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My eldest daughter recently had her wisdom teeth extracted. Not a fun process but the surgery went fine. Needless to say, I have spent the last few days ministering to her needs for ice packs, Jello, and pain killers. The narcotics she’s been taking for the pain make it impossible to focus on a printed page so she has been watching a lot of television. My younger daughter recommended she watch the Pretty Little Liars series based on Sara Shepard’s books of the same name (available on Netflix Instant Queue). I’ve been doing my mom thing so I haven’t been watching that closely, but I have watched enough to make a few observations.

  • Well crafted suspense and intrigue allows you to forgive a multitude of other sins. Now, I know this is not an original thought (not even to this blog) but it deserves to be repeated. The plot twists in this series rival any thriller and keep you coming back for more, and more, and more. There are twelve books in the series.
  • The books are always better than the show. My younger daughter devoured all the books long before there was a show. Ms. Shepard writes a compelling book.
  • A great theme song is crucial. PLL has a genius sequence of the four main characters looking guilty over their friend’s coffin and has a catchy tune. Like a great book cover, a good theme song sets the mood – think “Little Boxes” at the beginning of Weeds, or the theme to MASH. Unfortunately books don’t come with theme songs yet.
  • Differentiate your characters from each other or the viewer/reader can’t tell them apart. I half-watched three episodes before I could tell the three dark haired characters apart. (I am told that they are easier to tell apart in the books.) They are all flawlessly beautiful girls with perfect hair and little pink bows for lips. Boring. If all the characters are perfect, they blend together. Give your characters an accent, a wacky hair cut, a penchant for hats, something.
  • It’s more fun when you can’t always tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. If people are as easily identifiable as the “good guy” by his white hat or long twirly mustache, the story will not hold your interest from week to week. In the few episodes I watched, I found myself asking my girls, “Is the psychiatrist on their side?” and “Is that policeman stalking them or protecting them?”
  • Finally, cliches are boring and take away from the story. For instance, it’s never a good idea to sleep with your teacher, no matter how cute he is. The moody rocker dude looking for his roots is troubled. Your sister’s boyfriend is off limits. Yuck!