12 January 2011

Pretty Little Liars

Last night I saw Pretty Little Liars for the first time. Here’s the soapiest show I think I’ve seen since the original Melrose Place, a show where everyone either has a past, a criminal record, and/or a major medical disability. But in the midst of several nefarious plot developments last night, including extortion, robbery, stalking, robbery again, and an apparent murder cover-up, there was a really sweet story line.

It involved Emily, an out teen who was bringing her girlfriend Maya home to meet her parents. Their storyline revolved around all the normal preparations, preoccupations, and awkward moments that this milestone entails: Emily and Maya discussed what Maya should wear; Emily’s mom asked what she should make for dinner. At dinner, there was some awkward getting-to-know-you small talk, and one minor misunderstanding when Mom served shrimp (which Maya was allergic to).

At one point during dinner, Mom excused herself, went into the pantry and cried as she rearranged some cans on the shelves. But curiously, that was all. In a show where plots are hatched left and right and the histrionics are turned way up, this was refreshingly minor. At the end of the evening, even though Mom accidentally surprised the girls during a small kiss on the porch, she accepted and returned a thank-you hug from Maya. She was trying, even though she admitted later that she wasn’t OK with her daughter being gay. While I would have liked for her to be, these scenes felt normal to me and not overdone. Hell, I know my mom had her own moments in the pantry, and all of this seemed about right for any kid--gay or straight--who brings someone home to meet Mom and Dad.

It seemed hard to believe that with all the outlandish plotlines in this show, that the gays and their scenes were the most normal and well-rounded. On top of this, the girls are completely accepted at school--popular, well-dressed, not bullied for being themselves.

And all this on ABC Family, which was originally founded by Pat Robertson, of all people. Add in other recent shows like Glee and Modern Family, and as far as network TV is concerned, I think we’ve arrived.

- Maura McGurk

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