How Hulu Is Ruining My Life Today

Today, Hulu is ruining my life by having the first ten episodes of Pretty Little Liars available for streaming in anticipation of the show’s return next Monday.

Way back when over the summer, I was totally planning on watching this show because, while I expected it to be stupid, the promos were incredibly intriguing. But I just never got around to it. Thanks to insomnia, I finally did…and now I CAN’T STOP.

My expectations of this show were low. In a nutshell, I was thinking something kind of like any standard CW series…but with a lower budget. Instead, Pretty Little Liars is actually quite…devious.

It is well-acted and disconcertingly well-written. While watching, you know that it’s truly teen girl drama fluffcrap. And yet it is impossible to stop watching. Because in between all of the OMGCUTEBOY drama, there’s this completely inexplicable mystery and you get almost zero clues but that storyline gets just enough emphasis that you HAVE TO KEEP WATCHING BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN. Plus, well, OMGCUTEBOYS. Lots of them.

Seriously, though, the draw is somewhat inexplicable…so naturally my next move is to try and explicate. Why is Pretty Little Liars genuinely enjoyable?

Maybe it’s because the characters are so…real. Emily is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve seen on television for awhile. She’s got the same secrecy, creepy family issues as everyone else. But she’s also got the whole sexuality-mystery-thing going. That is a teenage emotion crisis that has the potential to be done SO poorly, but it isn’t. Between Shay Mitchell‘s performance and the minimal script, the confusion is imparted more through feeling than explanation – and not through a sexfest either – and that is what makes it work.

The rest of the central characters are written just as well. Hanna (Ashley Benson) has the cookie-cutter Fat Girl Is Now Hot And Popular issues; but she is also totally credible in her impulse-driven, foot-in-mouth insensitivity to others. I have adored Lucy Hale since she first appeared as the little sister in Bionic Woman so her character could have been a complete disaster and I still would have loved her. But Aria has an older-than-her-years complexity that lends both wisdom and insecurity to the character and makes the development fascinating to watch. Spencer (Troian Bellisario) is unarguably the most boring of the four. Her plotline has been nothing but predictable – same ol’ same ol’ perfectionist who gets in over her head. Spencer’s saving grace is that all the creepy stuff happens on her turf – the house, the lipstick…and she has that whole “She might have killed Alison or seen something” thing going for her. Given the quality of the rest of the show, I’m willing to put in the patience to see her storyline get better.

And another character worth noting is Ezra Fitz. Silly name aside, he is my favorite. Because while he doesn’t need to be anything but cute and a foil for Aria’s emotional side, his character goes beyond that. He’s credited as a part of the regular cast for good reason – there’s actually some sort of emotional storyline with, like, levels and stuff. But…he’s mostly just cute. REALLY cute. (And, realistically speaking, way too young and unqualified to be teaching high school English. But hey! That’s the beauty of suspending disbelief. Fun fact: Ian Harding is actually only three years older than Lucy Hale.)

And that quality in character formation is pretty much the norm for the entire show. For instance, the whole This Big Brother “A” thing? Seriously creepy. But the AWESOME kind of creepy. Making that flower pot into a graveyard in S1E4? Frickin’ EPIC. I actually had chills by the end of “Can You Hear Me Now?”. That is what makes good television.

The most surprising thing is that even though all of these girls are wearing far too much makeup and are dressed far too fashionably and this is the most improbable small town since Stars Hollow, I have no desire to mock this show. Somehow, ABC Family has managed to create a drama that caters to teens without straying into melodrama territory. Even though all of the typical teen melodrama shit occurs – the underage shenanigans, the beyond improbable romances, the apparently endless wardrobes, the preposterously attractive population – it is performed and presented in such a way that I can’t bring myself to look down on it. Much as I would like to. I am forced to admit that I am very impressed by this show. I am addicted, and somehow lacking the guilt that came with my Gossip Girl phase of days gone past. (Yes, I had one, let us never speak of it again.)

One thing that IS excessively frustrating: I CANNOT FIND THE DETECTIVE GUY ON IMDB. IT’S LIKE HE DOESN’T EXIST. IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. His face is so familiar but I can’t find his name and his background and IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. Seriously. (If anyone can shed some light on that, DO PLEASE.)

Another thing that is definitely weirding me out: Bianca Lawson. She was playing a sixteen year old FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. I mean, she still looks all youthful and hot and everything but seriously: it is getting a little creepy. The not-awesome kind of creepy.

Final note: another highlight to the tune of Awesome Kind of Creepy. The title credits. Holy fuck and a half that shit is deliciously creepy. Enjoy.

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