Pretty Little Liars is an American teen drama mystery–thriller television series loosely based on the popular series of novels written by Sara Shepard. The show premiered on June 8, 2010 on ABC Family. After an initial order of 10 episodes on June 28, 2010, ABC Family ordered an additional 12 episodes for Season 1. These episodes began airing on January 3, 2011 and ended on March 21, 2011. The ratings success of the first 10-episodes prompted the book series to be extended beyond the initial eight novels.
Set in the fictional town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, the series follows the lives of five girls, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, Emily Fields, Spencer Hastings and Alison DiLaurentis whose clique falls apart after Alison the leader of the group disappears. One year later, the remaining four friends are reunited as they begin receiving messages from a mysterious figure named "A", who threatens to expose their deepest secrets, including ones they thought only Alison knew. At first, they think it's Alison herself, but after her body is found, the girls realize that someone else is planning on ruining their perfect lives.
Originally developed as a television series by book packaging company Alloy Entertainment, the idea was described as "Desperate Housewives for teens." Alloy met with author Shepard, and gave her the property to develop into a book series. With Alloy and Warner Horizon interested in producing Pretty Little Liars as a television series for years, it was first planned for The WB in 2005 with a different writer until the network shut down in early 2006 and reestablished as The CW later that year. The first novel was published by HarperTeen in October 2006. In June 2008, Alloy noted that it was developing a Pretty Little Liars television pilot for ABC Family, with the novels adapted for television. After the pilot was shot in Vancouver, filming for the rest of the series has since moved to Los Angeles. In June 2012, the series was selected by lottery for a California film and TV tax credit.
ABC Family began casting for a Pretty Little Liars television pilot in October 2009. Lucy Hale was cast as Aria Montgomery in the project, followed by Troian Bellisario and Ian Harding (as Spencer Hastings and Ezra Fitz, respectively) in November 2009. In December 2009, The Futon Critic confirmed the casting of Ashley Benson as Hanna Marin and Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields, as well as the addition of Laura Leighton as Ashley Marin, Nia Peeples as Pam Fields, Roark Critchlow as Tom Marin, and Bianca Lawson as Maya St. Germain. Mitchell had initially auditioned for the role of Spencer and then tried for Emily. The Hollywood Reporter also noted that Torrey DeVitto and Sasha Pieterse landed recurring roles in the pilot. The Alloy website later confirmed that Pieterse would be playing Alison DiLaurentis and DeVitto would be Melissa Hastings, also mentioning the casting of Janel Parrish as Mona Vanderwaal. On January 27, 2010, ABC Family picked up the series for 10 episodes, set to premiere in June 2010. In April 2010, the role of Aria's father Byron was recast with Chad Lowe, and Holly Marie Combs was cast as Aria's mother, Ella Montgomery. Jenna Marshall is played by Tammin Sursok.
On January 7, 2011, Tilky Montgomery Jones was cast as Logan Reed. On April 8, 2011 Annabeth Gish was cast for the role of Anne Sullivan, a therapist who tries to find out the characters' secrets. On May 23, 2011, Andrea Parker signed-on to appear as Jessica DiLaurentis, Alison's mother. On June 29, 2011, it was announced that Natalie Hall would be replacing Natalie Floyd as Hanna's soon-to-be stepsister, Kate. Series star Chad Lowe directed the tenth episode of the second season titled "Touched by an 'A'-ngel". On January 30, 2012, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Tyler Blackburn had been promoted to series regular for the third season. In March 2012, Janel Parrish was also promoted from recurring to series regular for the third season.
Pretty Little Liars was called one of the most spectacular new shows of summer 2010 thanks to heavy promotion by ABC Family, including "spicy promos and hot posters". ABC Family encouraged fans to host a "Pretty Little Premiere Party" for the show by sending the first respondents a fan kit, and selected applicants to become part of an interactive "Secret Keeper Game" played with iPhones provided by the network. The show's official Facebook and Twitter accounts also promoted special fan features, including a "Pretty Little Lie Detector". Los Angeles department store Kitson showcased the show in their shop window.
