Before we begin, I should confess that I’ve not read any of the Pretty Little Liars series. I see them! In the stores! But they suffer from ROCR, so I’ve never picked them up. But, since I’m watching the TV show and spoiled myself via Wikipedia, I probably should go out and get them. (I’m the kind of person who enjoys reading/watching things once she knows how they end. It’s very soothing. Much like long division.)
So, that is to say, I will have no idea how the series and the book compare. So if you’re looking for nitpicking, go hang out with someone who’s actually done their homework. Only cool, maladjusted, misanthropic stoners allowed in this bathroom!
The show starts in a barn in Pennsylvania. This actually happens a lot in my life. Some girls are nervous because the lights have gone out during the storm, and “something’s out there.” Of course, the something is “Ali,” who we can tell is the ringleader of this little group, since she’s wearing a yellow summer dress, and everyone else is dressed like a schlub.
This is Ali. Start worshipping her now. Everyone else does.
The girls talk about Beyonce for a while, to show that they are Hip and With it, and there’s some remark about some girl being a lesbian, but I don’t know who that girl is or even what she looks like, because it’s really dark and moody in this scene.
Now everyone’s drinking, and now we’re learning about how people have secrets. “Friends have secrets,” the girl who is called Ali says. “Secrets keep us close.” New drinking game rule: drink anytime you hear the word “secret.”
Besides, Ali is wrong. Secrets don’t keep us close. Syphillis does.
Anyway, rain rain rain, then The One Girl With Dark Hair (not to be confused with The Lesbian With Dark Hair or The Perfectionist With Dark Hair) wakes up to find the girl called Ali and someone called Spencer (later this is revealed to be The Perfectionist With Dark Hair) are missing from the Pennsylvanian barn. Blah blah blah lightning and thunder, until The Perfectionist With Dark Hair comes stumbling back to say that Ali is gone. And that maybe someone screamed.
Then it’s a year later. Ali’s still missing, in case you care (I don’t). We’re outside of a lovely Craftsman home. That One Girl With the Dark Hair is looking at herself in the mirror. I think she’s trying to be Rachel Bilson. Please stop trying to be Rachel Bilson.
Aria, aka the Girl With the Dark Hair
Then her older sister comes in and calls That One Girl With the Dark Hair “Aria.” Hey, her older sister is Holly Marie Combs! Oh man, remember that one time on Picket Fences when she sang “Baby Love?” I do.
Anyway, Holly Marie Combs is talking to Aria about how “it’s been a year” and Aria is saying she still thinks about “her” every day. I think we’re supposed to take from this conversation that Aria is talking about the missing Ali, but I like to think Aria’s talking about her goldfish, who tragically died after being stuck in the motor for the bubbling treasure chest.
Aria’s upset about Alison disappearing and all, and Holly Marie Combs urges her to call her other, probably-not-dead, friends. But then their younger brother interrupts to blurt out something about lacrosse. (FACT: I hate schools that have lacrosse. Lacrosse and Field Hockey. These are not sports. They are games that rich people play when they bore of dangling a paycheck over their housemaid’s head.)
There are moving boxes, which means that Aria’s family has just moved from some place. Now Aria is talking to her dad about a secret (drink!). Where is their mother? Oh my God, why is Holly Marie Combs hugging her dad like that?? OH MY GOD HOLLY MARIE COMBS IS THEIR MOTHER?? IN WHAT WORLD IS HOLLY MARIE COMBS MOTHER TO A 16 YEAR OLD??? Holly Marie Combs is only 6 years older than me!!! I HATE YOU SHOW.
Ugh! Anyway, now Aria is in a bar. I think. Why is everything so dark on this show? I mean, I’m pretty drunk right now, but still. Things seem dark. Tender, acoustic music plays on the soundtrack as Aria explains to some hot older guy about how she’s been to Iceland. Now the hot, older guy and Aria are having a connection in which he thinks she’s a college student. Now the hot, older guy and Aria are REALLY having a connection in which they are doing it in the bathroom of the bar. Oh, okay, they aren’t doing it. They’re just making out.
