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Wednesday, 22 of September of 2021

Tag » Pretty Little Liars

Negative Track – March 11-18

As we divide our time across several television-themed blogs (approximately, Noel has cofounded or runs about 29 blogs), sometimes we don’t get a chance to properly address the issues that come up in the comments sections of the shows we review. We could but no one would read five paragraphs of comments (Nick is fairly certain people only skim his reviews as it is). So here we have a place for us to address the questions left out of the reviews or new issues that commenters have brought up.

Nick’s calling this the Negative Track for now (like those interludes between tracks on a CD that counted down and could only be found once you played through song — wait, do you remember what a CD is?) but, because the title might be a little esoteric, he’s pretty sure the Monsters will conclave to give it a better title.

This week: Ezra Fitz and the “rapist” label (from Pretty Little Liars, “I’m Your Puppet”), the real serial killer on The Following (from The Following, “Welcome Home”), and “The Farm” backdoor pilot being the bridge between The Office and Parks and Recreation (from The Office, “The Farm”). Noel will likely join next week, when he’s caught up on those other blogs. And maybe this one. GOOD GRIEF, HAS HE NOT WRITTEN A GOOD WIFE REVIEW IN WEEKS? DAMN HIM. (In his defense, the episodes have been pretty just okay.)

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In Prosecution of Guys Named Fitz

Ezra Fitz and Aria Montgomery | President Fitzgerald Grant with Olivia Pope

This is a completely unbiased image.

Guys named Fitz, you’re getting a reputation from your television representatives. And it’s not a good one.

On one show, you have a guy operating in an ethical gray area of sexual law and professional standards, whose development is arrested but not in a cute way. In that abused-child sort of way. The one you would feel sorry for if you had any evidence that it was true.

Then you have another man who is leader of the free world, who everyone insists is a great man and great for the country going forward but seems only to vacillate between dipping his wick and being a jackass to everyone else. If he’d do one thing that was presidential, he might absolve himself but he struggles to do that. He’s a pawn, a schmuck, and a self-serving pansy that hides behind a commanding voice.

These are certainly two different men in different stations of life (even different phases of their lives). But what these jerks share is a common flaw in how their characters are presented. What connects a distracted world leader and a child-touching teacher is mostly in execution: they’ve never done anything to deserve our empathy.

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Pretty Little Liars – “Crazy”

“Friends don’t let friends sneak into insane asylums alone.”

Mona and Aria talk under supervision.

Do Arkham Asylum inmates only eat sliced bread and peanuts?

My first instinct was to type this whole thing in Mona Code (what Spencer would know as a basic mnemonic device) but that’s harder in practice than theory. “She lives under trees” is more inspired than you might think it is. It’s like trying to compose Don Quixote from scratch. Or terza rima in German.

But, then again, it’s a lot easier when your character can communicate in nonsense. If you have anyone past puberty brushing a doll’s hair, they can say just about anything because she is clearly cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. In fact, I wonder what the doll industry has to say about this show. They certainly are on the forefront of establishing fake porcelain babies and tiny plastic people as the creepiest things to stumble across in the dark. Especially vast extinct necropolises ensconcing zany Rosewood asylums.

A lot of information is revealed in this episode, which usually means I’m going to hate the thing since that leaves very little room for Hanna to bust out a few choice lines (comedic brashness usually gets replaced by boring anxiety).
But this one could’ve been much worse and none of the plot that is revealed feels terribly contrived. Well, except for Nate’s weird Jenna love and Ali’s unmentioned evil bestie Cece coming to town. Couldn’t emerging characters exhibit some winsome faculties?

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Pretty Little Liars – “That Girl is Poison”

“Every time you baby squirrel Ezra, you take away his nuts.”

Jenna and Emily approach Paige after she dips her finger into the cupcakes.

She just wanted a coconut. Geez, lighten up, you guys.

What? How did we go through a whole episode with that title and not hear Bell Biv DeVoe once?

Egregious absences of namesakes notwithstanding, this episode felt stronger than that past two weeks, didn’t it? It wasn’t AS cheesy or AS painful to watch. The girls are still awful to their men (or ladies as the case may be) and their schemes to get evidence/clues are still hare-brained but a lot has to be said when the writer of the episode doesn’t talk down to the audience, simultaneously assuming the characters are idiots so they would do dumb things and that the audience are idiots so they can pass off uninspired plot points and no one will be the wiser.