A tie-in edition featuring the Season 1 poster and logo of the 2006 first novel in the Pretty Little Liars series was released on the date of the show's premiere, as was the final book of the original book series, "Wanted". Wanted later decidedly became the eighth book of the series, as Shepard later confirmed she would extend the series. A TV tie in of the second book "Flawless" featuring an altered Season 3 poster was released on December 28, 2010.
The theme song for Pretty Little Liars is "Secret" by The Pierces, which was suggested by one of the show's stars, Ashley Benson. The pilot episode made use of music from artists such as The Fray, Ben's Brother, MoZella, Orelia, and Colbie Caillat. The show has also featured music from Passion Pit, Pink, Florence + The Machine, Selena Gomez & the Scene, and McFly. Music from Katie Herzig can be heard multiple times throughout the show. A few songs being "Hey Na Na" and "Where the Road Meets the Sun". Madi Diaz has been heard on the show with her song "Heavy Heart", as well as Joy Williams with "Charmed Life" and Foreign Slippers with "What Are You Waiting For?". The last episode of season one featured a song by Alexz Johnson that she originally recorded for the soundtrack of the Canadian hit TV show Instant Star. On June 14, 2011, "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri was featured in the first episode of the second season. The song "Follow Suit" by Trent Dabbs has also been featured on the show. In the episode "The Perfect Storm", Lucy Hale sings a cover of the song "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" by British band Fairport Convention. The official soundtrack was released on February 15, 2011.
The series follows the lives of five teenage girls - Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, Hanna Marin, Spencer Hastings and Alison DiLaurentis -- whose clique falls apart after Alison the leader of the group disappears. One year later, after the discovery of Ali's body, the remaining four girls begin receiving text messages from an anonymous source, "A," who threatens to expose their secrets -- including long-hidden ones they thought only their close friend Alison knew.
Cast and the Characters
- Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) is an extreme perfectionist who likes to please her wealthy family and her friends. She is very competitive, and an overachiever. Spencer is strong-willed, smart, and kind towards everyone around her, but isn't afraid to take down someone who is a threat to something she cares about. She was in a relationship with Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen) for most of the first six and a half seasons. Toby later joins the Rosewood Police Force to protect Spencer. Tired of being the victim, Spencer was a brief member of the "A" team after she thinks that she finds Toby in the woods killed by "A", but finds out from Mona that he is still alive and the only way to get to him is to become part of the team, She then finds out that the only reason that Toby joined the "A" team was to protect her. After the five-year-time-jump, Spencer is dating Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn) and lives in Washington DC. She returns to Rosewood and eventually breaks-up with Caleb, before briefly dating Detective Marco Furey, and helps bury Archer Dunhill/Elliot Rollins after accidentally killing him. After being trapped in a blind-school and being shot by A.D., Spencer finds out that she is adopted and the biological daughter of Mary Drake. After Mary confesses to killing Archer to protect Spencer and her friends, she starts to help her adoptive mother in her law firm. One-year-later, she discovers that she is the long-lost twin-sister of Alex Drake. She is now presumably dating Toby Cavanaugh once again.
- Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson) used to have an eating disorder. She was overweight, with the nickname "Hefty Hanna". However, after Alison DiLaurentis disappeared, Hanna lost her weight and changed her style, which seemed similar to Ali's, with the help of her new best friend Mona Vanderwaal. Over the course of the series, Hanna cares more about the people around her and tries to protect herself and her friends. She has had few love affairs through the series and was in a serious relationship with Caleb Rivers. After the time-jump, Hanna is now engaged to Jordan and is working in the fashion industry. When she returns to Rosewood she soon ends her engagement to Jordan and reconciles her relationship with Caleb Rivers. She also started up her own fashion company with the help of her best friend, Mona Vanderwaal. Hanna and Caleb then marry at the Justice of the Peace. One-year-later, the pair are currently expecting their first child together.
- Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) is the sporty one in the group. She is the best swimmer on the swim team, and she's very sweet and loyal. Emily is a shy, kind 'closeted lesbian', who was in love with Alison DiLaurentis. Over the course of the series, Emily came out to her parents that she was in a relationship with Maya St. Germain. After Maya's murder, Emily develops a relationship with Paige McCullers in season 3. They're together for a while until Paige betrays Emily's trust. Alison confesses her feelings for Emily. After the time jump, Emily has dropped out of the university she attended in California after the death of her father and she came back to Rosewood with a secret. Her secret is that she is planning to sell her eggs, and after going through with the procedure, her eggs were stolen by A.D. She then got a job at Rosewood High School as the girls swim coach, reconciles her relationship with Paige, but the pair eventually break-up. Emily then starts dating Alison, who is carrying Emily's unborn child (due to A.D. inseminating Alison with Emily's eggs). One-year-later, Emily is a mother to her twin daughters, Lily and Grace DiLaurentis-Fields. She then gets engaged to Alison.
- Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) is the artsy chameleon who is very intelligent, caring, and has a good sense of style. She's the one who keeps her family together. Aria spent some time as a "goth". She wore black, punk-like clothing, and she had pink highlights in her hair. After Alison disappeared Aria and her family moved to Iceland for a year (because of Alison's disappearance), before returning to Rosewood. When Aria and her family came back from Iceland, she was no longer a "goth" as she used to be, she was a girly-girl. Aria had a relationship with her English teacher, Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding) from the very first episode of the entire show, but they decided to end their relationship before Aria went to college. After the time jump, Aria dates her co-worker, Liam, and then breaks up with him after she and her Ezra start 'dating' again. Ezra then proposes to her and they get engaged.
- Alison Lauren DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) is the former "Queen Bee" of her clique and the most popular girl in school before her disappearance. She enjoys using people's deepest secrets against them to keep them in line. Charming and manipulative, Alison managed to manipulate all four of her friends in some way or another and is skilled at finding ways to blackmail others. It was later revealed that Alison is alive, and was on the run from "A". After the five-year time jump, Alison is a teacher at Rosewood High and marries a man posing as Dr. Elliott Rollins who was her sister Charlotte's psychiatrist. At the beginning of Season 7, Alison finds out that he is not the man that she thought she married after he makes her think she's crazy and then keeps her in Welby State Psychiatric Hospital and drugs her. She escapes and the Liars accidentally murder him and then bury him in the woods. Alison then helps derail the investigation as much as possible and then discovers that she is pregnant. She struggles with this and leans on Emily for support, before finding out that she is actually pregnant with Emily's babies, due to A.D. inseminating her with Emily's fertilized eggs. She decides to keep the baby and, one-year-later, she is romantically partnered with Emily and raising their twin-daughters, Lily and Grace, together. She is also still working as a High School teacher at Rosewood High. She then proposes to Emily, and the pair gets engaged.
- Mona Vanderwaal (Janel Parrish) (recurring season 1-2; main season 3 onwards) is the original and first "A". She is the person that stalked Alison before her disappearance, and did this as revenge for Alison crowning her "Rosewood's biggest loser". After Alison disappeared she became best friends with Hanna Marin and they transformed themselves into the most popular girls at school, taking Alison's place. In the season two finale, she is exposed as "A" and sent to Radley Sanitarium, where she is visited by CeCe Drake (Charlotte DiLaurentis), with whom takes up Mona's previous place in the "A" game. In Season 3, she continues illegal "A" activities and by the end of the season is kicked off the "A" team and becomes a victim of "A" along with the other girls. In Season 4, she helps the girls out with their investigations of the new "A". In season 5, she creates an army so as not to be intimidated by Alison's return. Later on, in the season she fakes her own death to ferret out "A" but is kidnapped by "A" and imprisoned in "A"'s Dollhouse. This leads to everyone believing that Alison murdered Mona. After several weeks, Mona and the other Liars escape from the Dollhouse, and Mona helps the girls figure out who the new A is. After the five-year-time-jump, Mona is working in politics and returns to Rosewood for Charlotte's trial. She then briefly becomes a suspect in Charlotte's murder, and rekindles her friendship with Hanna, and helps the latter start-up her own fashion company. It is then revealed that Mona is the one who killed Charlotte after Charlotte attacked her in the bell tower and Mona accidentally killed her. She is then admitted to Welby State Psychiatric Facility and maintains her friendship with Hanna throughout the process. One-year-later, she is released from the facility and starts working with A.D. again, but is actually a double-agent to try and figure out who it is. After Alex Drake is revealed to be A.D., Mona calls her French boyfriend who poses as a cop, who helps her kidnap both Alex and Mary. She is then seen to be holding both Alex and Mary captive in her own dollhouse in France and owns a doll shop as well.
