The latest fad in American television that has swept the UK by storm, Pretty Little Liars has become the necessary Netflix viewing of thousands in order to keep up conversation in both the real world and the world of Twitter. Discussions of ‘A’ and the mysterious ‘Charles’ have been rampant over social media ever since the self-coined ‘big reveal’ took place; prompting thousands of us to take to our internet handles and discuss our amazement, outrage, shock or excitement, with thousands more forced to avoid the internet and hibernate with unlimited coffee and marathons of Hanna’s eye rolls and Aria’s over dramatised reactions in an attempt to feverishly catch up.
Successfully cementing itself amongst the golden greats of Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Prison Break and Gossip Girl, the show has propelled the Rosewood foursome into stardom and created a whole generation whose schedule now revolves around daily viewing so as to piece together who exactly A is and, more importantly, what A wants. This has created what many consider both the best and worst viewing experience of their lives, balancing disappointment and a lack of answers with just a dusting of clues, hints and dramas to force viewing of the next episode with a sense of trepidation and a search for the missing piece.
ABC has, in essence, created a entire viewership of sleuths and detectives, each believing that they have the answer and theory about the true identity of A (or rather, Charles) and what exactly they want.
Whether its the ridiculously attractive cast, the very questionable outfits or the ability the show has of making us switch between loving and loathing a character, there is something just so satisfying about pointing the blame at each and every character in turn, even if it is just blaming Aria for her horrific choice in jeans or those god-awful blue boots. I digress. This love of the blame game does, however, cause an annoyance, as just as we have answers or clues for who we should blame, a whole other plot twist occurs forcing us to rethink our assumptions. It becomes tedious and, quite frankly, obsessive of us as viewers – as we become fascinated and borderline infatuated with finding the mystery behind the show.
Viewing would be made much easier if we merely took the show as exactly that; a show. Skip the incessant self-investigative, indulgent process forced upon us by the show and just watch. Enjoy the ride, so to speak. But that’s also part of the beauty and enjoyment of the show – and at least thirty five false accusations is a rite of passage all viewers must go through. Here is the paradoxical contrast forced upon us; we enjoy indulging ourselves with the investigation as much as we hate it.
As a viewer,we feel we have all faced that moment of epiphany where A’s façade has faded and their identity has become as clear as day to us. Two episodes later, and that identity is as clear as mud within our minds. The cognitive processes the show demands are much beyond simple viewing or interaction – we ourselves are forced into the very life of the show, living, almost, as a character ourselves. This adds to the frustrating brilliance, as we have begun to treat the show as much more than what it should be; for 43 minute stints we become a Rosewood citizen and are forced to live in the world of secrets, lies and A itself.
The most life ruining aspect of the whole viewing process is the ‘promise’ given to us by producers about the reveals. Take the recent season 5 finale; billed as the ‘big reveal’, and a time when A would be shown once and for all. Bookmakers took hundreds of thousands in bets – with Aria, Hanna, Alison and Ezra all becoming key suspects in terms of odds. The world readied their popcorn, poured their wine and powered up Netflix, finally ready for 86 hours of hard detective work to blossom before their eyes.
This, however, did not happen. Whatever theory anybody had was blown out of the water. The mystery identity was usurped by the mysterious identity of Charles. Our hard work became redundant, and was replaced by an interesting sense of betrayal and intrigue. Conflicting emotions has become commonplace amongst viewers, and this will undoubtedly continue.
Pretty Little Liars is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to ruin one’s life. It is simultaneously brilliant and destructive; gripping and soul-destroying; clever and ludicrous. It is everything a TV show should be, but everything it shouldn’t be. And I, for one, cannot help but love it.