From the moment I heard the title I knew they were on to something. I mean seriously, who wouldn't want to watch a soap opera called Pretty Little Liars? Then when I learned the upcoming ABC Family drama was based on a series of teen novels from Alloy Media, the same people responsible for packaging the Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries brands, I became even more convinced teen TV was on the verge of something big.
Last night I finished reading the first book in the Pretty Little Liars series from author Sara Shepard and I didn't even want to stop to order dinner! The breezy, sexy saga revolves around Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer, a group of privileged, private school-attending teens from a posh Philadelpha surburb. The former pals lives are turned upside down when they start receiving text messages and emails from a mystery stalker, who knows their every move. The anonymous taunter goes simply by the letter "A", the first initial of their long-missing and presumed dead frenemy Alison's name. I know what you're thinking. Gossip Girl in Philly? Think again.
While Pretty Little Liars definitely share Gossip Girl's DNA, the provocative, some times disturbing, psychological issues this fivesome faces go much deeper than sexting or threesomes, and as I mentioned, I'm only on the first book! One of the Pretty Little Liars suffers from a myriad of dangerous compulsions, another is struggling with her sexuality, a third covets everything her "perfect" big sister has (especially the men in her life), while still another is determined to give her hot, English teacher much more than an apple.
Then there's Alison, the one who went missing three years earlier. The Queen Bee who used her advanced skills at manipulation to get them to do unspeakable things. Alison knows all their dirty, little secrets and pretty little lies. If ABC Family and show runner Marlene King stay true to the mythology Shepard created in her books, I predict Pretty Little Liars will be a monster hit, and really, why wouldn't they? Alloy originally envisioned the books as a TV project, a "Desperate Housewives for teens", before tapping Shepard to pen the novellas, which is no doubt why the action in Pretty Little Liars almost quite literally jumps off the page.
As if the selling points I mentioned above weren't enough to convince soap lovers to tune in for the serial's June 8 premiere on ABC Family, the cast of Pretty Little Liars reads like a "Who's Who?" of famous soap faces.
Former Days of Our Lives starlet Ashley Benson (ex-Abby Deveraux) appears as Hanna Marin, who ascends to the top of the social ladder following the disappearance of former clique queen Alison (Sasha Pieterse). Hanna used to be overweight, which made her the butt of Alison's cruel jokes, now she controls her svelte figure by binging and purging, that is when she isn't shoplifting from Tiffany and Co. I was a huge fan of Benson's portrayal of the daughter of one of my all-time fave supercouples, Jack and Jennifer on DAYS, so I can't wait to see her sink her teeth into what sounds like will be a fun, new role for her.
Hanna's mom in Pretty Little Liars is portrayed by the sexylicious Laura Leighton, fresh from reprising her signature role as schemer Sydney Andrews Mancini on The CW's short-lived Melrose Place reboot. Ashley Marin is the type of mom who believes image is everything, and she'll do anything to protect her daughter's, even sleep with a local cop to make sure the occasional, pesky shoplifting and/or grand theft auto charge goes away.
Lucy Hale (Privileged, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) stars as artsy Aria Montgomery (my fave character from the books so far), who flees to Iceland with her family after Alison's shocking disappearance, only to return three years later a more worldy version of herself. Aria gives new meaning to the phrase "teacher's pet" when it comes to English teacher Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding).
It should really come as no surprise that Aria thinks it A-okay to hook up with her teacher, considering her professor dad, Byron Montgomery (played by Life Goes On alum Chad Lowe) has been giving "extra credit" to one of his students for years, a secret only Aria—and the missing Alison—are aware of. Why Byron would want to cheat on a wife as hot as Ella Montgomery (Chamed star Holly Marie Combs) is anyone's guess.
Troian Bellisario portrays the role of Spencer Hastings, the only girl ever strong enough to stand up to Alison (on the night she disappeared no less). Spencer resents the adoration her parents bestow on her painfully-perfect older sister Melissa, and has taken to making out with her sister's boyfriends as payback. It's too bad Spencer shared her covetous behavior with Alison.
Rounding out the lead roles is Shay Mitchell as swimming champ Emily Fields, a girl with a nice boyfriend whom she's just not that in to. Emily hails from an ultra-conservative family, who probably wouldn't like it if they found out their overachieving daughter wrote a love letter to Alison before she went missing. Now Emily is crushing on new girl Maya, played by Bianca Lawson of Secret Life of The American Teenager and Vampire Diaries fame.
Walker, Texas Ranger and The Young and the Restless alum Nia Peeples also recurs in the series, and will be featured in the pilot episode.
Be sure to check out Pretty Little Liars premiering June 8 at 8 pm/7pm C on ABC Family. Until then, watch the trailer!