"A" is the main antagonist of the series. "A" is stalking and torturing the Liars in relentless and creative ways and also threatens their friends and family. In the second season finale, it is revealed that Mona is "A". She also stalked Alison before her disappearance. However, when she is sent to Radley sanitarium, someone else, nicknamed "Red Coat" (as she often wears a red coat), takes her place and creates a team of people known as the "A" team, working in tandem against the liars.
- Mona Vanderwaal (seasons 1 - 3): Revealed in the Season 2's finale, Mona was the Original "A" and the one who started the game. She joined CeCe in the season two finale, but her game was taken away from her and she has kicked off in the season three finale, becoming a victim of "A" herself. Mona became "A" because of the bullying she suffered from Alison but became "A" again out of fear of losing Hanna to the Liars.
- Toby Cavanaugh (season 3): Revealed in the mid-season finale of the third season, Toby was recruited to join the "A-Team" by Mona when he got the job in Bucks County. He is revealed to be a double agent in the third season finale and is kicked off the team.
- Spencer Hastings (season 3): Revealed in the third season, Spencer joined the "A-Team" to find answers on Toby after Mona came to Radley and offered her the chance. She is the one who kidnapped Malcolm and set up the Lodge party so Red Coat could meet the Liars. She becomes a double agent after finding out that Toby is on her side and begins helping the girls, which ends up getting her kicked off.
- Lucas Gottesman (seasons 2 - 3): Revealed in the third season, Lucas was blackmailed by Mona into doing her dirty work, after she discovered he was selling test answers. He was the one who gave Emily a massage and also left behind Ali's diary in the basement.
- Melissa Hastings (seasons 2 - 3): Revealed in the fourth season premiere, Melissa was the Black Swan and the Queen of Hearts. She claims that she received a note telling her to wear the Black Swan costume or they would reveal her fake pregnancy. She later assumed this to be Mona. She was later instructed to dress up as the Queen of Hearts, a costume which Wilden also showed up wearing, on the train and drug Aria, while Wilden was attacking Spencer. Spencer suggests that Wilden was blackmailing her, but Melissa says he was being told what to do.
- Darren Wilden (season 3): Revealed in the fourth season premiere, Wilden was one of the Queen of Hearts. Wilden was the one who tried to kill Spencer. He was seemingly one of Charlotte's helpers as he was corresponding with Big "A" via messages.
- CeCe Drake (seasons 2 - 6): Revealed in the sixth season, CeCe is Big "A" and Red Coat. CeCe was born Charles but later transitioned into Charlotte DiLaurentis and uses CeCe Drake as an alias. She became "A" in order to get out of Radley and also because the Liars were happy that Alison was gone. She is the one who hit Alison that night, believing she was Bethany. She originally disguised herself as Red Coat and was the one who watched Mona dig up the grave, wore the Emily mask, went to the Hoe Down and locked Emily inside the Saw Mill, as well as the being the blonde who attacked Mona and kidnapped her. After her plan to blow up Radley with her and her family inside failed, she tried to jump off the roof but then decided to declare Game Over.
