Troian Bellisario, who plays Spencer Hastings (perhaps the best character, along with Hanna) on Pretty Little Liars is a little pissed that teen shows, like hers, aren’t even considered for The Emmys. She wrote an entire piece on the subject for The Hollywood Reporter. Teen shows tend to be the “pop music” of television in that they are often dismissed before they are explored and referred to as “guilty pleasures.”
Troian writes, “Why is it that with all the different types of shows being recognized this Emmy season, the ones like mine, ‘teen shows,’ are written off as fluff? Guilty pleasures that are too youthful to exhibit accolade-worthy material. What if they are telling good stories too, just in a different way?”
While I do agree that they should get a little more credit and that a show like Pretty Little Liars is most certainly, 100%, comparable to a show like Scandal that has been Emmy-nominated and snagged Kerry Washington an Emmy, I am not completely sold on Pretty Little Liars being award-worthy. I must admit that I am a huge fan of Scandal but I am not convinced Scandal is award worthy either, especially when placed next to many of the other great dramas on TV. But if the awards shows are to be consistent, regardless of what I think, if Scandal Emmy-worthy then so is PLL.
Both shows have messy story telling and cast members of Scandal have even admitted that the show is a political soap opera. If there was a soap opera category then Pretty Little Liars and Scandal would and should be stiff competitors but in the drama category? Seriously? When I think of all the shows and actresses that are excellent that haven’t been nominated like Shameless, Orphan Black, The Americans (the list really goes on), Pretty Little Liars isn’t comparable to those.
I am on Troian’s side in that I do think shows like Pretty Little Liars, Twisted, The Fosters, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals do manage to snag some pretty talented young actors and do tell “compelling” stories even if they aren’t groundbreaking, highbrow or literary. When I imagine the criteria for The Emmys, I am assuming “popularity” isn’t the essential factor, I am sure it is considered, but I am fairly certain that performances and writing count a bit more (most of the time).
My main issue with PLL is that it essentially condones relationships between girls who are 16 and men in their twenties and thirties (which isn’t really great storytelling when the show’s target demo is teens). This show wants us to root for the men who are essentially preying on high school girls and that is weird. It’s one thing to portray and explore those relationships to examine them with nuance but the show barely acknowledges the massive age differences. Nevertheless, Troian and the girls are pretty great actors but the material they are given isn’t really . . . amazing.
She continues,”My writers, directors and cinematographers have figured out how to keep their finger on the pulse of an ever-maturing audience. They might be telling stories about an omniscient cyberbullying supervillain (I know, what?!?), but they are also writing about the psychology of adolescence. Just ask your daughter.”
The “psychology of adolescence” ….. I don’t know about that. This show hardly emulates what it’s like to be a teenager. Most teens don’t go to school in designer clothing and deal with murder mysteries. The appeal of the show to me is that it’s a fantasy, a soap opera, Pretty Little Liars is a great show about being a teenager because it is absolutely nothing like being a teenager. The only psychology of that is that people like to imagine what they don’t have especially when it’s in a prettier package. That has little to do with the writing and more to do with the appeal. I am not trying to diminish the work of the writers and actors who have crafted one of the most impossibly successful teen shows in recent years, there is definitely something to it worth bragging about, I think that makes the show, and shows like it, worthy of an entirely new category. However, they can leave the “drama” category for the high art.
Do you think Pretty Little Liars is award-worthy?