This show is weird in that we get a lot of information in a ham-handed way and then a better-quality breather episode with less information and more interaction. It’s like any other show with a serial storytelling except the episodes where we get a lot of information are crappy. Even the writers are trying to rush through it and hope no one thinks about what just happened.

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Pretty Little Liars – “Birds of a Feather”

“Why are you looking at pictures of bald, fat men?”

Hanna and Aria set up a dating profile for Ella.

Let’s set up a profile for my mom! Wait. Do you know anything about my mom? I don’t. She’s an English teacher so she likes — art? And stuff? This profile needs more dead animal parts.

I didn’t think I was going to do a review of Pretty Little Liars this week but something needs to be said about things that are happening on this show, particularly how the show is trespassing on my faculties of reason.

You and I both know this show isn’t supposed to stand next to Breaking Bad or LOST or any show to be acclaimed by critics outside of Us Weekly. But I also once attributed subtext and whiffs of an aspiration to complex narrative for this show, even saying this is the best show you’re not watching. So that’s on me.

The thing is that Pretty Little Liars may indeed try their hand at revelatory storytelling in the shadow of LOST but they also have to consider their target demographic won’t hang on without some reveals and may be too impatient for the answer-longing that kept fans tuning in for Whiny Jack and Tag-along Kate. You have to let them have a piece of the story every once in a while, maybe more often than you would for the wider 18-49.

I’m getting it out there that I don’t hate Pretty Little Liars for dumping more information into each episode and picking up the pace a little (a lot — a lot a lot). It’s the execution that troubles me. Don’t insult me or the young girls of America. You can do better.

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Pretty Little Liars – “It Happened That Night”

“Last night never happened.”

Hanna, Spencer, Emily, and Aria talk about what Emily remembers from 'that' night.

What this show is all about: schemes, remembering, sleuthing, modesty.

You know, maybe people would stop calling you liars if you stopped doing shady crap.

It’s been five months since these attractive diminutive fibbers unmAsked and committed their bully to Rosewood’s Arkham Asylum but none of them have really learned anything from their trials. Nothing’s really changed for them, other than attempting to convince each other of safety. But not one of them has been able to let go of the trauma and detective work that dominated the last year (it’s only been a story world year?) of their lives.

Well, maybe Aria. But we’ll get to her grossness.

The season premiere is all about the difference between what people say to each other and what they actual think and do. The girls present with the illusion of safety while constantly investigating everything that undermines that illusion. Sadly, their investigations are about the modern-day equivalent of a Scooby-Doo operation.

And something tells me that the new attacks aren’t coming from a person that will blow up in a self-righteous, self-important rage that reveals all the secrets. The girls will actually have to do something this time.

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Pretty Little Liars – “unmAsked”

“Guys, I don’t trust Melissa as far as I can throw her and Ian’s fetus.”

Spencer stands in Room 2 at the Lost Woods hotel.

Spencer is appalled by the content but loves the organization.

This episode is everything that is wrong with Pretty Little Liars and possibly everything that is wrong with America.

I don’t expect much from this show. I like it. I wouldn’t admit that to my dude friends (except this is on the internet — hi, dude friends) but I do watch this every week instead of catching up on Justified. It exists within a bubble of camp and camp is something that can only be enjoyed experientially. Have you ever tried to describe the plot of a B-movie to someone that doesn’t enjoy camp? It’s like explaining how to pierce your knuckles. Why would you do that to yourself? You watch a show about high school drama that’s already annoying then heightened to a hyperbolic level by a phantom, omniscient villain who always wears black gloves, even when eating, and terrorizes through text and shadowy secret-telling? Forget it, bring on the knuckle-piercers.

And, somehow, I’ve continued to watch, even enjoy, Pretty Little Liars because it knows what it is and even pokes fun at itself. Within this melodrama that moonlights as a thriller, there’s a thread of intelligence (not from the characters — they’re all nearly simple) in the storytelling.

Except for this season finale. But, lucky for them (and us), they padded their crappy tale-spinning with actual advancement and real information. By the end of the episode, you really feel like you got somewhere.

Let me warn you now before you move on that there will be spoilers. Because how can we talk about how foolish this all is if we don’t discuss the actual events we had to suffer through?

