- ABC Family
By Kelly Etz, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 28, 2013
It’s bold of a pilot to basically drown its entire cast in the last two minutes. You’d think it’d make ABC Family’s new supernatural-flavored spinoff of “Pretty Little Liars,” aptly titled “Ravenswood,” a bit more thrilling. Sadly, by the end of those murkily lit 40 minutes, the fateful swerve into the evil, evil (did I mention evil?) water feels a suitably justified comeuppance.
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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I hated “Ravenswood.” In fact, it could wind up being a significant player for ABC Family, which is so obviously picking at the carcass of the paranormal teen drama. As a spinoff of the immensely popular “PLL,” the premiere doesn’t waste any time establishing itself as a different series. This isn’t Rosewood redux. Sure, we’ve got the link to Caleb (Tyler Blackburn, “Days of Our Lives”), but how long is Hanna (Ashley Benson, “Pretty Little Liars”) really going to stay with him after he hopped on a bus with a gorgeous-but-troubled misfit to help her “fit in”? Please, Hanna has already moved on, so essentially, we’re starting out with a brand new cast.
It seems we’re supposed to be following Miranda (Nicole Gale Anderson, “Beauty and the Beast”) try and fail to communicate coherently with her only living relative, Uncle Raymond (Steven Cabral, “Saving Mr. Banks”). Uncle Ray is, of course, a funeral director (what else?) and so deathly pale he’s nearly indistinguishable from his embalmed friends. In fact, everyone — even the tan people — look strangely bloodless. The sun never shines in Ravenswood; this is a town soaked in death. Cue the angsty violins.
If the funeral director plotline isn’t hitting the nail on the creepy head hard enough, there’s also the case of the swapped gravestones, a bevy of mysterious blue-tinged hands landing on started shoulders and a deceptively innocent black widow out to murder her next husband. Gasp! And that’s all before the first ad break.
Everything is going on in this town, yet nothing is convincing. Everyone is looking for answers and yet, no one is really worried — besides a lot of startled “Oh my gods!” It’s ABC Family, but does it have to read so strongly as a sanitized “American Horror Story”? At least “Pretty Little Liars” is adorably ernest. In “Ravenswood,” it’s clear that even the characters rarely believe this clichéd nonsense they’re slinging.
Only Remy (the fabulous Britne Oldford, “Skins”), daughter of the the town’s newspaper magnet and a freshly returned Iraq veteran, presents a fully fleshed out character. She’s sharp — she’s the one who finally pulls together the nonsensical ghost story the pilot appears to be riding on — funny, and surprisingly real in a world of near-bathtub drownings and sloppily placed phantom warnings. If ABC Family wants anything more from “Ravenswood” than not-that-spooky happenings, it needs to hitch this fledgling start to something. Why not the best actress in the bunch?
Besides Remy, every character in town can’t shake their own personal poltergeists and it’s overwhelming to say the least. There’s no reason to hit us over the head with the creep factor. “Ravenswood” has such potential. Scale back, ABC Family. A little subtly never killed anyone — or did it?