'Pretty Little Liars' proves a silly little show

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ABC Family hasn't been entirely family-friendly for quite some time, hence the slogan, "A new kind of family." Nothing changes with "Pretty Little Liars" (8 p.m. Tuesday), a mystery-filled soap that features all sorts of family-unfriendly behavior.

A year after one girl disappeared, four 16-year-old friends are all back in fictional Rosewood, Pa., when each receives messages from their missing friend, Alison (Sasha Pieterse). The messages contain information that only Alison would be likely to know.

Written by I. Marlene King ("Just My Luck"), Tuesday's premiere is a generally predictable introduction that too often plays like a bad "Saturday Night Live" parody of a teen soap.

Aria (Lucy Hale) returns to town after a year away while her college professor father (Chad Lowe, "Life Goes On") was on sabbatical. She caught him cheating on her mom (Holly Marie Combs, "Charmed"). When Aria meets a new high school English teacher (2009 Carnegie Mellon University graduate Ian Harding) at a bar - how did a 16-year old get into a bar? Someone call the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board! - and then they make out in the bar bathroom, you can pretty well predict what the first scene at school will be.

The script does not develop the characters enough to distinguish them - a couple of the brunettes and their relationships to others on the show are particularly unclear - although Emily (Shay Mitchell) and her uncertain kiss with pot-smoking newcomer Maya (Bianca Lawson, "The Vampire Diaries") makes more of an impression than others.

The mystery element of this show might intrigue but viewers need to care about the characters first, and there's not much in the first hour to suggest that will happen. So far, "Pretty Little Liars" is a silly little show.


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