The end is near for one of TV’s favorite franchises — the second part of Pretty Little Liars‘ final season began Tuesday night. And as one fan-beloved show ends, PLL‘s network Freeform hopes to launch another to take its place.
Famous in Love, Freeform’s new drama starring Bella Thorne as an ordinary girl thrust into the Hollywood spotlight, aired its first episode immediately following PLL. And to further entice new fans, the network made all 10 episodes available for streaming on the their website and Hulu.
But will PLL fans hunting for a new show fall in Love with its new Freeform neighbor?
Unfortunately, as hard as Famous tries to replicate the most binge-able aspects of its teen TV counterparts, its entertainment quotient falls short.
Based on the novel by Rebecca Serle, Famous opens with Thorne’s actress character, Paige, sulking through a crowd of paparazzi before seeking shelter in a limo, finding a tabloid with her face on the cover inside. Flashing back a year, the rest of the episode introduces itself in an equally clunky manner. Thorne’s college student character explains to best friend Cassandra (Georgie Flores) that she wants to be an actress but her parents want her to stick to studying economics. Minutes later, Cassandra successfully drags Paige to an audition, and spoiler alert, she nabs the lead role.
The pilot also introduces Jake (Charlie DePew), Paige’s roommate and crush; Rainer (Carter Jenkins), Paige’s new co-star and also-crush; and a web of other characters who all quickly become romantically involved with one another, including Rainer’s agent-mom Nina (Perrey Reeves) and his nemesis Jordan (Keith Powers).
The show attempts to peddle the same juicy drama that made Pretty Little Liars so addictive by parading teen TV tropes across the screen — age-inappropriate hookups and undercover same-sex couples surrounding the wide-eyed new girl in town. That newcomer is Thorne, an actress who’s arguably more famous for presenting herself as a celebrity than she is for any of her past work. In recent interviews, she’s claimed she’s “leaving Disney behind” to forge a new, more adult career. However, Famous’ Freeform network is owned by Disney, and is barely a step removed from the Disney Channel shows where Thorne got her start.
As Pretty Little Liars devotees would argue, TV shows don’t have to be “prestige,” or aimed at adults, to be compulsively entertaining. However, Famous doesn’t deliver on the dramatic elements that drew us to PLL. The show’s pilot sets up Paige’s romantic conflict, as she grows closer to boy-next-door Jake while being cast alongside movie star Ranier. Meanwhile, Ranier’s mom makes moves on her son’s enemy, Jordan, while his girlfriend secretly hooks up with her female roommate, both of whom also competed for the starring role that Paige won.
If the show’s entanglements sound confusing, that’s because they are. To make matters worse, the acting is too clumsy to make any of Famous‘ plot twists compelling to watch, with Thorne the prime culprit. If Freeform expects to hold onto PLL‘s viewers with an addictive new show, the network needs to do better.
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