Credits. The Pierces’ “Secret” plays (Drink, drink!) Necromancy shots. Family show!
Right! Now The One Girl With the Blond Hair is flirting with a store clerk while trying on glasses. The Store Clerk is falling for it, because he’s even dumber than Dr Sara Tancredi on Prison Break (Netflix Streaming). Another Girl With Dark Hair turns to The One Girl With the Blonde Hair to ask if “this” is her – I don’t know what “this” is referring to (perhaps her face?) – and The One Girl With the Blond Hair is flippant and dismissive. Aw. Best friends!
Spencer, aka The Perfectionist with the Dark Hair
Now, The Blonde Girl has seen The Perfectionist With the Dark Hair upstairs. The Blonde Girl talks about what a perfectionist The Perfectionist (who is called Spencer) is. Then she says “tweet tweet.” Again, I’m drunk, but I don’t get that. Then they talk some more about how Alison is missing. Who cares!! Tell me what “tweet tweet” is supposed to mean!
Spencer the Perfectionist explains that she’s shopping for a party in which her perfect family will meet her older sister Melissa’s new fiance. The One Girl With the Blond Hair urges Spencer to dress trampy – only this is ABC Family, so “trampy” most closely corresponds to “business casual” in real-world fashion.
Then The One Girl With the Blond Hair and the Another Girl With Dark Hair shoplift their respective sunglasses and face scarf right out of the mall. SO EDGY!
Now we are at a school!! Aria’s dad drops Aria and her brother off. They talk about “the mistake” that Aria’s dad made. Was the mistake in marrying the child bride Holly Marie Combs?
Aria’s dad drives away, and Aria has a FLASHBACK to sometime in the past. (Drink everytime there’s a FLASHBACK, okay!) In said flashback, Ali and Aria are strolling down their suburban streets. Ooh! I believe they’re eating froyo! Good call, girls!
Some girl calls for Alison from 10 feet behind them. Her name is apparently Mona. Alison and Aria are dismissive of her. They duck behind some bushes to get away from Mona. Mona turns around, pouting and – hey! That’s the Another Girl With Dark Hair who shoplifted her face in the previous scene!! Only right now she’s got pigtails and glasses and a Cosby sweater, so you can tell she’s Unpopular.
Anyway, Ali and Aria come across Aria’s dad’s car. Ooh! Aria’s dad is tenderly boning someone who isn’t Holly Marie Combs! Oh shiz, son!
Emily, aka The Lesbian with Dark Hair
Present day, The Lesbian With Dark Hair calls Aria’s name. The Lesbian’s name is Emily! They make small talk while Aria briefly tries to shove an entire generation’s metaphysical crisis into a clumsy explanation for having pink hair. Now they’re talking about Alison. AGAIN. Jesus, isn’t there a sports team doing something, somewhere, that people in this town can discuss?
Emily and Aria walk into class and are soon followed by The One Girl With the Blond Hair and her shoplifting friend Mona. Apparently The One Girl With the Blond Hair is called Hannah, and Aria is shocked that she’s the new It Girl. And also shocked that Mona is popular. That’s what happens when you shoplift a face!
Hannah and Emily greet each other coldly and Emily explains to Aria that no one is friends anymore. I bet stupid Alison did this!
Mr Fitz, aka Hot Teacher Hookup
And then the teacher comes in and – uh oh!!! It’s the guy that was boning Aria in the bar yesterday. And he’s really bad about hiding it too. As Mr Fitz – that is the guy – introduces himself, Aria gets a text from “A” that hints that she knows Aria and Mr Fitz Did It (to be fair, my cat knows it at this point. I mean, Captain Obvious isn’t exactly hiding his discomfort), and also that she knows Aria’s dad Did It . . . with a student. Aria is wary and confused.
Commercial for Secret Life of the American Teenager! “Secret” was said three times. DRINK!
