY be killers . . . How foolish of me to forget.

Sex in a Fetid Public Bathroom is HOT!  (But doing it with your teacher is not . . .)

One year later, “bad girl” Aria is back from a year long stint in Iceland . . .  And she’s DIFFERENT!  Apparently, her year in Europe scared that pink stripe right out of her hair.  And now, she doesn’t wear BLACK anymore.  She wears PURPLE!  Clearly, this is a changed woman . . . 

Based on a stilted and awkward “we needed to include this scene, in order to give you information” chat she has with her mother, we also learn that Aria and the other girls drifted apart after the “Alli Incident.”

Speaking of “chats,” when Aria leaves the house, she has a creepy conversation with her dad about promising to keep his “secret.”  And if this wasn’t ABC Family, I’d be really worried about the implications of that awful-sounding statement.  But it is ABC Family . . .  so I’m not terribly concerned.

After dropping her little brother off at Lacrosse practice, Aria heads to a local bar to pick up a cheeseburger.  While there, she meets Ezra (Ian Harding), a recent college grad who just got a teaching job in town.  Ezra has bland, goofy good looks, bad hair, and an ineffectual, almost effeminate, quality about him.  He also “woos” Aria with cheesy lines like, “If you write for yourself, it’s true passion.” 

In short, Ezra is Hugh Grant in every movie he has EVER been in . . .  except Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Not wanting Ezra to know she is jailbait, Aria, without exactly lying, subtly allows Ezra to believe that she is in college.  After chatting for about a minute, these two start boning in a nasty unisex bathroom, right there in the bar.

Way to stay classy, former Goth Girl!

Wouldn’t you have loved to see the exchange that led to this?  Here’s how I think it probably went:

Ezra:  “Hey .  . . I hear the bathroom here is INSANELY CLEAN.  Wanna check it out?”

Aria:  “Actually, I don’t really have to pee.”

Ezra:  (Tries to wink, but can’t, and ends up looking like he is having a seizure.) “Neither do I.”

The next day at school, in a scene that surprised precisely NO ONE, we learn that Ezra is Mr. Fitz (Could the dude HAVE a geekier name?), Aria’s English teacher.  “Brilliant” college grad that he is, Mr. Fitz responds to this revelation by saying “Oh Crap!” 

He does so loudly, and in front of the entire class.  Clearly, this guy WANTS to be arrested for statutory rape.  As if being called out for boning the English teacher wasn’t enough, Aria’s phone rings loudly to inform her she has text message.  (Ever heard of the “vibrate” function, Aria?”)  This is the message she receives . . .

So much for her dad’s “Big Secret.”  Aria instantly suspects the “A” who sent the message is Dead Alli.  (Hmmmmmm, how much do you think texting minutes cost in Heaven?  Because, I’m willing to bet they aren’t cheap . . .)  Through a flashback, we learn that Aria and Alli were running away from a dorky girl at school named Mona, when they came across Aria’s dad making out with one of his young students in his car. 

Speaking of making out with your students, Aria approaches Ezra and tells him she still wants to be his permanent f*ck buddy.  Statutory rape regulations BE DAMNED!  Ezra responds by making this speech about what an amazing girl she is, and how much she means to him.  (Am I missing something?  Because from what I saw, all these two did was make out in a bathroom.  We’re not exactly talking Romeo and Juliet here . . .) 

 Anyway, despite his “undying love” for the youngun, Ezra breaks it off with Aria.  Ever the idealist, Mr. Fitz truly believes that one day he will find an 18-year old, someone who, unlike Aria, he can screw in the potty, without fear of repercussion.  Aria is crushed . . . especially since she probably caught a bad case of hepatitus from that toilet seat . . .

Aw Man!  My Mom Never Screwed a Cop for Me!

Next up on this “Where Are They Now?  Dead Alli Reunion Special” is Hanna, who we find shopping (or rather shoplifting) at the mall with fellow former dork, Mona.  We know that Hanna is thin and popular now, because she wears tight tops, and “mean girl” music plays virtually every time she is on screen.  After flirting with the customer service guy, Hanna quickly exits the mall with an expensive pair of sunglasses she totally didn’t pay for. 

Later, while Hanna and her mom are eating dinner alone together. (Daddy apparently skipped town, probably after watching Mommy “act” in the New Melrose Place.  Can you really blame him?)  Their discussion is interrupted by a visit from the Shoplifting Police. (Oh I’m serious!)  They are here to arrest Hanna for taking those darn sunglasses.

At the police station, while Hanna’s mom is trying to talk her daughter out of trouble, Hanna, like Aria, receives a “mysterious” phone message from the “mysterious A.”

Very clever A!  But I was kind of hoping for a “don’t drop the soap” joke  . . .

Finally, Hanna and her mom are allowed to leave the police station.  While in the car, Bad Mommy tells Hanna how important it is not to do anything to jeopardize her newfound popularity.  She instructs Hanna to deny the shoplifting allegations. 

Later at home, while Hanna is watching TV and eating ice cream, Bad Mommy stumbles in, making out with none other than the Chief of the Shoplifting Police!  The two start going at it, RIGHT IN FRONT OF HANNA!  To make matters worse, Bad Mommy, looks RIGHT AT Hanna, while she is making out with Sheriff D-bag, just before taking him upstairs to bone him.  EWWWWW! 

