happy 100, PLL!

I’ve been meaning to post about My Trip to Rosewood for sometime, and what more auspicious occasion than Pretty Little Liars 100th episode day? I’m in the midst of a series rewatch — Emily just moved in with Hanna, and Toby just found the field hockey stick on the Hastings-DiLaurentis property line — and I’m struck again by how much love I have for this show. Suspense and scares, mysteries and red herrings, fun and fashion, and best of all: the characters. The joy of the rewatch is in the details you missed the first time (or second or third or fourth…). This 100 Moments post on Buzzfeed is a good refresher on some of the Amazingly Crazy Things that have gone down, and if you want to hear Lucia and me talk excitedly about what we love about the new season, you’re in luck. We chat about the first 3 episodes of season 5 here.


Norman wishes you a happy PLL 100! (photo from norbuck's instagram)
Norman wishes you a happy PLL 100! (photo from norbuck’s instagram)

Well, first to L.A. Back in March, I went to L.A. for the first time in over a decade (crazy-long — my sis used to live there and I would visit far more frequently than never), and amongst the excellent adventures — TVD PaleyFest panel, jokes writing session with Heather Vee, seeing fam and pals — I had the privilege of finally meeting Mr. Norman Buckley in person.

Way back when, a.k.a. after I wrote Spotted, my very 1st book, about Gossip Girl, I’d sent a copy to him — he directed a number of episodes of GG over the series run — and he received it graciously. Turns out, as all of you who follow him on Twitter/Tumblr/etc already know, Norman is not only kind and supportive, but smart and thoughtful and engaged. I could really ramble on about how great he is — learn about film! politics! — but you can discover this yourself if you haven’t already: he tweets here, and tumbls here. And here’s a post he wrote on the occasion of PLL’s 100th. Couldn’t agree more with his point about the centrality of the girls’ friendships.

So Norman invites me to lunch. But he’s working the week I’m in L.A. So lunch will have to be on the WB studio lot; he’s shooting the PLL season five premiere. Plans are made, I think about very little else in the intervening hours than my impending adventure.

There was a slight shmozzle when I went to pick up my pass at the WB security desk to get in — the perils of having a pen name, Calhoun, that’s not on my I.D. — so I was running late (I hate being late) and the directions I received from the friendly guard were, as it turns out, to the PLL building (listed on my pass), not to the ‘executive dining room’ where I was to meet Norman for some executive dining. However there were two very cool looking people hanging out outside the PLL building when I scampered up to ask for directions. The guy turned out to be Jakub Durkoth, art director for PLL (Norman later introduced me, and Jakub high-fived me for ultimately reaching my destination). The woman required no introduction: it was Mandi Line, she obviously looked amazing and was the very definition of fierce and provided excellent directions. Thank you, Mandi! (My lateness saved me from giving her some breathless, half-sensical compliment about her brilliant costume designing, so at least there’s that.)

Lunch with Norman was lovely (and v. tasty — compliments to the WB chefs). We talked TV, and fandom, and his work and my work, and strangely ended up on this short film he’d seen that was directed by Gregory the Smith, which just happens to feature my sister. Small world, sometimes. I also learned what an “Arnold Palmer” is and subsequently order it with authority at other restaurants in America. (Maybe we call it that in Canada too? Anyway, it’s a refreshing delight.)

We stroll over to the PLL building — and by the way, it’s a perfect Californian day, blue skies, sunshine, slight breeze — and there my tour of the PLL HQ begins. The walls outside the offices are decorated with blown-up stills from the series, so it’s a little walk down memory lane/highlight reel of crazy-awesome. Inside the main office, the first desk that greets you (with a very friendly person behind it) has on it a bowl of candy and a sign with Tom and Donna that says ‘treat yo self.’ Best. These people are our people. Teen Choice Award surfboards are mounted high up (no shortage of those), cast and guest star headshots line the walls, and decorating various workstations are props from the show — newspaper clippings (I still get the willies from the Ali missing girl front page) — and photos of the PLLs. Most imposingly? The portrait of Alison from the film noir episode hangs above Kyle Bown‘s desk. It’s amazing. And huge. And intimidating. Joseph Dougherty (who directed said episode) has film noir posters in his office. Love.