Emily the Lesbian is talking to her mother about how Alison’s family sold their house. Her mom is putting together a basket of goods, presumably for the new neighbors. Does anyone ever still do that? It’s always been my dream to become rich and live in some crazy-upscale neighborhood and deliver baskets to my neighbors. I mean, I could do that now, but mostly I just try to avoid my neighbors. This is because I live in an apartment. And hate most people.
Emily takes the basket over to her new neighbors, and spies all of Alison’s stuff sitting in boxes on the curb. A cute black girl comes out and introduces herself to Emily. Her name is Maya. She seems spunky. I hate spunky. Except . . . she looks familiar . . . OH HOLY SHIT!! It’s KENDRA from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!!!! Kendra! I’m so glad to see you still alive since that attack on the library!
Wait a second, WHAT THE HELL is Kendra doing still playing a high schooler? She’s Holly Marie Combs’ age!
Maya is very nosy, which is Lazy Writer’s favorite device for exposition. Emily is also nosy, and the two talk about their respective boyfriends. Maya explains that her mom is a cellist and is building a studio out back of the house, and then offers Emily some pot. Maya is my new favorite character! I take back what I said about spunky! Anyway, the sparks are flying between the two (or would be, if this show were better acted)!
Now we’re at Spencer the Perfectionist’s house. Her sister, Melissa, – who I immediately want to punch in the throat – comes out of the . . . guest house (?), complimenting Spencer’s design tastes. I bet Spencer hired the Sugarbakers! Except not really cause we all know they wouldn’t go around designing guest houses for uptight Yankees. Oh! The Guest House used to be the barn! And now Melissa is stealing the Guest House/barn from Spencer! Biatch! Throat punch!
Melissa’s fiance comes out, and he is from England, which is supposed to make up for the fact that he’s sort of nondescriptly, mediocrely average in looks. You aren’t fooling me, British Guy! Where are the hot people?
Melissa’s fiance introduces himself as Wren – this is not a name – but Spencer is too upset about the guest house to do much more than stomp off.
Night time. Uh oh, someone’s SMOKING! Oh, it’s Wren, and Spencer is tsking him. Spencer’s reading To Kill A Mockingbird, so we know that she is Smart. Or that her high school is very slow on assigning reading. Spencer and Wren mildly flirt. Uh oh!
School! Aria’s there to talk to her Hot Teacher Hookup, Mr Fitz. Okay, at least one person on this show is hot. Anyway, blah blah blah, “This feels right!” “No, I am your teacher!” “But you’re hot!” “Well, that’s true. But still!” “Let’s do it!” “I can’t!” Or something like that.
Maya and Emily are expositing some more. Alison’s been missing for a year! Then they nearly kiss! I mean, they do the kiss-on-the-cheek-near-the-lips. That is Step One of the classic Two Step Kiss Maneuver. It almost never fails, people! But sadly Maya and Emily don’t care about the success rate of the Two Step Kiss Maneuver, since they fail to seal the deal.
Gym locker room! Spencer is wearing a Field Hockey uniform. Grr. She says hi to Emily, who opens her gym locker to find a note. From “A!” Uh oh, it seems A knows about Emily’s growing attraction to Maya. Ruh roh.
Spencer’s house. Wren comes in to the kitchen. They’re both in their bathing suits. Mild flirting ensues, and then Wren is giving Spencer a shoulder rub. Oh, also, he went to Oxford. OF COURSE HE DID. You know, screenwriters, there are other schools in the United Kingdom. NOT EVERYONE GOES TO OXFORD!
Aria’s house. Holly Marie Combs has unpacked the wine glasses. Quite rightly, too. She and her cheating husband drink wine and talk about being close. Why isn’t Holly Marie Combs drinking the wine? Does this have anything to do with the fact that she’s a child bride?
Spencer’s house. She’s studying. She’s wearing a tie and vest. To study. In her room. Jesus. She spies on her sister and Wren making out in front of the Guest House/Barn. Aw, cheer up, Spence! Then she gets an email from “A” – apparently, Spencer’s crushed on Melissa’s boyfriends before. Spencer looks concerned.
