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TV Series Review

It's one thing to have a lot of secrets. It's another to not know what they all are.

Take Emma Becker, a pretty runaway who is quite literally pretending to be someone she's not—namely her beautiful and devious twin sister, Sutton Mercer. Separated at birth, Emma just hoped to bunk with her sibling's well-to-do family for a while, but she's 20 seconds off the bus when Sutton announces that she's leaving for Los Angeles to find their real parents.

Would Emma mind filling in for her at home for a bit?

Sure, no prob, Emma says. And if she had been twins with, say, a television reviewer, it wouldn't have been. After all, anyone can sit in a cubicle and download TV shows from iTunes, can't they? But Sutton is no media critic. She's a high school queen bee—a diva with more nefarious plots than a Disney villain, more secrets than that island on Lost. It's a setup about as outlandish as you'll find on basic cable—at least on a show that doesn't feature vampires or aliens.

I'd like to give The Lying Game credit for being a sly commentary on the pressures girls struggle with to be all things to all people. But, really, the program doesn't have those sorts of aspirations. The Lying Game is strictly throwaway theatrics—part Parent Trap, part Princess Diaries, part Gossip Girl.

Oh, it has some surface morals that we can applaud. Emma is indeed much nicer than Sutton. She helps out around the house, behaves reasonably well and treats her friends and enemies alike with humanity and humility. And it's obvious to everyone. "Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?" Sutton's father, Ted, jokingly tells her. Ironically, the show seems to suggest how bad and corrosive lying can be, with multiple characters—the good ones at least—talking about how important it is to be honest and truthful, particularly to one's family and friends.

And yet those very same good characters lie to each other constantly, even while understanding how two-faced they're being. Secrets pile on top of secrets, fibs on top of fibs. The Kremlin was never this duplicitous. It's enough to make the casual viewer want to pick up the television set to try to shake some collective sense into all of them.

Of course, if everyone 'fessed up, The Lying Game would quickly lose both its name and its reason for being. No one wants to watch a show about truthful folks trying to do the right thing. If that's what you're after, you could just pop in an Andy Griffith Show DVD or something. But then you'd miss out on all the angsty teen romance and sparkly clothes and tawdry drama and …

The Lying Game, based on a series of novels by Sara Shepard—the same woman who wrote the books on which another ABC Family soap, Pretty Little Liars, is based—is teen escapism supreme. And I'd be lying if I said I liked it.

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Episode Reviews

LyingGame: 8222011
LyingGame: 8152011



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Alexandra Chando as Emma Becker/Sutton Mercer; Allie Gonino as Laurel Mercer; Alice Greczyn as Madeline 'Mads' Rybeck; Kirsten Prout as Char Chamberlin; Blair Redford as Ethan Whitehorse; Andy Buckley as Ted Mercer; Sharon Pierre-Louis as Nisha Randall; Helen Slater as Kristin Mercer




ABC Family


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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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