All to say, the offices are awesome. And the people therein, just as awesome. Everyone was friendly and chatty and had lovely things to say about Rosewood Confidential, which meant the world to me to hear. (Unofficial episode guides to TV shows are not really the kinds of books that get a lot of review attention from publications, and besides who more in-the-know than the producers and writers of the series to give you a pat on the back?) So I was beaming, and trying to keep cool and moderately professional. I signed Lisa Cochran Neilan’s copy of the book (who knows what I wrote or if it was legible/in English), and it was cool to overhear logistics talk about the day ahead between various folks and Norman. Their shooting day, by the way, was starting at about 3 in the afternoon (shortly after I left post lunch + tour), and wrapping up at about 3 in the morning.

Then, you guys, then I went into the Writers’ Room. White boards everywhere filled with SECRETS. And I managed not to read a single word. I was super conscious of being…respectful of Norman’s trust and, by extension, that of the producers and writers I was meeting. He was introducing me around as the author of Rosewood Confidential / a friend of his (rather than, here is a person who loves our show and has a twitter account, please let her look at the writers’ room secrets). My eyes stayed on the people in the room (and my phone stayed in my bag the entire, entire time; I didn’t take a single picture). No spoilers. (I hate spoilers.)

While there were a number of highlights that afternoon, being in the writers’ room was definitely one of them. I met Marlene, Oliver Goldstick, Bryan Holdman (what a smile!), Maya Goldsmith, among others, and they were all jovial and amazing, and Marlene told me about stumbling across RC in a Barnes & Noble while on a vacation with her boys. I am pretty sure I ended that whirlwind moment with an overly formal compliment about the show, but I got it out somehow: PLL is top notch, and thank you, and keep up the good work.

Phew. After showing me the editing suites — an editor was already working on Norm’s ep, doing a rough cut of the footage they’d already shot — it was time for us to head to Rosewood proper. (Wait, that is a lie, we went to the Starbucks — ‘Central Perk’ since it’s on the WB lot — and Jakob and production designer Fred Andrews were there, and Norman then told me some cool stories about the development of various sets and why we don’t see much of the Applerose Grille anymore.)

Into the PLL golf cart! First, we drove around some of the backlot locations and through the main streets of Rosewood. (Which are the main streets of a number of other TV show towns, of course.) Rosewood High, the cop station/city hall, the Grill, the exterior of the girls’ houses, the pond (!), the DiLaurentis house, the creepy woods they are always running through (and there’s one tree in particular the girls always run by that is a running gag for the PLLers), and around to the streets that were being dressed for the NYC scenes in the premiere.

Then onto the studio lots — there are three of them to house all the sets. This was basically like stepping into wonderland. I saw the wall of A’s that the production designers keep outside their offices. I walked the hallway where Spencer bought drugs. I saw Emily’s bedroom without any furniture in it but with the height-markings on the closet frame. Hanna’s kitchen and front area (the stairs where she sometimes has a cry!). The Hastings kitchen and living room were suitably classy — that kitchen island has very impressive stools, fyi. Aria’s bedroom? Giant. (Which when I commented on its size, Norman told me it was originally smaller, but was later expanded to ease filming in there.) What is normally the high school set had been turned into the hospital where Ezra is convalescing in the premiere. The space where the cafeteria normally is was all medical, and the doors into the boys and girls restrooms at Rosewood High (at the end of the hall) were flipped to generic hospital doors. It was this weird Matrix-y thing where I could see what was in front of me — the hospital set — but superimpose that alternate reality on top — Rosewood High. Another fun fact: the cafeteria and Ezra’s classroom? Same space! They just redress the thing. I find all of this stuff highly fascinating and impressive, so I was basically agog the whole the time.

