Two of our writers (Vinny Ginardi and Greg Kaplan) decided to indulge in a new guilty pleasure: ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. Once they are all caught up, Vinny, Greg, and special guest blogger Mike Caiola will write weekly entries following the series’ third season. Here are their thoughts on the first season.
For other episode discussions, check our pop culture page.
Vinny Ginardi: Let me start by saying that I’ve become highly addicted to this guilty pleasure show. I would never put this is in a high tier of television greatness, but I have a weakness for relationship drama and murder mystery, which is the center of the entire series. Because of that, I’ve been flying through episodes at an alarming pace.
Obviously, the driving force behind season one is the mystery of “A”. Who is A and why is his/her primary goal in life to harass our four protagonists as much as possible? How does A have all of this information? Season one though, doesn’t end with the revelation of A’s identity (or, possibly, identities), but instead ends with the death and/or disappearance of Ian Thomas (Spencer’s sister’s fiance and the girls’ number one suspect for Alison’s killer).
To me, the strength of the show is also its weakness. The mystery behind the show is what makes it compelling but what happens when that mystery is revealed? It would become less interesting. But at the same time, how long can the story be stretched out before people lose interest and give up (I’m looking at you How I Met Your Mother)? I think it was the right move to carry the “A” plot into season two, but anything beyond that and I might grow tired of being strung along. Along the same lines, I’m not sure there is any way that A’s revelation will be satisfying. If it’s someone we know it won’t seem possible and if it’s someone we don’t know it will feel like a rip off. But at the same time, I’m eager to find out who it is even though I know I will probably be disappointed with the result.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first season. Looking past the obvious flaw (the girls could just take their phones to the police and find out who A is) and the show’s irritating tendency to just dismiss minor characters as quickly as they are introduced (Alex, and for much of the second half of season one, Lucas), the four girls are easy to root for in their quest to find A and discover who truly murdered their friend. The subplots are usually more hit (Hanna/Caleb and Spencer/Toby) than miss (anything involving Emily) and frequently give us some depth to our central characters. In a tight race between Spencer and Aria, Spencer finished strong to take first place in my favorite character awards. I know this will infuriate my fellow writers.
Greg Kaplan: Allow me to put my cop out for why I’ve been hooked into this series from step one. I was minding my own business in downtown Savannah drinking with some co-workers. As is any night, I get a text from Vinny (slippery slope I’m going down, isn’t it). Now, Vinny and I have a good history of recommending shows to each other. I, along with a bunch of other people, turned Vinny onto The Wire. In return, Vinny introduced me to Game of Thrones.
So, in a quest to find us another show, Vinny made me promise that whichever show he’d choose, that’d be it.
That’s how I discovered Pretty Little Liars.
This show is as frustrating as it is addicting. It keeps you completely involved in every episode, but a lot of the problems Vinny pointed out are issues we have discussed with each other. How can Alex just disappear into thin air? How does Sean only reappear as a twist for the Emily/Paige relationship? How is Paige all of a sudden in love with Emily? Why is Emily even on this show?
As much as I find myself falling for this show (and Hanna), it is frustrating how simple it really is. But, then I remind myself that the girls being portrayed in this show are high schoolers. And, if I remember high school correctly, girls were absolutely bat shit crazy at that age.
Elements to the show are pretty funny. The symbolism, wherever it is, is brutally evident and rubbed in your face. An example, you say? How about one of the first times Aria and Ezra have a conversation about what their relationship is in the classroom, and the board has statements painted on it about morals and what is right and wrong.
Look, we’re going to pick this show apart, so you should just buckle up for the ride. There are things that are good, things that are bad, and things that are flat out hilarious.
And no, Vinny. Your love for Spencer does not infuriate me at all. It keeps Hanna all for myself. What’s there not to dig? If it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a freaking duck, Vinny!
Mike Caiola: Let me start off by saying that I have been watching this show since it has started and I couldn’t be happier! Moreover, PLL (that’s how the cool kids abbreviate it, Kaplan) has always been a joy I have been willing to share with others. And yes, as you might have guessed this leads many to ask me, “Mike, you’re the manliest man I know, why are you watching Pretty Little Liars?” Or “Mike you’re super awesome and my role model, why are you watching PLL?” Or the more common, “Mike, I just made a list of the world’s largest cocks of 2012 and you have made the list for the 23rd year in a row! Also on a completely different note, I’ve noticed you watch PLL, why is that?”
