Saturday, 5 January 2013

The rise and fall of Pretty Little Liars, including predictions!

Pretty Little Liars is a teen drama about to return at the mid-point of its third season on January 8th. a.m.k explains the excruciating details of how and why it went from exciting guilty-pleasure drama to something really annoying.

I used to be a huge Pretty Little Liars fan. I say used to because it hasn't always been a terrible show, but for reasons I'll discuss, the show has fallen off a cliff. Let's cut right to chase actually and say from here on out I'll refer to it as PLL, which is exactly how I refer to it in real life. The show is clearly marketed towards people who are both another gender and much younger than myself, but I watched the pilot one week when I was dreadfully sick and working at Booster Juice, and boy did I fall hard and fast. I caught up on 20+ episodes within a matter of flu-days.

Spencer, Hanna, Aria, Emily.

The main problem for me is that the central plot of show doesn't change and also does not advance very quickly. This is due to the fact that the show is making lots of money and they want to extend what should have been a two-seasons-tops show into now at least a four-seasons one.

The main plot is pretty strong with some initial good twists -- Alison is dead, we don't know who killed her and this mysterious character with the alias 'A' haunts Alison's former four best friends, blackmailing them so they don't report the harassment to the police. We learn pretty quickly that Alison and the four girls started the fire that cost the Jenna character her sight, a secret that they don't want the cops to know for obvious reasons. What isn't so obvious is why they still haven't come clean after several more people have been murdered in relation to the Alison case and the constant danger they are in. I mean, a lot of people have died, and some scary crap has happened to some of them. On top of that, Jenna has ocular surgery and she can see again.
Poor Alison.

Since the show keeps chugging along making insane amounts of money, stringing the audience with now-random soap opera-inspired turns, they need something to focus on for the roughly 43 minutes of tape each week. About 5 of those minutes are usually spent in some kind of discussion or sleuthing about Alison's killer/A. The other 38 are spent talking about their stupid boy problems, parent problems and sometimes going to strange parties that seem surprisingly dull, despite having some pretty good costume designers and wardrobe people.

The thing is, PLL is also a series of books, written by Sara Shepard. Shepard also wrote the book series The Lying Game, which is also a show on ABC Family. They've already gotten away from the book plot, so there really is no telling where they are going to go with the tv show. I guess it makes sense to stray from the book plot to keep everyone guessing, especially with a mystery show, but I have little faith in humanity and worry that they are just going to go fudge things up and make the ending terrible.


Whoever Toby is.
The last episode, the Halloween special, advanced the main plot more than in most episodes of season 3. Garrett died (just like I called it, by the way). We now know two members of the A team -- Mona and the recently-revealed Toby -- and we're kind of left wondering how many 'A' team members there are. Four? Seven? Is the entire lame town involved, like the Truman Show?

I really don't know anymore. I think just having one 'A', Mona, and leaving it at that would have been much stronger, and it makes sense because she had motive. In fact I called that pretty much after the first episode that Mona had the clearest motive and made the most sense. I also called after the first episode that Alison wasn't really dead, and although that particular issue has yet to be confirmed, I feel like they've left the whole thing wide open by introducing things like the missing autopsy report page and the initial difficulty discovering the body, then the body being stolen (what's in that bag on the train, though?). If Alison ends up being the real 'A' and there being no murderer, I'll be fairly content, but let's get to this shit sooner than later.

The other thing I wouldn't mind seeing is Mr. Fitz being the killer. It's plausible that he had something with Alison and didn't want to get charged for having sex with a minor, so he killed her. Alison apparently fooled around with a lot of older men -- perhaps even Aria's dad, yet another one of the random plot twists introduced in season 3 -- and maybe it wasn't a coincidence that Fitz met Aria in that bar and just happened to be her English teacher. They could also use that as another excuse why Aria's dad hates Mr. Fitz -- maybe they knew about each other in Alison's life.

Not a good guy.
At the very least, Mr. Fitz being a bad guy would be a good lesson for all those 13 year old girls thinking it's so hot and cool to have a relationship with their teacher, when in reality it's perverted, pedophilic and just plain unethical. You're telling me I have to root for the guy who thinks it's okay to sneak around with their 16-year-old, tiny-bodied student? Uhhh, there were a few creepy teachers like that at my high school, and one now runs a tattoo shop downtown after the court case banning him from teaching. Adults sleeping with underage girls is not cool. Not to mention the whole sleeping with your sexy teacher thing is so cliche, I almost stopped watching as soon as I realized that was going to be a thing, but luckily for PLL, I had a dreadful flu and deep down inside I am also a 13 year old girl.

As long as they don't do some stupid thing and make a character they introduce half-way thru season 4 be a main player, I guess they could still do something cool with the show. It's just that it's taking way too long to get there. Spencer is 27 years old in real life and I'm pretty sure her character is still 16. And she looks 27.


Another high school teacher.
While we're ranting, why do all the adults they want involved in the show have to teach at that damn high school? Mr. Fitz, then Aria's mom who takes his place coincidentally, then Jason, Alison's older brother (or Spencer's half-brother?). Who, by the way, is not the same actor who played Jason in the first few episodes he was in. Incidentally, the first Jason was a much better actor and actually looked like an adult. This Jason is just another terrible soap opera character, though I'm told he's cuter than the last one.

