What's the most dangerous place for a teen to grow up? Compton? Chicago's South Side? The hard streets of Mumbai? The frost-bitten tundra of Greenland?
Try the cozy confines of ABC Family. From Pretty Little Liars to Ravenswood, the network's teens are more imperiled than a royal relative in North Korea. They're shot at. Their cars blow up. Sometimes they're even killed (though death on these shows is a somewhat flexible state). And if teens aren't in constant peril, well, the most likely explanation is they're being framed for murder. It seems the only place that might be more dangerous than this is—well, the CW.
ABC Family's latest telegenic nest of nastiness is the aptly titled Twisted, set in the seemingly quiet hamlet of Green Grove, N.Y. (town motto: "If you or someone you know isn't in serious peril every 43 minutes, you're doing it wrong."). Here, teens do what teens have long done. They go to class. They smooch or break up. They scowl and they refuse to scurry. But things pick up when 16-year-old Danny Desai is released from juvenile detention after a five-year stint.
He was accused of murdering his Aunt Tara (death by jump rope, we're told). But now that he's out, he hopes to pick up where he left off—not killing, of course, but renewing friendships with his best buds, Lacey and Jo. 'Course, puberty has a way of making these sorts of rejuvenated relationships awkward: Pretty-and-popular Lacey doesn't hang out so much with studiously unsocial Jo anymore, and they both begin looking at bad-boy Danny as something more than an old school chum. Plus, there's the whole murder thing still hanging in the air. Danny seems nice and has paid his debt to society, but it's not easy to befriend a convicted killer. I mean, what if you invite the guy over for dinner and he doesn't like the fish? Might he assault someone with a mackerel?
Sure enough, before the first episode of the first season is even over, it would seem as though Danny has struck again—allegedly killing high school queen bee Regina during her own party.
Danny denies it all—even though he holds Regina's necklace and his fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. But because this is ABC Family, we should believe him. Never mind the evidence: He's surely as innocent as a newly birthed panda bear being framed by some untrustworthy human adult. Who? We're led to believe it's his dad, but take your pick, really, because most of the adults in Green Grove are utterly untrustworthy. Must be something in the water.
So if you ever stop by Twisted for a visit, don't drink that water. Or touch anything. There are worst shows to watch, I suppose: At least viewers here aren't attacked by gut-heaving zombies (like on AMC's The Walking Dead) or titillated by loitering nudes (as on HBO's Game of Thrones). This is a show for teens and (shudder) tweens, after all.
But once you visit Green Grove, you'll see that the town is burgeoning with high schoolers who lie and steal and cheat and sometimes sleep with one another. (When one primary character loses her virginity, her hunky partner compliments her on already being so "good" at "that"). The parents are no better, and some of them are actively trying to make their kids' lives miserable and/or short. It might be the most messed-up city this side of Stephen King's infamous Castle Rock, Maine—just without all the supernatural events to break the monotony of the half-baked romance and peril.
"Sometimes the unthinkable is good thinking," the town's police chief intones somberly. Which is as fitting a mission statement for this show as anything. The characters here do some unthinkable things. And they often do things without thinking. But in the dangerous world of ABC Family, it's supposed to all make some sort of crazy—twisted—sense.
"Dead Men Tell Big Tales"
Danny's on the run, and his friends collaborate to keep him hidden from police. Meanwhile, Jo is feeling bad about sleeping with Tyler. "It was the wrong guy and the wrong reason and I just feel so stupid," she bawls to her mom, Tess. Tess minimizes the mistake and tells her that, eventually, the right guy will come along. "When it is the right guy," she says, "in a beautiful way you'll get that first time all over again."
Perhaps Tess is thinking about her relationship with Danny's dad, Vikram, whom she knows is alive and trying to stay hidden (while apparently framing Danny for every bad thing he ever did).
A boy is thrown around, and a girl is chased and threatened. A man falls off a cliff, perhaps to his death. We see Danny shirtless. (Of course.) Teens keep sordid secrets, break laws, get miffed at one another and shout at adults. Adults lie and scheme and pour themselves glasses of liquor. Both say things like "b‑‑ch" (once), "d‑‑n" (once) and "p‑‑‑ed" (once). God's name is misused a half-dozen times.