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Television review: 'The Lying Game'

Clothes, boys and mean girls: It must be a new ABC Family show. Only this one is a thriller, with shades of 'The Prince and the Pauper.'

August 15, 2011|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Alexandra Chando and Christian Alexander in "The Lying Game."
Alexandra Chando and Christian Alexander in "The Lying Game." (Bill Records, ABC Family )

ABC Family — or, as I think of it, ABC "Family," given its relative lack of interest in small children, adults or boys of pretty much any age — is a network in large part dedicated to the proposition that there is nothing better to be in this world than a hot teenage girl with a large clothing allowance. (It makes even your troubles glamorous.) This may in fact be true.

The latest show to support this notion is "The Lying Game," which premieres Monday and comes from the same cross-platform content packagers that brought you "Pretty Little Liars," "Gossip Girl" and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Like "Liars," whose title it echoes — not by coincidence, I suspect — it is a thriller based on a series of young adult novels by Sara Shepard, although the TV series will apparently depart significantly from the literary source.

Emma (Alexandra Chando) and Sutton (also Alexandra Chando) are twin sisters separated at birth, and you do not have to pull the cork on that bottle to detect notes of Princess and Pauper, with an aroma of Zenda and a slight aftertaste of Patty Duke. Emma lives in an inhospitable foster home, where she must contend with a "pervy foster brother" and a foster mother all covered in Las Vegas white trash. Sutton is a rich girl in Phoenix who gives her nonbiological sister (Allie Gonino) and adoptive parents (Andy Buckley and former Supergirl Helen Slater) more grief than they seem to merit. But in these matters, all is never as it seems.

Sutton has discovered her unsuspected sibling in the course of secretly searching for her birth parents. Complications and inspirations lead her to install Emma in her place while she runs off to Los Angeles to pursue a clue, advising her to "just hang out, relax, enjoy." Well, that's not going to happen. A little too readily to credit, Emma dives into her new life, inviting contact and conflict — and soaking up some second-hand familial love — rather than, say, faking the flu and pulling the covers over her head until Sutton returns. But that's not going to happen either just yet.

There are, as the form demands, best friends for Sutton (Alice Greczyn, Kirsten Prout), who have offstage issues and expensive wardrobes of their own; a mean girl (Sharon Pierre-Louis); and boys, of whom scowling high school rebel Ethan Whitehorse (Blair Redford) is the one you are meant to take seriously, with his dark good looks and meaningful surname.

Chando is good in her somewhat more than dual role; that her Sutton is a little hard to read makes her seem potentially complicated rather than (as she does at first) just poorly conceived. The opening episode seems as wobbly on its legs as a newborn foal — the dialogue is a bit of a blunt instrument, and none of the characters yet feels authentically acquainted. But "Pretty Little Liars" managed to find an organic groove, and there's reason to think this close cousin can also find its feet and walk.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com


'The Lying Game'

Where: ABC Family

When: 9 and 10 p.m. Monday

Rating: Not rated

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