TV

New ABC Family Pilots Include ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Author’s New Novel: We Handicap Their Chances

The WB/CW’s reign as teen programming queen may be coming to an end. Sorry, Dawson. Maybe it’s just us, but it seems ABC Family is poised to become the next Big Thing on Campus with its ever-growing slew of original programming. The channel, whose purpose for years was to air reruns of “Gilmore Girls” and weekend-long marathons of “She’s All That,” has hit the mark recently with titillating teen fare like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and, especially, “Pretty Little Liars.” (To be sure, they have had a few misses, like the now-defunct “10 Things I Hate About You.”)

With growing confidence in their own programming, ABC Family has just order seven—yes SEVEN—new pilots, and we couldn’t be more excited (especially since one of them is based on “PLL” author Sara Shepard’s upcoming novel, “The Lying Game”). With plots running the gamut from sisters separated at birth to a plus-size performer trying to make it in the big city, we’re handicapping the series’ likelihood for success (on a 1-10 scale). Keep reading after the jump for our thoughts, and be sure to add your own in the comments section!

“The Lying Game” (based on the novel by “PLL” author Sara Shepard)
Synopsis: “This new series will follow Emma, a kind-hearted foster kid who can’t catch a break. She finds out she has an identical twin sister, Sutton, who—unlike Emma—was adopted by wealthy parents and is seemingly living an ideal life. After their initial meeting, Sutton talks Emma into stepping into her life for a few days while she pursues a lead on their birth mother. Initially excited to do this favor for her sister, Emma soon learns that Sutton has gone missing and could be in trouble. Now, Emma must decide whether to come clean to Sutton’s family and risk her own safety in the hope of uncovering her twin sister’s true whereabouts, along with the truth about why they were separated in the first place.”
Reminds us of: “Life Unexpected” meets “The Prince and the Pauper”
Likelihood for success: 8. If Sara’s other book-to-TV adaptation “Pretty Little Liars” is any indication, this new series should score some sound ratings. Plus, who doesn’t love a good switching-places drama with missing person intrigue?

“What Would Jane Do”
Synopsis: “This drama follows 16-year-old Jane, who lands a job at a hip retail company when they mistake her for an adult. Jane soon finds herself juggling life as a regular teenager in high school and as an assistant to a high powered executive in the cutthroat world of fashion…all while trying to keep her true identity a secret.”
Reminds us of: “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead”
Likelihood of success:: 7. I mean, how did the classic Christina Applegate movie not have a spin-off series already? Hopefully it has just as much heart and laughs as its ’90s inspiration.

“The Great State of Georgia”
Synopsis: “A comedy series about an exuberant plus-sized performer from the South and her science geek best friend who try to make headway in New York City.”
Reminds us of: “Coming to America” with a “Sweet Home Alabama” twist.
Likelihood of success:: 7. Let’s be clear: ’Georgia”s pilot writers have major street cred. Jennifer Weiner is the author of several best-selling novels including “In Her Shoes,” which was adapted into a big-screen hit starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Co-writer Jeff Greenstein also has impressive credits on his resume including “Desperate Housewives,” “Friends” and “Will & Grace.” We’ve seen plenty of bumpkin-in-the-big-city comedies, so hopefully these quirky characters will add extra spunk and new insights into this well-worn trope.

“Strut”
Synopsis: “This drama centers on a showgirl named Roxy who marries a stranger after a wild evening, and overnight finds herself living in a small town in Texas and reinventing the high school’s struggling drill team. She uses her background as a dancer to connect with the group of high school outsiders, specifically awkward teen Meg. When Roxy takes it upon herself to shape them into a bona fide strutting team of performers, she turns the town upside down in the process.”
Reminds us of: “Hellcats” from a coach’s perspective
Likelihood of success: 5. Is it just us, or does this show sound like it might be just a little too feel-good? Hopefully, it’s able to strike the right balance between having a message and not being sanctimonious. Shows about school performers (i.e. “Glee”) are big right now, so it’s definitely got that angle working in its favor.

“Nine Lives” (based on the novel, “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” by Celia Thomson)
Synopsis: “Chloe King is looking forward to celebrating her 16th birthday with her friends and single mother, just like every other year—until she starts developing heightened abilities (super speed, agility, hearing…claws) and discovers she’s being pursued by a mysterious figure. Chloe soon learns she’s part of an ancient race who have been hunted by human assassins for millennia —and that she may be their only hope for ultimate survival.”
Reminds us of: “The Vampire Diaries”
Likelihood of success: 7. A supernatural-book-turned-television-series? Yeah, that might work (ahem, “TVD”).

“Switched at Birth”
Synopsis: “This drama tells the story of two teen girls who discover that they were accidentally switched at birth! Bay Kennish grew up in a wealthy family with two parents and two brothers, while Daphne Vasquez, who lost her hearing as a child due to a case of meningitis, grew up with a single mother in a poor neighborhood. Things come to a dramatic head when both families meet and struggle to learn how to live together for the sake of the girls.”
Reminds us of: “The Lying Game” (see above)
Likelihood of success: 4. Is ABC Family big enough for two series about girls with a birth connection who reunite years later only to discover how different their lives are? We don’t think so. We give the advantage to “The Lying Game.”

Untitled Brenda Hampton Project
Synopsis: “It is a groundbreaking and heartfelt look at the lives and families of four ethnically-diverse teenage girls at a private school in California. The pilot follows the girls and the challenges they face at home—challenges that include a parent with terminal cancer, a brother with a behavioral disorder and a father who parents with an unwaveringly strict hand.”
Reminds us of: Brenda’s other projects like “The Secret Life” and “7th Heaven”
Likelihood of success: 6. Brenda’s earlier work has given us a taste of what could be for this as-yet-untitled project. Again, as with “Strut,” we’re worried about the preachy factor, but we’re psyched to see a series celebrate and explore diverse backgrounds.

What do you think the likelihood of success will be for these pilots? Which one are you most excited to see?