- Sara Harvey (seasons 3 - 6): Revealed in the sixth season, Sara is CeCe's ally and Red Coat. The night of the fire CeCe had her act as a decoy for Alison and she was the one who rescued the girls from the fire, leaving Hanna inside. She was also the Black Widow at Wilden's funeral and was sent by CeCe to make sure he was dead, as well as the Red Coat who was living under the DiLaurentis home. She attempts to blow up Radley for CeCe, as Red Coat but is caught and stopped by the Liars. She tries to run but Emily punches her.
- Jenna Marshall (season 7): Revealed in the seventh season, Jenna is anonymously working for "A.D." and was working with Archer, though her reasons for this and what she has done to assist them are currently unknown. Jenna was also friends with Charlotte prior to her death.
- Noel Kahn (season 6-7): Revealed in the seventh season, Noel was working for Charlotte previously, spying on Alison for her and helping her out in the Dollhouse. He is currently suspected of being Uber A.
- Alex Drake/Uber A (season 6 - present): Also known as "A-moji" and "A.D.", this new "A" wants revenge for the murder of Charlotte, and is trying to seek out the person responsible. This new "A" does not use the alias "A" at first but instead signs their messages with Emojis. However, in the sixth season finale, they begin using the alias "A.D.", drops the Emojis, and kidnaps Hanna, whom they originally believe is responsible. She then figures out that Hanna is innocent, and allows her to escape. In the series finale, the identity of Uber A is revealed as Spencer's twin sister, Alex Drake. Alex is the long-lost sister of Spencer and the daughter of Mary Drake. She seeks revenge for her sister Charlotte's murder, and plans to take-over Spencer's life completely and wants to become her, as she believes that Spencer stole everything she was supposed to have. However, she is discovered by the Liars and then kidnapped by Mona before she can complete her tasks. She is currently a prisoner in Mona's Dollhouse in France.
- Troian Bellisario as Spencer Hastings/Alex Drake
- Ashley Benson as Hanna Marin
- Tyler Blackburn as Caleb Rivers (recurring season 1-2; main season 3-7)
- Holly Marie Combs as Ella Montgomery (main season 1-3; guest season 4-5, 7; recurring season 6)
- Lucy Hale as Aria Montgomery
- Ian Harding as Ezra Fitz
- Bianca Lawson as Maya St. Germain (main season 1-2; guest season 3)
- Laura Leighton as Ashley Marin (main season 1-6; 7B)
- Chad Lowe as Byron Montgomery (main season 1-3; guest season 4-5, 7; recurring season 6)
- Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields
- Andrea Parker as Mary Drake (guest season 4; recurring: season 6; main season 7 /Jessica DiLaurentis (guest season 2, 5- 7; recurring season 4 )
- Janel Parrish as Mona Vanderwaal (recurring season 1-2; main season 3-7)
- Nia Peeples as Pam Fields (main season 1 (pilot); recurring season 1-4, 6; guest season 5 &7)
- Sasha Pieterse as Alison DiLaurentis (guest season 1 (pilot); main season 1-7)
Pretty Little Liars premiered on June 8, 2010, the United States, becoming ABC Family's highest-rated series debut on record across the network's target demographics. It ranked number one in key 12–34 demos and teens, becoming the number-one scripted show in Women 18–34, and Women 18–49. The premiere was number two in the hour for total viewers, which generated 2.47 million unique viewers, and was ABC Family's best delivery in the time slot since the premiere of The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
The second episode retained 100% of its premiere audience with 2.48 million viewers, despite the usual downward trend following a premiere of a show, and built on its premiere audience. It was the dominant number one of its time slot in Adults 18–49, and the number one show in female teens. Subsequent episodes fluctuated between 2.09 and 2.74 million viewers. The August 10, 2010 "Summer Finale" episode drew an impressive 3.07 million viewers.
