Last Monday ABC Family aired its latest teen drama endeavor, The Lying Game. Based on the series by Sara Shepard — who also happens to be the creator of Pretty Little Liars — the show takes place in Phoenix, Arizona.
As you can guess, it shares plenty of similarities with its sister show, the most obvious being beautiful teens hurled into a world of lies, mystery, deceit and chic clothing. But unlike Pretty Little Liars, the focus is on mystery, not murder.The show opens with twins Sutton and Emma who were separated-at-birth. Unlike Switched at Birth, where the girls are at odds and struggling with their “birth discovery,” Sutton — who’s wealthy, popular and living with what appears to be a loving family — and Emma –who’s stuck with a pervy foster brother — are not at odds with each other at all. They’re actually insanely happy to have found one another.
It was Sutton, who’s grown up privileged and wanting more information about her birth parents, who found Emma. The two are biding their time until they can find their birth parents and meet in person. But when Emma’s pervy foster brother frames her for a crime, she runs away and calls Sutton requesting that she put her up in her Phoenix home.
Sutton is happy to have Emma there; it perfectly fits her agenda. As soon as Emma hops off the bus, Sutton demands they switch clothes and lives. Emma will pretend to be Sutton while Sutton heads to L.A. to follow a lead on their birth parents. It’s only for two days, so what’s the worst that could happen, right?
Emma finds that Sutton’s life is cushy for sure; she’s got a fly BMW, her closet puts Cher Horowitz’s to shame and her friends worship her. But she quickly discovers that the relationship between Sutton and her parents is tense, that Sutton has an evil tennis frenemy named Nisha to worry about, and that her boyfriend Luke isn’t just yearning for more Sutton time — he’s cheating on her with Nisha!
As the two days progress Emma tries to help Sutton out by beating Nisha at tennis and later bitch-slapping her at a party, telling Luke off and mending the issues with her sister and mother.
But there’s trouble and his name is Ethan, the resident bad boy. He and Sutton seem to have an undercover love connection, which leads to him kissing Emma and saying, “I knew it! You’re not Sutton!”
After ditching Ethan, Emma heads to a cabin to meet Sutton for the big switch. Unfortunately, Sutton never shows. After spilling her secrets to Ethan, Emma heads home to find that someone has broken into her — I mean, Sutton’s — room. And Sutton’s laptop is missing. Sketchy?
If this sounds boring written out, trust me when I say it’s pretty compelling on television. Snaps to Alexandra Chando for doing such a great job of playing both Sutton and Emma! I found myself glued to the T.V., worried that Emma would be caught and wanting to know what happened to Sutton.
There wasn’t an omnipresent texter with a penchant for blackmail and murder, but it made no difference. The plot and acting were good enough that I was kept on my toes. The creepy factor is still there for sure and even without “A,” The Lying Game manages to leave you wanting more.
Besides, the mystery in PLL is simply “A’s” identity, which would in theory end the series and solve all problems. In TLG, the mysteries are endless: who are their birth parents, why did they give them up, did Sutton’s parents know she had a sister, why did they hide it, why is Sutton’s necklace in the cabin, what is the cabin, etc.
Does that mean that The Lying Game is better than Pretty Little Liars? It’s too early to tell, but I’d say no. Aside from teen girls, great wardrobes and mystery, they don’t have much else in common. If you deem creepiness and fear as “better” then PLL is for you. If you just like mystery and want to skip the scare-factor, then TLG it is. (I should add that murder could be on the forefront, after all there’s only been one episode and it’s all up in the air since the show will not be following the book)
The show kicked off with a somewhat disappointing start — only 1.4 million viewers — much lower than the first episode of Switched at Birth (which held the same time slot). Despite the ratings, the show’s gold for sure. I’m already hooked after one episode.
Furthermore, this show totally solidifies that The CW is in deep trouble. Aside from The Vampire Diaries (made by Alloy Entertainment, just like PLL and TLG), The CW is struggling with ratings and stories. Their shows just aren’t up to ABC Family’s snuff. We’ll see if that changes with their new show, The Ringer, which looks like The Lying Game with Sarah Michelle Gellar, more sex and guns.
Time will only tell whether or not The Lying Game becomes as big a hit as Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl in its golden age, but I’m hoping all goes well. Right now the only problem I can find is that the show could use better opening credits. However, The Lying Game is a fun, welcomed addition to ABC Family’s line-up.
Did you catch the first episode of The Lying Game? Are you hooked? Share your thoughts in the comments!