ABC Family’s The Lying Game begins its pilot with Emma Becker (Alexandra Chando, As the World Turns) falsely accused of a crime. She flees her bad foster home to her recently discovered, separated at birth, twin sister’s rich home. Convenient, huh? But the twin, Sutton Mercer (also Chando) has a plan. She convinces Emma to pretend to be Sutton, so Sutton can go and look for their long lost parents. Or so she says. With a title like The Lying Game, it’s hard to know when someone is telling the truth and when they are not.
Immediately, Chando’s similar look to Nina Dobrev (pictured left) will evoke comparisons to CW’s The Vampire Diaries, where Dobrev also plays multiple characters. Not only that, but the fleeing criminal replacing the rich girl who has dark secrets of her own that she doesn’t bother to fill in her poor sister about is also an accurate description of the pilot of the CW’s Ringer, which premieres next month. Unfortunately for The Lying Game, Dobrev and Ringer‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar can act circles around Chando. Also, having seen the pilot of Ringer, I can report that both series are written way better than The Lying Game, and have a much higher-caliber supporting cast. So The Lying Game seems doomed to failure.
ABC Family certainly has a niche audience in their evening dramas, and that is teen girls. While The Lying Game fits into that niche, and certainly isn’t any worse than other entries, such as Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the CW also plays to the same demographic, and produces series much more worth watching. Thus, The Lying Game will be competing for fans against superior shows. Also, saying this newest ABC Family drama is as good as the other ones at the network is like saying one frozen burrito brand is as good as any other. Not a high recommendation. And the fact that The Lying Game is based on a book does not improve the recommendation. It just makes the book’s author look like a copier, too. Though I’m not accusing her of such, as it will depend where the concept goes from here to determine that,
Separating The Lying Game from the obvious comparisons, there isn’t much to praise about the show, at least after watching only one episode. The characters are flat, and the actors are weak. The series tries to build suspense by keeping viewers second-guessing who is telling the truth, and what the lies are. However, what results is simply a headache. And when superficial rich kids, with no redeemable qualities, are the ones doing the lying, it’s very hard to sympathize with anyone long enough to care. Not to mention, it’s highly unbelievable that almost no one suspects Sutton has been replaced, even though Emma has a completely different personality, and knows nothing about Sutton’s life.
The one saving grace of The Lying Game is the inclusion of Kirsten Prout as Sutton’s friend Char. Prout is a veteran of an ABC Family drama that actually got it right – Kyle XY. Sadly, that show was canceled far too early, and at least in the pilot, Prout doesn’t get to do anything interesting. It seems she is accepting work from her former employer, but in this case, it’s a gift she should return. She can do much better.
The Lying Game airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Family.