On June 28, 2010, ABC Family ordered 12 more episodes of the show, bringing its total first-season order to 22. On January 10, 2011, ABC Family picked the show up for a second season that premiered on June 14, 2011. During the summer of 2011, Pretty Little Liars was basic cable's top scripted series in women aged 18–34 and viewers 12–34. The second half of season 2 aired on Mondays at 8/7c, beginning on January 2, 2012.
On November 29, 2011, ABC Family renewed the show for a third season, which consisted of 24 episodes. On 4 October 2012, ABC Family announced that the show was renewed for a fourth season, again comprising 24 episodes. The second half of the third season began airing on January 8, 2013 and finished March 19, 2013. Pretty Little Liars returned for Season 4 on June 11, 2013. On March 25, 2013, It was again announced that Pretty Little Liars had been renewed for a fifth season scheduled for a 2014 air date and a new spin-off show entitled Ravenswood that will begin airing after the season four annual Halloween special in October 2013. The second half of season four premiered on January 7, 2014. It was announced on June 10, 2014, that Pretty Little Liars was renewed for two seasons, making the show ABC Family's longest-running original hit series.
Pretty Little Liars opened with initially mixed critical reviews, although the series has gotten more positive critique over its progression. Metacritic gave the pilot episode 52 out of 100, based upon 14 critical reviews. The New York Daily News gave the show a positive review, commenting that it "makes most popular vampire romances look anemic" while concluding, "Pretty Little Liars could go in several directions, including mundane teen clichés. It's got an equally good shot at making us care about these imperfect pretty girls." A writer on Terror Hook has stated that " 'Pretty Little Liars' gets off to a very promising start. Great production all around, the writing keeps the viewer on their toes, and the acting just reinforces it. The overall mystery of the show, in the end, is dark and unpredictable, even stepping into the slasher film realm." The New York Post gave the show three out of five stars, stating, "OK, so we've established that there is no socially redeeming value in this series and that your kids shouldn't watch it if they are too young and impressionable. But if you can distract them enough to miss the first 15 minutes, the show isn't half-bad. Actually, it is half-good, if that makes sense." The Los Angeles Times wrote that the series is "one of those shows that manages to mildly, and perhaps unintentionally, spoof its genre while fully participating in it, and that's not a bad thing at all."
Entertainment Weekly had a less favorable review, giving the show a letter grade of D-, saying, "Imagine the pitch for Liars: It's I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Gossip Girl, but like not so subtle. The new ABC Family drama, based on the popular young-adult book series about a high school clique whose missing leader continuously causes problems and she ends up dead comes back to haunt them via locker-room notes, IMs, and text messages, hits every racy teen-entertainment mark so hard (everyone's hair is so full—of secrets!) that it feels like the only thing missing is a visit from the ghosts of Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze, Jr." The Hollywood Reporter compared the show to those on The CW and noted, "Sure, there's a lot here that sustains more eye-rolling than interested stares, but a little patience might be warranted."
Since the series premiere, the show has remained popular. The series earned its highest rated episode with 4.22 million total viewers, ranking among ABC Family's top 5 telecasts in adult viewers 18 - 34, total viewers and women viewers. The highest rated episodes include season one's finale, with 3.64 million, and season two's premiere and finale episodes, each yielding nearly 3.7 million viewers. The show stands as the most-watched series on ABC Family, maintaining a steady viewership of over 2.5 million and currently standing as the only show to yield an average of over 2 million viewers.
Awards and Nominations
On March 26, 2013, ABC Family announced that a spin-off, Ravenswood, would air in October 2013. The spin-off show aired ten episodes before being canceled. On June 10th 2014, Pretty Little Liars was renewed for two more seasons to follow after Season 5. On October 28, 2014, Lucy Hale announced on E! News that Season 7 will be the final season. It was then later confirmed on August 29, 2016, the day before the mid-season finale would air, that Pretty Little Liars will end after the seventh season. The Seventh and Final season of Pretty Little Liars premiered on June 21st, 2016 and ended on June 27th, 2017.