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Petition to Bring Back ABC Family

I have yet to experience the same thrill I felt while watching “Pretty Little Liars” for the first time. The enigmatic mean girl disappears in the dead of night, and amidst her supposed death comes an anonymous stalker blackmailing her four besties. You can’t tell me that isn’t a golden plotline.

Pretty Little Liars, 2010 ©

Back in the early 2010s, ABC Family was pumping out some of the best television series to ever grace cable. Millions of us were seated each week to catch up with our favorite casts and, of course, to get our drama fix. But what made shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Fosters” so good, you ask? Please… allow me. 

Wasting absolutely no time, these pilots were no joke. At least four intersecting plotlines were introduced within the first half-hour; if you blinked, you easily could’ve missed an entire backstory. Fast-paced, multi-faceted, lowkey scandalous AF… the writers were doing the most. And the execution of these outrageously unrealistic scenarios were done so effortlessly that we didn’t bat an eye.

Sure, discovering your evil twin (who is somehow British?) murdered the guy you, your older sister, and she all shared a romance with might sound uncommon, but it just made sense. The titles alone told us everything we needed to know. Come on, “Switched at Birth”? “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”? Before grabbing the remote, you already know you're in for some unhinged shit. And what I appreciate the most is that they did this without crossing the threshold into sci-fi or fantasy, like some other shows (cough, cough, “Riverdale”). 

Now, this was a lot for my middle school self. Showcasing a plethora of adult concepts in a single episode, ABC Family was educating us (if you were also raised on these shows, ILY). Let’s take a look at “The Fosters.” This series, which ran from 2013 to 2018, follows a blended family consisting of two moms and their biological, adopted, and foster kids.

The Fosters, 2013 ©

It beautifully depicts many social injustices and real-world complications in the form of entertainment, which is so commendable. I didn't know the first thing about the foster care system at the age of 13, and I sure hadn’t seen any queer female representation on-screen previously. So even though we turned on the TV for heinous drama, we were simultaneously learning lessons imperative for adulthood. For some of us, these shows were the only thing exposing us to these real issues. And the craziest part is, (somehow) all of the cheating, teen pregnancies, violence, etc., that went down in these shows were still appropriate for PG-13 audiences. With so many relatable characters of all ages, it is almost impossible not to resonate with at least one storyline. I swear, these shows were literally made for everyone.

So I‘ve established how chaotic these series are, and as fun as a messy plotline is, what really did the trick was the anticipation. Let me explain. That anonymous stalker I mentioned before… yeah, we don’t find out who that is until season six. The protagonist in “The Fosters” has her adoption postponed about every other episode. “Twisted” is an entire murder mystery in itself. And when things finally unraveled, more often than not, we were hit with the most unpredictable plot twists. I won’t spoil it, but the “A” reveal in “Pretty Little Liars” had me flabbergasted to say the least. ABC Family knew how to get us invested and how to get those ratings up. Fandoms were working overtime on socials, sharing hashtags, feedback, predictions, and reactions – quite the phenomenon. 

Now, I am painfully aware that the hype has died down. Let’s face it, ABC Family is literally gone (R.I.P. 2001-2016). But it is not the end for these shows, as they have resurrected into prime comfort show material. Considering many of these series ran for more than five seasons and consisted of 20+ episodes, they have binge-watch potential written all over them. Whether it occupies your undivided attention (me) or is background noise during your Sunday deep-clean, these shows provide hours and hours of content. And when you spend so much time with the same people (yes, you are spending time with the characters), you grow attached. Not only were they portrayed by some of the biggest names in the industry, these friend groups and families felt real. You can’t tell me you don’t want to be a pretty little liar yourself or get adopted by Stef and Lena Adams Foster. And what really defines comfort is nostalgia. Between the fashion, the flip phones, and the general ambiance of these series, you will be in 2012 while you watch. 

Switched at Birth, 2011 ©

I miss ABC Family. I miss teen dramas where the teens were teens. I miss live tweeting while a new episode aired. I miss plot twists that had school hallways buzzing the next morning- but I digress. The real question is, how do we achieve this level of television excellence again? Can we? Maybe by throwing in more infidelity or sprinkling in some killers to the mix… but maybe these plotlines have just lost their novelty. ABC Family can’t compete with the everlasting craze that is social media. But for all the hopeless teenage drama lovers like myself, I see you. And I sincerely hope your life is just as juicy and unpredictable as the script of your favorite ABC Family show. 

BRB, going to rewatch “PLL” again.


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