The police station set was somehow really creepy (hmm, maybe because every cop save for Officer Barry is a total creeper in Rosewood?), but wandering through the DiLaurentis house was the creepiest of all. Especially since there was an A message written in lipstick on Ali’s mirror. The other fun/disorienting thing is that the sets connect to each other, so you walk out from one PLL’s living room, between the set walls, and into another girl’s bedroom.

chilling on the cozy Brew couch (photo by Norman Buckley)
chilling on the cozy Brew couch (photo by Norman Buckley)

We ended the tour at the Rear Window Brew, and Norman took a photo: yes, I believe I was grinning this wide the whole time. (Originally I posed behind the counter — covering Emily’s shift, and looking for wads of cash in bags of coffee, naturally — but there was no lighting in that back corner.)

That couch is legit comfy, and if they made a replica of the Brew IRL I would frequent it. Norman said the girls like to hang out there, and I understand why — it feels like a real cozy spot. The sets are stunning to behold, and so on-point character-wise to the smallest details. (If I ever magically become a rich person, I’d hire the art director and set design team to make my home look so well appointed.)

And that, my friends, was my trip to Rosewood. A total delight. I love knowing that the gang of people who work so very hard to make this show as great as it is are so warm and friendly and welcoming. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to Norman for the A-fternoon in Rosewood.

Congrats for an amazing 100, Pretty Little Liars.





Pretty Little Liars: It Happened One Night (ep301)

It’s back, bitches! How fun was that premiere? The answer is very. It felt like a big old treat for fans, with a million references to past seasons and in-jokes — and it set up so much for the next season. Wait, sorry, seAson.

Some highlights & random thoughts…

  • Starting, obvs, with the girls’ hair. Aria’s hair chop … I am not feeling it, have to say. Hanna’s chop on the other hand feels edgier and fun and seems to fit with New Hanna. Did any of y’all notice the blonde patch at the back of Emily’s head in the scene with Toby? (At the new location! Watch out, Apple Rose Grille. There’s a new hangout in town.)
  • Mona: creeeeeepy. I really loved the Hanna/Mona scenes, and how desperate Hanna was to have her friend back and to understand what the hell went wrong. Did you notice the red flower on Mona’s table? Who gave her that, I wonder…? And Alison/Vivian in the red coat? Shivers.
  • So much romancey goodness, all with a nice dose of humor. The Spencer/Toby moment was my fave.
  • These girls lie a lot.
  • Love that the moms are still teaming up and taking care of their girls. And I must say, I think Ella and Byron are making the right decision splitting up!
  • Hanna’s bikini. What.
  • Emily broke my heart in this episode. RIP Maya.
  • Spencer’s fastidious recreation of A’s lair? Amazing. She is a born detective.
  • The final reveal of their car completely littered with photos of them at Alison’s grave? So scary. #bitchcrazy
  • So, who did dig up Ali’s grave? What did they do with the body, and why?

Can’t wait til next week’s sure-to-be awesomeness. And on a side note, thanks to everyone who entered the Rosewood Confidential twitter contest yesterday! The book is out early, and shipping already! Hurrah!

If you happen to read the book, and want to review it on Goodreads or Amazon or your site or tumblr or wherever your heart desires, that would be amazing and we’d love to hear your feedback on it!

Until next Tuesday!


Announcing a Pretty Little Liars Companion Book: Rosewood Confidential

Coming June 2012

I’m pleased as punch to announce Rosewood Confidential: The Unofficial Companion to Pretty Little Liars that Jen Knoch and I are writing under the alias Liv Spencer (see our past co-creations here). For those of you familiar with my episode guides for Gossip Girl and/or The Vampire Diaries, you know what to expect: an episode by episode guide to the first two seasons of the show along with cast bios, details on the making of the show, literary and cultural references, and a comparison to Sara Shepard’s original book series. And the bonus: it’s a full color extravaganza with tons of photos of the ridiculously good-looking cast!

For all the juicy details on the breakout hit TV show that has people talking, tweeting, and tuning in week after week, look no further than Rosewood Confidential, the first companion book to the dark deeds, ugly secrets, and flashy fashion of Pretty Little Liars. Rosewood Confidential features an episode guide to the first two seasons of ABC Family’s hit show, bios of the stars, and the story of how a New York Times bestselling book series by Sara Shepard became a pop culture phenomenon. It’s as thrilling as a text message from a dead girl…

It comes out June 15 but it’s available for preorder now at all the usual places like Amazon.com, and/or you could add it to your Goodreads! (Yes, we added it to our reading-it shelves even though we’re still writing it.) We’ll be doing contest giveaways in the spring and doling out review copies to PLL fan sites so be sure to check back here or drop me an email (crissycalhoun [at] gmail [dot] com) if you’re interested.