Some unresolved things they could bring back is how Caleb was initially hired by someone to snoop on Hannah, but then he apparently started to like her. And Paige apparently doing psycho things. She looks psycho. She used to be on a kid's show called Ned's Declassified, which is kind of weird I'm told because she was a funny character there.

I hope they stop inventing all these background stories for these characters one year after they're introduced for convenience's sake, and I really wish they'd stop with the overdramatization of these stupid relationships. The way Paige and Emily talk you'd think they've been in love for 7 years. I'm pretty sure Paige has even said she'd wanted Emily since she first saw her -- but that's not close to how wrote way back when Paige was first introduced. They hated each other and Paige was confused about perhaps being gay. She certainly wasn't pining after Emily in grade 1 or whatever.

No longer the favourite.
Speaking of Emily, they really seem to be showing off her legs recently. At least that beats their showing her seemingly only facial expression. She recently seems to have expanded her single-facial-expression-for-all-occasions (mouth hanging slightly open, eyes confused/surprised/scared) and perhaps has even been surpassed as the show's worst actor. I used to like all of them except Emily, and I really liked Aria, but my god they are all so awful now. And as nice as Emily's legs are, it's creepy to me that they started to sexualize the girls, like with Hannah's cleavage everywhere, since the target audience is pre-teen girls.

What I want

I want Spencer to be a murderer and kill Aria. She used to be my favourite but god she's annoying. In fact, I've gotten so bored I just wish Spencer would kill all of them and it'd end like that, her sailing off with Mr. Fitz into the sunset or something. Remember how Aria's mom mistakenly thought Fitz was dating Spencer one episode? Oh the irony!

Let's see if this show can get back on track and make me actually want to watch it again. So far, the Halloween episode was an okay start, minus the completely irrelevant acting role they invented for B-list celebrity Adam Lambert. At least they used the interaction for an 'A' appearance. Part of me really wished they'd successfully dump Aria off that train. Maybe it was Fitz doing that all along.
Did not stay blind.

Anyway, if that body bag is the one Alison's supposed to be in, revealed at the end of last episode, maybe there is something to my Alison-being-alive theory after all. I just hope they don't go past 4 seasons and we start seeing some traction soon and these ridiculous excess sub-sub-sub-plot lines stop getting introduced. I don't give a shit about Fitz's brother, for instance.

The Lesson

The entertainment industry is awful. Well, business is awful, really. The show found success, they realized that suckers like me would watch to the end even in discomfort, so they are milking the ratings for all they're worth. This show is not built to have multiple, drawn-out seasons. There is one real plot (who killed Alison?) and another real plot that is an offshoot of the other one (who (else) is 'A'?). Why do I need to watch 100+ episodes to find out the conclusion. I wish there was more artistic integrity in shows like this to wrap things up at an appropriate time before they get all OC ridiculous, but I'm the real fool for watching.

To the writers, producers, etc., please do your fans justice and make the wrap-up somewhat worth this mess you've dragged us thru. Or at least throw in a crazy twist that makes me laugh. Not a stupid cop-out Lost twist, but one where Alison shows up and tells her friends what stupid bitches they are and kills them, or something. Something we're not expecting. But not something like aliens have been running the town the whole time and none of the people who have died are really dead because their bodies were only fake projections. That's just off the top of my head.

Alien summoner.
Take, for example, PLL's sister show, The Lying Game. It's not hard to figure out that it doesn't have the budget for PLL. Except for Allie Gonino's great performance as the little sister, I used to think every actor on The Lying Game was terrible. Then I noticed that the worst one was Charisma Carpenter, who was just fine in her role on Greek, so maybe it's more of a problem with directing. Anyway, the show doesn't have as good of a concept as PLL, but it's moving a hell of a lot faster because it doesn't have the luxury of having excellent ratings. It barely got renewed for a second season, so I'm betting that this is the last season it has, which is fantastic: they won't string me along with stupid stories about their boyfriends, and even if they do, the main plot is going to be focused on for more than five minutes per episode.

And therein lies the problem: success. The sister show hasn't devolved as much because it doesn't make enough money, so it has to wrap up within a more reasonable time frame. We already know who the mom is, which is one of the two main plots, not to mention the original main plot (the off-shoot being that the family doesn't realize that their daughter's twin sister is impersonating her). This rule probably applies to mystery/suspense shows more than comedies, but the point I think is fair to make. Shows that do too well overstay their welcome, and ones that don't do well aren't allowed to reach their full potential. Arrested Development wasn't running dry when it ended, but the cancellation and the brevity of the series has helped people see how awesome that show really is.
Moving to daytime.

Looking forward to how this all wraps up, with both shows, for many, many reasons.

a.m.k. is a teenage girl from Centretown. He goes to Lisgar Collegiate, and in his spare time he loves talking on the phone and shopping. His favourite band is Justin Bieber.


  1. I was hoping to see one of the many facial expressions of Emily.

  2. Brendan thought they weren't necessary for some reason. Clearly he knows nothing about PLL.

  3. I asked a.m.k. to send pictures for the article and he sent giant pile of links to Google Images. I think for Emily he just wrote, "Do a search on Google Images" :D.