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This summer's pretty little hit: 'Pretty Little Liars'

August 10, 2010 |  8:42 am

Pll3 Sometimes a little help from your friends is all you need to get by. Or maybe just a series of notes and texts signed "A" to keep you on your toes.

Forget queen bee Blair over on "Gossip Girl." In "Pretty Little Liars," it’s all about "A."

The teen soap centers on four friends -- Emily, Spencer, Hanna and Aria -- who share a dirty little secret after the disappearance of clique headmistress, Alison. Even though her body may have been found and buried, their secrets aren't. The besties begin receiving various messages from someone using the name "A," who threatens to expose their secrets -- ones they thought only Alison knew -- and ruin their lives. Think "I Know What You Did Last Summer" meets "Twin Peaks" meets "Gossip Girl."

"A little 'A' can go a long way," said creator and executive producer Marlene King. "It’s pretty amazing."

And it seems to be working. 

The ABC Family teen soap is this summer’s breakout hit. The "PLL" (acronyms are a measure of success in the teen world) premiere pulled in 2.5 million viewers and did well in the coveted 18-49 demographic; and viewership has continued to grow steadily, averaging 3 million viewers each episode, according to Nielsen figures. After airing just three episodes, the network ordered 12 more episodes of the show, bumping the first season total to 22. The ultimate measure of success? It received numerous surfboard statuettes at the recent Teen Choice Awards.  

"I’m having a surfboard award delivered to me," said Lucy Hale, who won choice summer TV star for her role as Aria Montgomery. "Like, that’s pretty crazy."

ABC Family is no longer just the source for repeats of "Full House" and "Gilmore Girls." It’s had a lot of success launching series in the summer, with "Make It or Break It" last year and "The Secret Life of an American Teenager" in July 2008.

Pll "It’s not just kids behaving badly," said Troian Bellisario, who portrays Spencer Hasting. "It’s kids who are unequipped to deal with the world and are put in terrible situations by adults. ABC Family is really embracing and pushing the envelope in terms of what they want families to be talking about."

The show's biggest mysteries: Who killed Alison? Who is A? 

As if that wasn’t enough to occupy their time, the girls attempt to balance their family lives and relationships (Emily struggles with her sexuality, and Aria is dating her teacher) as "A" threatens put a damper on it all.

Tuesday night, we'll finally get to see the conclusion of the show's midseason finale.

"There will be a few surprises for people who think they know all the answers to this show [and] will realize they don’t," said Ashley Benson, who plays Hanna Marin.

Aw, come on, we need more than that!

"My jaw was on the floor when I read the script," said Shay Mitchell, who portrays Emily Fields. "Someone will find out who 'A' is … but who that is I can’t tell you."

But Benson did. We think.

"My character finds out more about who 'A' is," Benson said. "The end of the show is going to be a huge cliffhanger."

Not up to speed with the goings on of this pretty little clique? There will be a "PLL" marathon event on ABC Family Tuesday.

Production of the remaining 12 episodes begins in September, with episodes airing in January. 

"It’s going to be tough to have those episodes air in January," King said. "Everyone wants them now, now, now! We hope the fans will stay with us."

Need something to hold you over until then? When asked how much time will have passed, King offered this clue: The title of the first episode when the show returns is “Moments Later.”

Until then, here’s a look at Tuesday night’s episode.

--Yvonne Villarreal

Upper photo: (left to right) Shay Mitchell, Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson and Trijan Bellisario. Photo and video credit: ABC Family

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