Hurrah! I hope you’re as excited as Jen and me (fused into one mind as Liv) — and only two more sleeps til Pretty Little Liars returns! Let’s celebrate by watching that MuchMusic promo again and again… (Byron’s reaction to Fitz kills me.)

A Random Selection of Hanna’s Excellent Lines from Pretty Little Liars

“One fake date does not a relationship make.” (to Caleb, “The Devil You Know”)

“Jenna can’t hear us. She’s blind.” (to girls, “Save the Date”)

“I need to ask you guys something, and be totally honest with me: Is one side of my face fatter than the other?” (to the girls, “Keep Your Friends Close”)

“So I was telling the patient in 212, I am not shaving that—” (to Emily as faux candy stripers)

“You’re the worst delivery guy in the history of pizza.” (to Caleb, “Picture This”)

is it January 2nd yet?

The Boys of Pretty Little Liars: A Guide for the Casual Viewer

When people tell me they can’t tell the difference between Stefan and Damon on The Vampire Diaries because they look the same (or Damon and Elijah), I roll my eyes, vigorously. Dangerously. But I must confess that I am TOTALLY baffled when it comes to Pretty Little Liars. I am THAT person.

Maybe because I often do work while watching so it only gets 55% of my attention (sorry, work! PLL is compelling stuff!) — but I have NO idea who some of the boys are. I finally have a grasp on who the eff Noel Kahn is. I remember his name, you guys! Since I’m enjoying season 2 a lot, and plan on devoted up 75%+ of my attention to it, I decided to get serious about PLL — here’s a dossier on the boys for the casual viewers out there, who are confused by all the white brown-haired boys who are charming but also menacing. Now we’ll always now what Hermy’s real name is!

Ezra Fitz: No explanation necessary. The hot English teacher. In love with Aria. New job means they can mack in the school parking lot. Has conversations with his shirt off to make it difficult for Aria to break up with him. Sometimes has bad hair, but mostly a beacon of TV handsomeness. I am pro this relationship, despite it being a little creepy if you think too hard about it. Like, how old is Mr. Fitz?

Noel Kahn: a.k.a. Bad News. a.k.a. Creepy Creeper. This is the dude who was into Aria but then she rebuffed him and he got all jealous and stalkery — he’s the dude who knows about Aria and Mr. Fitz’s relationship. But then he got suspended for some reason (?) but then he came back and was all, Miss me, bitches?? Recently seen on a date with Mona (who I am loving this season — it’s like she’s finally a real person, instead of just that stock character). I would like to see this character get his comeuppance.

Toby Cavanagh: We all know who Toby is, right PLLers? He is the poor sod who was fooling around with his stepsister Jenna, who everyone in town thinks is a creepy killer when actually he’s TOTALLY not. He and Emily were pals first, but then he and Spencer began hanging out — and there is total sparkage between these two. I am pro this pairing. Toby’s plans to get his GED and get the eff out of Rosewood has hit a bit of an impasse since the citizens of Rosewood are prejudiced against accused teen murderers. I personally think that Spencer and Co should let Toby in on everything that’s going on with A to have another ally. Or wait — does he already know? I don’t know!

Ian Thomas: Agree, PrettyLittleLiarsSecrets.Tumblr.com — Ian seriously creeps me out too. But maybe he’s dead??? Ian is the creeper who kissed Spencer (seen in a flashback) despite dating her older sister. When he returned in present day times, he was extra creepy. He works at the high school, married Spencer’s sister Melissa (who is also a way more awesome character this season than last), and knocked her up. More importantly, he was fooling around with Alison and was in the video of her final moments — is he Ally’s killer? In the season finale it seemed like he was; at the very least he tried to kill Spencer. But then “A” (or someone) “killed” him. Where did his body go? Is he alive and camping in the outskirts of Rosewood, texting his baby mamma? Who knows!!

