Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Breaking Down the Guilty Pleasureness of 'Pretty Little Liars' and 'The Lying Game'

So I've been on a bit of a Young Adult fiction kick lately since reading The Hunger Games about six weeks ago, and I've noticed that since this latest fixation began, I've gotten more and more into both Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game. I'm not sure if my surging interest in those shows is correlative to my current YA obsession, or if I'm just appreciating them anew after four long months without them. Maybe a little of both?

Now, the former should come as no surprise to loyal readers. I listed the revelation of "A" as one of the things I was most looking forward to midseason this year. Since the first ten episodes, PLL has managed to keep me interested in these characters in spite of multiple POV violations and the annoyance of not really bringing us closer to solving the mystery. Take note, The Killing. Against all odds, I like these characters and care about their well-being (the same goes for Make It or Break It, which is why the banishment of Emily Kmetko to the dregs of teen pregnancy is still 100% not cool. I digress).

Like in last week's episode, as bad as I felt for poor Toby (who gets the Candice Accola Award for Best Character Turnaround in season 2), I felt even worse for Spenser, who had to hurt him to save him. So sad, you guys. The same goes for Hannah with her Dad's wedding earlier this season, Emily with the swim team 'roids debacle, and even clueless Aria, who doesn't realize that dating a teacher is just a sad Freudian response to her father's infidelity with a student. Even if said teacher looks like this (nevermind, I can't really blame her. Look at him!).

Pretty Little Liars is somehow a very solid teen mystery drama, and like with The Vampire Diaries, I'm not ashamed to admit that I like-bordering-on-love it.

My enjoyment of The Lying Game, however, has surprised even me. Has TLG actually gotten better, or have I lowered my YA TV standards to where it was this summer? I really don't know. Let's take a look, shall we?

My main problem with the show over its ten-episode summer run was that I didn't really care about the "mystery" about Emma and Sutton's birth mother, and because they wanted to keep Sutton as a main character (look, viewers: twins!), they kept forcing it down our throats. Add to that the fact that the adult characters had way too much to do with the teen characters, but not in an interesting way (Ted and Kristen Mercer are no Sandy and Kirsten Cohen), and you've got yourself into a bit of a mess. Plus, it was just obnoxious that the only person to figure out "Sutton"'s secret was Ethan. You can't see, but I'm rolling my eyes right now. You know you've got problems when you're less interesting than the now defunct Nine Lives of Chloe King (which, admittedly got better in its season/series finale. Poor Brian).

Fast forward to the "fall finale" (a term and a practice that I've grown to loathe, but that's another post for another day): Sutton returned to Phoenix and things suddenly got interesting. In spite of the show's early problems, I've always thought Alexandra Chando has done an admirable job with the two characters, keeping enough of a distinction between them in disposition that it's always pretty clear what's going on with each of them. Having both twins in Phoenix, and not knowing what loose cannon mean girl Sutton might do next to Little Orphan Emma suddenly raised the stakes. Over the last three or four weeks, it seems to have held on to that momentum, first by keeping everyone guessing about Sutton's whereabouts, what she might do next, and just how evil she might actually be; and second by clumsily adding an "A"-like mystery villain to blackmail Sutton and Emma. Perhaps not the most original way to go about things, but for whatever reason I'm loyally tuning in every week now instead of letting the episodes collect on my TiVo until I have to watch them before they disappear. Point: show.

I should probably also mention that I think the episode a few weeks ago where Laurel was invited onstage to sing with her fav band initially made my cynic-dar go wild, but it was, dare I say, kind of charming? Allie Gonino, who plays Laurel, is as it turns out a pretty decent musician in real life, and it was a nice break for her real-life Americana band The Good Mad to get to play one of their songs on her show. Giving an unknown band a break is the best kind of synergy in my opinion.

So what's the verdict? I guess TLG is getting better after all. ABC Family shows tend to do that from time to time (even PLL wasn't amazing in the beginning). I am, dare I say, invested in what happens to Ethan and Emma's adorable little relationship after he ran off with Sutton at the end of the last episode. Wow. Well done, TLG: I didn't think you could get me there.

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