tv review: pretty little liars

checking out the mean girls of abc family.

What if Gossip Girl were a film noir, and instead of Twitter updates from a socialite spy, the characters got texts from beyond the grave? 

That's basically the premise of Pretty Little Liars, an ABC Family series that follows four best friends in the wake of their Queen Bee's apparent murder. 

Besides the Missing Persons premise, the girls' have scandal in their own lives - Hanna is a Taylor Swift lookalike with a shoplifting habit, Spencer is a Straight-A jock and closet lesbian, Emily sleeps with her sister's boyfriends, and Aria one-ups her by seducing her new, hot English teacher.  

That's all fun and games, until the girls get notes that essentially say "I know what you did last summer," all claiming to be from their dead best friend.  Then there's the mysterious matter of "Jenna," a girl who's somehow involved in the girls' big secret - and who shows up at the end of the first episode, dressed in glamazon black and totally blind.

The whole thing would be ridiculous, if not for the surprising appeal of the four main characters - especially Lucy Hale as the artistic and soul-searching protagonist who wants nothing more than to ditch her bitchy persona and become a normal girl.

Can Pretty Little Liars maintain the mysteries that kept their pilot intriguing?  Or will it go the way of Veronica Mars and end up like Nancy Drew on a skateboard?  We don't know yet - but we're already addicted - and that's a secret we're not sure we can keep.

Watch the first episode of Pretty Little Liars on Hulu