I had hoped to enter a habit of waiting for the full season of a show to be out if I wasn’t already following it from the beginning before writing about it. However, since I posted about Pretty Little Liars, I’ve decided to make a series of posts on ABC Family. Next up: Jane by Design.
I first saw this season when it first began two summers ago. With such an inherently violent and disturbing premise, the show’s plot was definitely out of the box for a network as “family friendly” as ABC Family. What made the show initially catch my eye was the macabre nature of the show, along with the taboo depictions of a student-teacher relationship and one of television’s most notable lesbian teen characters.
I’ve always been a Nancy Drew-type reader, but watching a constructed multi-season long murder mystery and surrounding conspiracy is certainly rewarding. Even critically acclaimed shows such as The Killing or Twin Peaks can rarely hold onto the murder as a central plot point – challenges with sustaining a series focusing on a single major murder can be seen with the short longevity, or audience disillusionment. As shown by the response and ratings for this week’s airing of the finale of The Killing, the prestige behind such shows tend to decline rather quickly when the audience is felt cheated. With the revealing of the respective murderers in the end of the second season (or a corresponding television film), the shows essentially poison themselves. While most critics claim the Twin Peaks cancellation was due to its quite niche audience, critics overwhelmingly agree that The Killing suffers from shoddy, messy writing. There is no way around this without a clear vision of where the showrunner wants to go with their vision, and how they plan to execute this.
Many other shows spread the over-arching mystery among procedural formats such as Monk or Veronica Mars, which were both successful in noting the continuance of the titular characters’ daily life, but still coming back to the mysterious loss of a loved one (Monk’s wife, Veronica’s best friend and mother). Adrian Monk and Veronica Mars both happened to be private detectives, as opposed to actual law enforcement agents. This certainly lends to the longevity of their respective series by inherently adding a layer of serialization – Monk lasted 8 seasons, while Veronica Mars lasted 3 but despite ratings improvement, critical acclaim, and a clear vision moving forward was axed by The CW. However, it is my opinion that the writing, and subsequent audience satisfaction that separates The Killing from the Veronica Mars of the entertainment world.
Pretty Little Liars started its third season June 5, and so far sees no signs of slowing down. It is ABC Family’s highest rated show, and has ranked the highest rated show among women 12-34. The show is successful at keeping the high school lives of the Liars intertwined with the threats against them from -A, the anonymous blackmailer with information that only their deceased Queen Bee Alison could have known. Upon rewatching the first season this week, I realized I had been dismissing an extremely well-written and thought out show – one that captivated me much more than its “adult counterparts” such as the aforementioned AMC show. The writers know their audience extraordinarily well, and this is observed by the show’s success.
Episodes to Watch:
Pretty Little Liars: Keep Your Friends Close
Pretty Little Liars: Know Your Frenemies
Pretty Little Liars: A Person of Interest
Pretty Little Liars: For Whom The Bell Tolls
Everyone has seen or heard of “Teen Wolf”, the iconic teen film from the 80’s starring Michael J. Fox as Scott, a high schooler who starts exhibiting strange behaviors. The TV show has notably kept the names of the original film’s characters – the only thing the film and how has in common. The 2011 Scott McCall(Tyler Posey) is a below-average lacrosse player who gets bitten one night in the woods by a wolf while searching for the missing half of a young girl’s corpse. Right from the beginning, the show puts on a more mature and dramatic tone. The movie shows that the condition is hereditary but the TV adaptation is complete with a werewolf bite from the hot-but-evil werewolf to Damon’s hot-but-evil vampire from The Vampire Diaries.
Scott and his best friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) go into the woods searching for a partial body after Stiles overhears his father (the town sheriff) on the phone. While at first unsuccessful together, after they split up Scott stumbles upon the torso of the young woman, bloody and wide-eyed. As he freaks out, he stumbles down the hill and struggles to regain his balance when he hears an eerie howl from behind him. He ends up wandering the road, now with a large bite on his abdomen. The next day at school Allison (Crystal Reed), the new girl, and Scott mutually catch each other’s interest. Scott becomes more agile and powerful on the lacrosse field but these assets are offset by the headaches from his acute hearing as well as the physical changes at inconvenient times. The team’s top player, Jackson Whittemore (Colton Haynes), marks Scott as a rival since his new abilities bump the show’s lead to a starter position. Throw in a little more romantic/sexual tension, the revelation of Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) as the presumed werewolf, some more male teenage angst and you have Scott posing danger to the girl he likes with an ever-increasing inability to control his wolf urges. He ditches her at the party he took her too and runs off, unable to control his transformation. He encounters Derek, who insists he is trying to help him with his “gift”, but is interrupted by werewolf hunters that have followed them. Derek runs off, telling Scott to do the same, but comes back to help free the high schooler when he’s trapped. They both escape the woods, with Scott disturbed by Derek’s implication that he will become violent and most likely hurt someone without Derek’s help. Scott apologizes to Allison for the debacle at the party, and the pilot ends as Scott realizes that Allison’s dad is the man who shot at him in the woods the previous night.
I quite like the side-kick best friend Stiles – as comic relief he’s doofy but intelligent, and understands the gravity of the situation right off the bat. I quite enjoyed the way his character was introduced – dangling off the roof of his best friend’s house is certainly eye-catching. Also it takes some skill to run around on your hunches with just facial makeup on, so kudos to Tyler Posey for that. The close-up of the drool was a nice touch. And OF COURSE the girl is from the family of hunters! Star-crossed lovers a teen angst series do make. In both mediums the coach character is essentially a douche – which I’m sure will be a show staple as the season progresses. However, the film version presents him in a comic manner as the two-faced authority figure who doesn’t really have time for his team’s personal problems, whereas the TV coach essentially creates emotional problems – at the very least with his unrelenting taunts and verbal abuse. His disheveled appearance also detracts from his role as an authority figure. The single parent figure, however, is a mother in the TV adaptation, whereas the film showed a father who passed on the lycanthrope gene. At least Scott was smart enough to figure out who the werewolf was right away, although the whole “We’re brothers now” bit from Derek creeped me out. I will note that whoever the music director for the show is is making me happy with their song choices. Their credibility as a scripted show on MTV can only increase with a Deadmau5 count of 2 for 2 (as of the second part of the premiere). Also the My Chemical Romance thrown in for good measure in the second episode is nicely used as Scott gets his act together during the big game.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the pilot and so far will be keeping this on my summer watch list!