So, it looks like Laura Leighton will be playing a Crazy Slutty B*tch on this show.  Thank goodness, she doesn’t have to worry about being typecast.

Les-be Friends!

Someone new is moving into Dead Alli’s house.  Apparently, that family is Amish, and doesn’t watch television.  Otherwise, I hope they bought the place dirt cheap.  After all, unsolved disappearance/ murder locations are not exactly top sellers in the real estate market.  When Jock Emily brings a “welcome basket” over to the new neighbors, she meets Maya (Bianca Lawson), a girl around Emily’s age. 

Maya is obviously supposed to be a teenager.  However she looks, talks, and acts, like the star of a gay porno loosely based on that old 70’s movie, Jackie Brown . . .

Everything Maya says to Emily is followed by an exaggerated wink and suggestive nod.  Her dialogue is laced with a series of bad puns and sexual innunedos that would make Samantha from Sex and the City proud.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Oh, I bet your a great swimmer.  You TOTALLY have the body for it.”

“I just really want to get to KNOW you better.”

“I’m corrupting you!”

“Is this your first time?”

Maya conveniently has a picture of her “boyfriend back home” in her bedroom.  But the dude has “beard” written all over him.  They don’t actually show the guy’s face, but I bet if you zoom in, you will find out that it’s someone like THIS GUY . . .

I’m talking about the openly gay Kurt from Glee, in case you missed it . . .

While walking home from school one day, Maya and Emily decide to make out.  Later, at school, Emily gets a letter in her locker from A, who, apparently, blew all her Heaven cell phone minutes, and now needs to resort to more inexpensive methods of communication . . .

My Sister’s Creeper . . .

Back in Uptight Over-Achieving Land, Spencer is basking in the glory of her new cottage, which she decorated herself and plans to move into during her junior year.  Unfortunately for Spencer, Crazy Nanny Carrie her older sister has other plans.  Her and her fiance are waiting for their own place in the city to be finished.  Meanwhile, THEY will be moving into the cottage. 

Crazy Nanny Carrie Spencer’s sister can really care less about what this does to Spencer.  However, her boyfriend, Wren (Julian Morris), is more sympathetic.  We know these two are going to connect, instantly, because they both  share a love of argyle.  It’s a match made in Heaven!  Too bad Crazy Nanny Carrie Big Sis is in the way . . .

If Ezra is Hugh Grant from every movie OTHER THAN Bridget Jones Diary, Wren is Hugh Grant FROM Bridget Jones Diary.

In fact, Ezra and Wren look SO MUCH alike, I almost couldn’t tell them apart.  While his fiance is away, Charming and Cute, But Super Sleazy Wren hits on Spencer shamelessly.  My favorite exchange between them is when they are both in their swimwear, and Spencer pulls out the oldest guy-getting trick in the book, by faking a sudden neck injury.  

Fortunately, Shirtless Ezra has come to the RESCUE!  After all, he is a future med student.  And EVERYBODY knows that sexy pornographic massages are the first thing you learn how to do in medical school . . .

Later, Spencer is up in her room “fantasizing” about Wren, when she gets an e-mail from the highly prolific “A.”

In a flashback, we learn that this isn’t the first time Spencer has made a play for one of her sister’s men.  She also apparently got down and dirty with Crazy Nanny Carrie’s (See, I didn’t even bother crossing it out this time.) last boyfriend, who, interestingly enough, bore a striking resemblance to both Ezra and Wren. 

OK . . . now this is getting weird .  . . Is there some sort of unwritten rule in this town that EVERY guy who lives there HAS to look like a young Hugh Grant?

The Body, The “Jenna Thing,” and the Return of the Shoplifting Police

Toward the end of the pilot, Alli’s body is magically found.  Horrified and frightened, the girls admit to one another, that they have each received messages from A, the Most Chatty Dead Girl Ever!  Later, at Alli’s funeral, the four former friends sit together at the front of the church.  They share looks of horror when JENNA– star of the mysterious “Jenna Thing” the foursome have been ominously referring to throughout the hour — arrives to attend the funeral.

Apparently, Jenna is blind.  How did she become that way?  Did the girls do something to bring about her blindness?  Did she simply watch too many episodes of the New (now cancelled) Melrose Place?  Here’s hoping they don’t cancel this show, before we can find out . . .

After the ceremony, the girls are confronted by none other than the Chief of the Shoplifting Police!  I was about to remark that it is highly inappropriate to discuss contraband designer sunglasses at a FUNERAL.  However, apparently, that wasn’t the reason for the Chief’s visit.  

It seems that when Chiefy is not making out with slutty mommies, or taking teens to the slammer, for failing to pay for chewing gum at the local 7-Eleven, he likes to solve murders!  And he plans on solving Alli’s murder!  Be afraid, girls!  Be very afraid!

So, what did you all think of Pretty Little Liars?  Did anyone actually watch it, besides me?  If so, are you planning to watch it again?  Or was this just a one night stand?

(Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC Family.)

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