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Pretty Little Liars – “Through Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares”

“You keep saying things to me like you hope it means something.”

Emily and Spencer fight during community service.

I am the one who knocks!

I don’t have a dog or cat but I play with them often. The laser pointer thing seems too dangerous so I stick mostly with ropes and strings, leading the animals around while they snap at the toy, wagging their tails or peering at the offensive tentacle with piercing looks of the hunt. They swat, they bite, they leap up. But it’s important that they hit the thing that’s dangling. Animals that hunt also realize when the game is fixed and they need a taste of victory in order to keep going. Or else they wander away and watch Who’s Left Standing? instead. I’m just kidding. No one’s going to watch that crap.

Now that I’ve written that, I’m sure I’ve made this analogy before but I’m going to make it again: you need to give an audience a taste of the mystery so that they don’t think it’s fixed against them. It’s hard to engage with a story that is constantly being held four feet over their heads, which is just what Pretty Little Liars did to their viewers early in the summer season. But they came through in the end, gave us a pretty winning (and pretty creepy) mid-season finale. Note to everyone: dolls are always the scariest things ever when they’re the focal point of a plot. Always.

I don’t want to pontificate too much on the winter season premiere of Pretty Little Liars, which, I’m going to say, is the best show you’re not watching right now. Until you don’t watch the new season of Being Human. Let’s hit the highlights. Read more »

Pretty Little Liars – “Moments Later”

“You are freaking out the invalid.”

Hanna, Emily, Aria, and Spencer discuss the possibility of "A" being more than one person.

Can you speak up so the bear can hear you?

Right out of the gate in 2011, ABC Family laid the calendar year’s premieres of Greek and Pretty Little Liars and, while some of our academic critic cohorts watch and review Greek, Matt and I are of different stock and shifted our attention to the lyin’ ladies of Rosewood instead. Previously on Pretty Little Liars, Aria continued her illicit relationship with a teacher, Emily conceded to be in lesbians with Maya, and Hanna got hit by a car after recognizing who she thought was “A.” Oh, and there was the tragedy of a side character dubbing her birthday party “Camp Mona,” complete with labeled SWAG and signage, but only kept reminding me of Who’s the Boss?

This week the show decompressed a little, going over the facts and processing the new information. Matt and I did the same upon the finishing the episode.

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Pretty Little Liars: The Season Thus Far

“Come find me, bitches.

Promotional graphic for Pretty Little Liars

Sometimes they are also Pretty Dirty Little Liars

You can’t be blamed if you haven’t watched this show. I wouldn’t even know about it if I wasn’t such a Gilmore Girls junkie and ABC Family wasn’t such a publicity whore during their commercial breaks. Seriously, the phrases “secret life” and “make it or break it” will be forever burned into my consciousness despite the fact I’ve only seen short clips of both that put together wouldn’t even amount to an episode. And then, even if you had seen a preview or two for it, you might’ve been like me and assumed some sort of “ghost in the machine” scenario, like some poor American reboot of Serial Experiements: Lain. The show wasn’t really made for me and I chose not to respond to it.

But Matt kept insisting I check it out. Since I’d already given Veronica Mars a whirl (which I liked a lot) and I gave my mother Lost Season 1 for Christmas, I decided to hit the Matt Owens Trifecta. He sold it to me as a departure from normal ABC Family fare, something more closely resembling the WB shows of the early 2000s (when Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, and One Tree Hill were at their schmaltziest). The production value is improved over shows like Secret Life of the American Teenager and Make It Or Break It and the writing was a lot tighter, he defended. So, since Hulu had the entire season up to this point available to watch, I decided I could try it out. I mean, I watched Life Unexpected; it’s not like I have a masculine reputation to upkeep. I have a Fashionista badge on Miso, for crissakes.

The show surprised me, however. I was taken by the opening sequence, a desaturated series of shots showing a body being prepared for a viewing and scored by an almost saccharine song about keeping secrets (although Aria shushing at the end almost made me turn the show off). And not only did I see the things Matt noted but I also found it interesting in other areas. I’m not saying you have to watch it but it’s something to keep your eye on. If you want to keep up without sitting through the first ten episodes (new episodes start Monday, January 3rd), let me take you through the highlights.

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