Flashback! Alison, Hannah and Spencer are in Spencer’s kitchen. Ali Mean Girls Hannah about eating some cookies. (Hannah is apparently supposed to be noticably bigger in Flashback, but I don’t see it.) Melissa and some previous boyfriend (wait! Does this mean that she’s managed to dump this old guy, recover from that, meet a new guy and GET ENGAGED in a year’s time?? Melissa! Slow down!), Ian, walk in. Alison hints that Spencer has a crush on Ian. Ali and Spencer go outside to fight about Ian. Ali threatens to tell Melissa that Spencer and Ian kissed. Spencer, in turn, threatens to tell everyone about “the Jenna thing.”
Present day. Spencer seems to see Ali through the window of the Guest House/Barn.
Now we’re at Aria’s house, and Emily has stopped by. Why are there so many scenes on this show? Why are they all like 15 seconds long? I hate shows like this!
Emily and Aria are talking about their notes/texts from “A.” They both think Alison is alive and playing with them.
Hannah’s house! Hannah and her mom are talking about how Hannah’s dad left. Hannah seems to have problems adjusting. Also, she seems to have a problem with croutons, since she’s picking them all off of her salad. The doorbell rings. It’s the cops! Ruh roh! They’ve found out about the shoplifting. Except, they said they had Hannah on tape, and I know from my mercifully brief stunt working retail that basically as long as the shoplifter gets out of the door, they’re home free. But, whatever, I’ve never shoplifted, so I don’t know.
Hannah and her mom are in the police station, and just as Hannah starts eating her shame, she gets a text from “A.” Whoops! It seems I’ve been misspelling her name this whole time! It’s Hanna without the other H.
Hanna, aka The One Girl with the Blond Hair
Hanna’s free to go. Her mother is annoyed. This will turn into a Teaching Moment about how all Hanna needs is her father’s attention in three . . . two . . . yep! There it is! Moving on. Hanna’s mom tells her that she’s taking care of it.
Emily the Lesbian is walking home and sees a fire truck go by. She gets to Maya’s house, and it’s swarming with cops and onlookers. She finds Maya and learns that the construction crew dug up a body when excavating for Maya’s mom’s studio. It’s Alison! Dead Alison is dead!
The other girls gather on the street and make more mention of “the Jenna thing.”
Later, Hanna’s eating her sadness when her mom and the police officer/prosecuter/mall security guy/whoever it was that came to pick up Hanna for shoplifting bust through the door, making out with each other. Hanna’s mom looks back at Hanna, silently conveying to Hanna that, yes, she’s whoring herself out to this guy in exchange for Hanna’s shoplifting problem to be cleared up. Awww. Family values.
Ali’s funeral. Everyone hugs. Where is the cake? That is the best part of funerals. Now Aria and her hot teacher hookup are talking in a stairwell. Playing with fire, Hot Teacher Hookup. And three . . . two . . . yep, there they are, making out. In a church! At a funeral!
Let’s get to funeraling! The girls sit together at the front and think about their dead pal. Oh, now they’re drinking. In a church! At a funeral!
And then . . . Jenna appears, to the shock and horror of the girls. She is wearing large sunglasses and stumbling a bit. I’m assuming she’s blind and not, in fact, a drunk asshole. But I suppose we shall see.
Outside of the funeral, the cop who is boning Hanna’s mom confronts the girls. He’s going to get to the bottom of this! The girls seem more concerned about Jenna than the douche cop. Until they simulataneously receive text messages from A, which they then read out simultaneously. A knows everything! AND she calls them bitches, which doesn’t seem very nice.
This is supposed to be horrifying and suspenseful, but I’m more horrified by the sheer black hose each girl is wearing. Why? This isn’t 1997!
The show closes on a shot of Ali’s casket. Drama! Suspense! Or . . . something!
If this show were on another network, this would have been the first and last episode I watched. However, it’s on ABC Family, which is like the crack cocaine of television stations (you know it’s bad for you, but sometimes it’s the only thing that can keep you from tweaking), so instead, I will continue to watch it. Because I am a sucker for melodramatic, poorly directed teenage shows on ABC Family. Plus, maybe Ethan Peck will show up!!