ABC Family continues its trend of airing teen-centric, soap-esque dramas - the network is home to Pretty Little Liars (henceforth PLL), Secret Life of the American Teenager and Switched at Birth - with its new mystery series Twisted. The network gave a sneak preview of the pilot back in March following the spring finale of PLL and has now paired it on Tuesday nights with that show, which has a very popular following and a very rabid fan base. I'm sure they are hoping viewers will stay for the new series, which looks to feature twists, secrets, danger and lies all its own.
Twisted is centered on Danny Desai (Avan Jogia, Aliens in America), a charismatic 16-year-old with a troubled past - he allegedly strangled his aunt to death when he was 11 and was sentenced to 5 years in juvenile detention - who has returned to his hometown, much to the chagrin of its citizens.
Danny hopes to reconnect with his two female best friends from childhood, who were ostracized after the murder for having been friends with him: Jo, (Maddie Hasson, The Finder) and Lacey (newcomer Kylie Bunbury). Dubbed "Socio" due to his infamous past, Danny is a pariah in school, even to Jo, herself kind of an outsider, her only friend Rico (stuntman-turned-actor Ashton Moio). Lacey has joined the popular set, led by Regina (Karynn Moore, Jane By Design), though maybe not by her complete choice) and boyfriend Archie (Grey Damon, The Secret Circle, Friday Night Lights).
When a fellow student is found dead in her home, Danny becomes the prime suspect, and so the mystery begins. The series co-stars Denise Richards (Starship Troopers, Wild Things), Kathy Najimy (Sister Act) and Sam Robards (Gossip Girl, Treme).
Unlike PLL, which had me hooked from the beginning with its initial murder mystery, beautiful, charismatic young cast, taunting threats-and-taunts-via-text, and more twists than Lombard Street, Twisted doesn't have that same pull for me, at least not from the get-go. It, too uses texts to convey information, but it seems like a forced tool rather than a part of the story like it is in PLL.
Clearly ABC Family is a family, being that a lot of the cast has appeared in other series on the network, and most are actually believable as high schoolers and decent actors. But I didn't find myself wanting to know the why or the whos behind the murder mystery, again as PLL has for me season after season.
In other words, PLL does it right, Twisted ... not so much. But again, it's only the first episode. But again again, it's kind of important to grab you from the get-go to get you to come back for more. I think the fact that this is a summer series will help, not to mention its very strong lead-in.
Bottom Line: Catch up and move on with Pretty Little Liars. As for Twisted, I think you'd have to twist my arm to get me to commit long-term.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m., Twisted at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.