Monday, May 05, 2014

COLUMN: Pretty Little Liars

I am, by the very definition of the word, a grown adult. That's what I keep telling myself.

I enjoyed my college years a great deal. I'd even go as far as to say they were the so-called "best years" (at least thus far.) But that was a looong time ago, and I refuse to be stuck there. I'm not going to end up as some tragic Michael Jackson figure, desperately trying to hold on to whatever vestiges of my youth that I can cling to.

Whether I like it or not, I'm a (gasp) 40-something. It's not my fault that my television seems to think that I'm 22. And a girl.

I guess I'm not supposed to be overly concerned with television in the first place. At my age, I should be busy having a life, raising a family and working hard. But, as it turns out, the only family I've been able to raise thus far is a pack of unruly cats who don't seem to care what's on TV as long as I'm available for occasional chin scritches.

I have friends who tell me they "don't like TV," whatever that means. I even have friends who don't have a TV. I don't have a TV, either -- I have five of them. Don't judge -- being powered on and tuned in brings me comfort.

But as an adult 40-something TV watcher, I should no longer have MTV and the Cartoon Network programmed into my favorites. I should enjoy heady dramas with perhaps a mild sprinkling of violence. Shows about relationships and job woes. Shows about real people overcoming real adversity. Shows with critical appeal that broaden the mind and offer new ways to think about our past, present, and future.

In other words, I should really like "Mad Men."

And I do. I'm a huge fan. "Mad Men" serves a vital role in my life: no other product on Earth puts me to sleep faster. If I'm fighting insomnia, all I have to do is put on an episode and I am out like a light. I've tried to watch the pilot countless times, and here's what I know: there's a guy named Don and he sells ads and he has a secretary and then it's morning and Al Roker is telling me the weather.

The truth is, I have relatively lowbrow taste when it comes to the boob tube. I like to laugh along with "Big Bang Theory" and "Parks and Rec." I still love hearing Cartman swear his way through "South Park," and my night isn't complete without Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers.

But there's one show I watch above all others, and it's a show that ought to qualify as highbrow adult entertainment. It's a captivating tale of murder, intrigue, suspense, and complex relationship issues. The storyline revolves around four highly flawed heroes thrust into a world so evil that only their combined wit, moxie, and friendship can somehow see them through. It's a show that opens five new doors for every one it closes. A show that requires concentration, analysis, and oftentimes repeated viewings to fully appreciate.

I watch the greatest show on television. I watch "Pretty Little Liars."

If you're unfamiliar, it probably means you don't have a teen girl in your home. "Pretty Little Liars" (or PLL to us fans) is an hour-long drama that runs on ABC Family. The show centers around a clique of teen girls who drift apart after their group's leader goes missing. A year later, her body is found and the clique is forced to reunite at her funeral. That's when all four girls begin to receive threatening messages from the mysterious 'A', who seems to know all of their darkest secrets. The girls are forced to team up against A's evil plots while uncovering the mystery behind their friend's death. And it's completely awesome.

Oh, and it's also completely ridiculous. There's nothing about "Pretty Little Liars" that isn't over the top. One girl's a lesbian, another has an eating disorder. One's sleeping with her English teacher, while another has a drug problem. In this world, parents are non-existent unless the plot necessitates their occasional appearance. Boyfriends come and go like the wind while the girls are free to roam around town 24/7 and skip school far more often than attend.

In their sleepy Pennsylvania town of Rosewood, everyone is otherworldly attractive. The girls seem to have unlimited money and their closets are full of top designer fashionwear. In one episode, the girls go to a Halloween party on a fully-functioning old-timey passenger train that features a surprise concert by Adam Lambert, because that's just how things roll in Rosewood.

Meanwhile, the mysterious 'A' is nothing less than the greatest criminal mastermind in history. 'A' knows every move the girls make, every conversation they have, and remains always and forever one step ahead. 'A' can hack into any phone, computer, or TV that the girls pass by. 'A' is clearly a creature with unlimited intelligence, resources, technology, and finance, which are all used liberally for the exclusive purpose of torturing four teenagers for little to no reason.

Like I said, completely awesome -- and everyone should watch it. Sadly, though, it seems only high school & college-aged girls do. Ergo, I have a tough time finding PLL pals to share my fandom with. That changed this month, though, when I found out one of this very paper's reporters shares my secret obsession.

Now we send flurries of back-and-forth texts and e-mails to ensure we fully understand each episode, and they're as ridiculous as you'd expect. Here follows an ACTUAL transcript of a recent conversation between two grown adults. This actually happened:

Her: OMG I can't take this. Who do you think is in the mask? Why would Toby go to Melissa? They know? Jason hit her and Mrs. D tried to cover for him. He was too messed up to remember. Maybe it was Mr. Hastings?

Me: Jason would make sense now. But does he know what happened? And if not, why this not-really-in-rehab secrecy?

Her: Maybe he remembered and needed to disappear? I can't take this show.

Me: Oh this is just insane!

Her: OMG!

Me: If Jason hit her then why is Melissa in the conspiracy to replace her not-dead body?

Her: Because Melissa wanted Ian? And if Ian thought Ali was dead, he'd be all hers?

Me: So Jason hit her but the dead body is thanks to either Family Hastings or the N.A.T. Club?

Her: I think.

Me: Adam Lambert did it. In the conservatory. With a candlestick.

There MAY have been spoilers in there, but odds are slim. The point is, I found another adult willing to admit their love of PLL, so I feel slightly less guilty about my viewing habits. Plus it's good to have a buddy to share the long hard wait until new episodes resume this June. If you still think I'm weird, get on Netflix right now and watch the pilot episode (I promise I won't tell anyone.) Then tell me you're not hooked. Then put on some "Mad Men" and get to bed. It's late.

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