Jason DiLaurentis: So for extra confusion, there is a flipping different actor playing this part in season 2. Actually, it’s not that confusing because for the life of me I cannot picture the other guy who was Jason. They could switch the actors up each week, and as long as my four PLL girls were the same, I wouldn’t notice. OK — Jason. Floppy hair. Tight T-shirts. Kinda grumpy. Not into baked goods. He is Alison’s older brother, a stoner in his youth, former associate of (evil) Ian. Came back to Rosewood to bother the cops about his sister’s case, meddled with memorial planning, and then effed off. Is that right? Now he’s back living in the DiLaurentis house (I guess Maya’s entire family moved out after they found out she smoked pot? Or was a lesbian? I don’t remember why Maya was sent away). Jason’s also doing something menacing with the front yard and maybe hiding someone/thing inside the house (since he wants to build a fence). The gloved wonder that may be “A” was creeping around his garden and petting that cute dog in the most threatening I’m-going-to-snap-your-neck way (thank god this show is on ABC Family, and not the CW, or else we would have seen puppycide). Also, last episode, there was mention of “the Jason thing.” What the eff is that? I do not know.

Caleb Rivers: Oh, Caleb. Caleb was homeless and living in the high school. He is good with electronics. Hannah invited him to live in her basement — because Hannah is AWESOME — and then they fell in love. But secretly he was also spying on Han for Jenna. I don’t really remember why. But he was. BETRAYAL. Hannah dumped his ass, and then there was the deal with the missing love letter. But then Caleb was back, all sorry + I love you, and Hannah stood her ground. There’s the door, Caleb! I like you a lot but you gotta prove your mettle, mister. Has a pseudo friendship with Lucas…

Lucas Gottesman: I love Lucas. Alison was a bitch to him, but last season Hannah realized he was awesome. He helped her with eBay stuff, and yearbook stuff, and generally being a cool stand-up guy (stuff). But as you can see from that there picture: he is in LOVE with her. That caused some late season problemos, because Hannah was all in love with Caleb and “A” made her dance with Lucas at that dance-a-thon and the poor guy felt manipulated. Heartbreak. Will he be around this season? Who knows!

Officer Garrett: One of the many shady cops in Rosewood. He and Jenna are an item, and he pretends to befriend the PLLs. Who knows what this guy’s deal is, but he saw Aria leaving Fitz’s apartment, right? Trouble.


The First Season Love Interests, Now Forgotten: There was (1) Sean Ackard, Hannah’s BF who didn’t want to sleep with her, (2) Alex Santiago, briefly Spencer’s love interest, he worked at the club and liked to dance in the kitchen, (3) Ben Coogan, that dick of a BF that Emily had, who physically assaulted her — good riddance, Ben!, and (4) let’s not forget Darren the Cop, who Hannah’s mom slept with so her daughter wouldn’t get charged with shoplifting (?).

The Dads: (1) Peter Hastings, barely around, but he’s kind of a crap dad too; competitive, boring, leaves most of the parenting to Spencer’s mom, who’s totally Mariska Hargitay’s doppelganger, (2) Wayne Fields, Emily’s military pop who’s never around except when she’s coming out; he wants to bring the fam out to Texas where he’s stationed (bad idea, Dad!), (3) Byron Montgomery, Aria’s dad, cheated on her mom, trying to make things work, used to be married to Hilary Swank, (4) Tom Marin, deadbeat dad who left Hannah and her mom and only returns when Han’s in trouble; he’s back in Rosewood! (There’s also Mike, Aria’s little bro.)

Hope I didn’t leave anybody out… I’m sure by next episode there will be 15 more dudes to add to this list. But until Tuesday, I’m so in on Rosewood’s secrets, you can call me “A.” (Bitches.)

I am pretty good at having a cold

Two disclaimers to begin: one, I am blogging from my iPhone and typing on this marvel of modern technology is not my number one life skill; two, I have a cold so my powers of making sense, spelling accurately, etc, are weak. Read on with red pencils in hand.