To answer these questions, we have to take a second and look at the Three Rule. The Three Rule comes from the Ancient Chinese proverb, 三個字的標題好好好, that loosely translates to: Thou can tell a show’s entertainment value is high, if one can find three positives from the title, when asked why. Many scholars have studied the Three Rule for years and although it’s origin is still unknown, its message is still clear – if you can find three positive adjectives in a television show’s title it is worth watching. Now I know what you are thinking, any bozo can make up adjectives to a show title and make this work, but you’d be wrong. It takes years of practice, concentration and meditation to fully understand this process. Living as a Buddhist monk for eight years and training under the great Master Tocci on top of the Himalayas, I can say without a doubt that I am one of the few in the world who is fluent in the way of the Three Rule.
I’ll give you an example, The Wire is generally accepted as a great show and why is that? Well wire’s are generally sturdy, dependable and conduct electricity. See right from the title you know it’s a good show! Here’s another example, Game of Thrones is another awesome show and why is that, you ask? Well 1) everyone likes “games”, 2) “thrones” are really just super comfy chairs, and 3) “of” is the fourth most commonly used word in the English language! Now like I said this doesn’t work for everything, let’s take a look at another ABC Family show The Lying Game. Now outside of “game”, I’m not finding anything appealing about the title. If you have had the unpleasant experience to have seen the show before, you understand why the Three Rule didn’t work – it’s just not a good show. I mean really the only thing the actors did a good job lying about was their acting experience. I mean c’mon show some emotion or critical thinking! Ok, well I seem to be getting off track.
Well the reason I bring this up is that the Three Rule works very well here. Pretty Little Liars is such a good show because they are so pretty, so little, and they are always lying! Yes, I know that was awful long story to make such a simple point but give me a break this is my first rodeo.
However, past the Three Rule, PLL has so much more to offer and my co-writers make some good points. This show has something for everyone! It has mystery and suspense. It has soap opera-esque romance and ridiculously steamy interactions with high school students. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention during high school or if I hit puberty really late but the girls at Rosewood High are super hot! There we go, there’s another reason to watch. There are some super hot girls (read: Aria and Hanna), some unattractive annoying know-it-all girls (read: Spencer), lesbians, and some guys.
Honestly, there’s something for everyone, even if you’re not following the plot. And the plot – when it’s going somewhere – is pretty compelling. I mean, who the fuck is A? How can someone know all this stuff about the girls? There are times where there is literally no one around and they all get a text from A. It could be like nighttime and Spencer is watching a movie by herself and eating popcorn. Then she gets a kernel stuck in her back molar and as she is trying to get it out she gets a text. She runs to her phone and the message reads: Some lies are easy to digest and some get stuck in your teeth -A. Right there, that is a scene! If I see that happen next episode I’ll be pissed.
Ok, so besides A knowing everything, there are a couple plot holes but nothing that distracting that it takes away from the show. Vinny is right about minor characters disappearing, people stop by and then two episodes later, poof they’re gone. Honestly, I had to look up who Alex and Sean were. And Kaplan is right about plots starting up and not going anywhere. It’s like the writers have a spinner with all the minor characters faces on it and before every episode they spin it and roll a die and that’s how long the character comes back into the series for.
But plot holes aside, season one is really good and each episode makes you want to keep coming back for more. For anyone who missed the first season, here’s what happened:
Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna are all friends with Alison. Alison was pretty but pretty much horrible to everyone else. One day Alison goes missing, A,S,E & H all go their separate ways. Skip forward a year, A,S,E & H all become friends again when the police discover Alison’s body and Hanna gets hot. That night they all receive a text from ”A”. Everyone says, “Ali? It can’t be!” at the same time. Then A begins harassing them and threatening to expose their darkest secrets if the girls don’t follow his/her somewhat random demands. Skip forward some time. Shit happens. Skip forward some time. Spencer’s older sister, Melissa, keeps picking boyfriends that really want Spencer. Skip forward some time. Emily is a lesbian. Skip forward some more and the girls narrow down A to be Melissa’s current love, Ian. They “confront” him and he dies. They tell the police and the body is gone. What?!?
Right? Crazy shit right there – I got shivers just from reading it! But season two is even better and season three has not disappointed so far. There is much more A shenanigans and ridiculously steamy high school quasi-love scenes (goddamnit Toby keep your shirt on for one second) and I can’t wait to talk about them!
That’s all I’ve got but before you leave, can I just take a moment to have a sidebar and talk about Ezra – that lucky bastard? Ezra is living the dream! I mean do you see how hot Aria is? It makes me want to become an English teacher and go to bars in the afternoon until I see a hot high school student pretending to be in college and then just go to town with her in the bathroom. I mean really, when does that ever happen?
Living the mother fucking dream.