Magnetic Mudslinging

So, it’s a teen drama, but is it a “controversial” teen drama? That seems to be all the rage. Not really. While a show like Skins is in-your-face with its realism, Pretty Little Liars is fairly obviously not. The stars are all in their twenties, for one; if the setting wasn’t a high school you’d never imagine them to be students. The plotting also requires a considerable suspension of disbelief — this “A” person is both omniscient and omnipresent — and yet there are moments that veer toward important social issues, such as when Emily, played by Canadian Shay Mitchell, becomes involved with another girl and is a victim of bullying. It’s the kind of plotline that no doubt gets the Parents Television Council in a lather, as would the relationship between Aria (Lucy Hale) and one of her teachers. The couple are treated like star-crossed lovers, but in most states such a thing is known as statutory rape.

Why so popular? To start, the title isn’t wrong: This is one highly attractive cast. That certainly helps the ratings. But the show also teases out the mystery bit by bit.

Through 15 episodes, various ancillary characters are presented as the possible puppet master before the plot changes tack and heads somewhere else. Thus, the eerie slasher-film-style musical score is employed liberally and most episodes end with a cliffhanger of some sort: the actresses must spend a lot of time practising their shocked face. Bellisario thinks teens like the show because it treats them as young adults. “They like the same things as us, so that’s why when 30-year-old women or 40-year-old men come up to me and they say” — she lowers her voice here — ” ‘I like your show,’ it’s because we still like the same things we liked when we were 13 years old.

Everybody loves a mystery and camp and funny things.” Adds Hale: “And naughty girls.”

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