I blog from my phone during work hours because I gave up and came home to loll about in my bed with a mug of broth. I am not so sick as to be totally brain dead and unable to read, so besides the general discomfort, the coughing, and the nagging stress of not doing what I planned to be doing today I am kind of good at being sick. I like staying in my bed. Napping. Tea drinking. Soup. Reading (currently The Sweetness at he Bottom of the Pie, which is just so charming). Tv marathons. So wish me a swift recovery but don’t waste even the briefest glimmer of pity on me should I ever have a cold cough etc.


Tonight Pretty Little Liars returns to our tv sets and I am Nasser. Oh iPhone, I said jazzed not Nasser. What does that mean? PLL is not without its flaws by any stretch of anyone’s imagination but it is entertaining and it looks good and I have great affection for three of the four liars. Also the Aria/Fitz romance is my fave student/teacher tv romance … Of all time? Maybe.

Also, bust out your Buffy DVDs! Tomorrow marks the beginning of Nikki stafford’s Buffy rewatch. She’s invited an impressive group of writers, and me, to blog each week on a group of episodes. My posts are months away but the festivities kick off tomorrow with Nikki’s thoughts on the first three eps. Nikkistafford.blogspot.com ( I wonder if that will hyperlink itself) (that sounds smutty)

That’s all the news hats fit to print for now! I am working on the cover design for Love You to Death season 2 (and by that I mean the designer is working on it and I am screeching make my name bigger!! Hahaha jk); hopefully will debut it to you TVD enthusiasts in a few weeks.

Oh also: eyecon! That deserves its own post. Good times she will write, to paraphrase phil from modern family and totally kill his joke.

Nap time


What I Love about Pretty Little Liars

(The show, not small people who chronically fib but are also lovely to look at. though i am sure they have their loveable traits too.)

  1. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Who’s A? Is it Jenna? Is Alison still alive? Is she a ghost sending menacing texts from the Other Side? I do not know! It also always feels like a surprise in when one of the girls’ secrets is revealed. Aria’s mom getting that letter about her husband’s infidelity a few eps back — did not see that coming up around the corner. If you’re read the book series: is it similarly plotted? Like, do you know what’s going to happen before it does? I wonder if it’s as loose an adaptation as The Vampire Diaries or Gossip Girl.
  2. Hanna’s hideous kitty-cat dental office outfit. LOVE it. The first time it made its onscreen appearance, I just could not believe how exactly perfect it was. So glad that she has to wear it every time she goes to work. Hilarious.
  3. Troian Bellisario as Spencer Hastings. (I just had to Wikipedia her name. Crazy name. Very cool.) I knew going into the show that I adored Lucy Hale, our dear Privileged alum, but I did not expect to find the uptight, competitive, rich smart girl character as sympathetic a character as Ms. Bellisario makes her. I think she’s great — and Troian has such a distinctive look. She looked like an old-fashioned movie star in last week’s Homecoming episode. She’s how I picture Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby.
  4. The New Geeky Photo Guy. Despite the fact that last week’s episode was jam-packed and ended with a giant cliffhanger — would they kill off Emily?? — the stand out for me was the new guy that Hanna meets at Celibacy Club. The guy who shows up to the dance to take photos for the yearbook wearing his grandpa’s bow tie. The guy who agrees to drive Hanna to the dental office because his only other evening plan was to watch the new episode of Hoarders with his mom. (LOVED that line.) Please, please PLL writers, keep the nerdy love interest for Hanna around. He can be the Seth to her Summer (…right, @ErinCC?)
  5.  It Won’t Be That Easy, Bitches! Generally speaking, the word “bitch” bothers the heck out of me. Somehow, this show makes it SO entertaining and perfect.
  6. How good the show looks. Think about how complicated that school dance set was in the Homecoming episode. I love when series take the time and make the effort to create a cool, fully realized, amazing-to-look-at world for us — it’s a big part of what makes Gossip Girl work so well. The director of “There’s No Place Like Homecoming,” Norman Buckley, (who also directs for Gossip Girl) posted on his blog about some of his inspirations for Pretty Little Liars. As you can glean from that post, while some people may view these shows as simple little confections of teen tv, there’s a lot of artistic vision that goes into making a show like this work.

New episode tomorrow night, bitches!