Despite its somewhat mediocre presentation at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the first season (or half season?) of the ABC Family show Twisted. The availability on netflix helped me tune into a show, that given time could have been awesome. I say could have been, because if the show gets renewed and if the show sticks with the same terrible plot lines it will die a quick and painful death if it’s life hasn’t been already cut off at season (er, half season?) two? (Side note: Although I applaud shortening the number of episodes in a season to, theoretically, improve story quality and get rid of filler scenes/episodes, one has to actually have quality story to, you know, tell).
I just finished season two of Twisted on netflix and found myself wanting to pull my hair out. What were the writers thinking? What were the producers and heads of ABC Family thinking? They don’t want their show to succeed? Why make a show in the first place? Let me explain.
Twisted began with an intriguing premise: Three junior high friends had their world turned upside down when one of the trio, Danny Desai, was convicted for murdering his aunt with a jumprope. Five years later, Danny is out of juvie and returns home where he and the two girls he was once besties with have to struggle with the feelings and the horror they still all have. And no one’s quite sure if they can trust Danny, who claims to be a good guy despite the murder charge.
The show started out pretty good following all three leads and took a surprising romantic twist in that for once it wasn’t the awkward, socially inept soon-to-be-butterfly tomboyish girl that was chosen, but the popular, elegant and very feminine girl. Thus began, sadly, Jo Masterson vs. Lacey Porter. Now, I enjoy a good love triangle, but this “team” stuff that began with Twilight is seriously getting in the way of storytelling. Lacey Porter is a great character; Danny Desai is a great character. Them Together, they could have been incredible.
Insert Jo. On the whole I like Jo, but by the second half of the first season everything was about Jo. She and Lacey hadn’t seen or spoken to Danny in five years, yet Danny (and Lacey) are supposed to apologize to her for loving each other? This is beside the point. The show began with three leads. Yes, there are hints that Jo’s family may eventually be show to be at the center of whatever conspiracy is actually going on, but actual evidence of that has yet to be seen. If any of the trio gets more screen time, it should by all rights be Danny. And then Lacey, because frankly actress Kylie Bunbury has better acting chops than the other two leads and all of the other characters combined. Her emotions are believable. Lacey comes across as a real person whereas Jo, much as I like her, seems only to be a plot device of a person most of the time. Rico (Ashton Moio) also comes across as a very real person with genuine emotions. Danny’s my favorite, though, but only because he has the potential to either be an ultimate hero or an ultimate villain.
And then we have season two. Season two where for no apparent reason, Danny has seemed to turn off all of his emotions concerning Lacey. True, he has always cared for Jo, but honestly in season one they seemed to be like a brother and sister. If Jo’s feelings got confused, well, she’s young and socially awkward. But now Jo is the love of Danny’s life…apparently. And Lacey is…a lesbian? Oh, so Danny doesn’t look like the bad guy, right? So it’s Lacey’s choice that they’re not together. Uh, huh. Rico, too, has quickly overcome his feelings for bff Jo and moved on to someone else. Soapy, dumb plot lines, but they wouldn’t matter if THE main plot of the story (is Danny or someone he’s close to a sociopath/psychopath/killer?) was at all thrilling.
If audiences are entertained, they’re willing to overlook a few flaws. With Twisted the main plot line is a flaw in itself. It appears to be going nowhere. The writers have hinted at conspiracy, introduced a cousin to Danny, and brought in a manipulative father-daughter duo all for naught. There have been zero answers, zero payoffs, and if their goal is to make Danny’s mom, Karen (Denise Richards), and Jo’s mom, Tess (Kimberly Quinn), look like the socios, they are doing a good job of it.
I know the goal of TV shows is to get renewed and renewed for more and more seasons, but prolonging a story simply for that purpose wastes so much, talented actors, writers, and so on. Being in the business of storytelling, shouldn’t their first goal be to tell a great story?
Here is, with my puny imagination, how Twisted should be put out of its misery:
- Danny Desai ends up being the sociopath everyone thought he was (though not necessarily a killer).
- Jo turns into Nancy Drew and solves the case, realizing Danny and his mother have been pulling everyone’s strings the whole time.
- Rico saves Lacey from a horrible death, the two of them realize their love for each other, and ride off into the sunset as the only two characters caring enough to warrant a happy ending.
- Chief Masterson sits back in his chair and chuckles at a photo of Danny, except the caption on the photo does not read Danny Desai.
- The last shot is of Karen Desai being released from prison. Along with the items returned to her upon release is an FBI badge with her picture on it.
- After the credits, and for no apparent reason or explanation, Danny’s aunt is shown to be alive and well and sunning herself on a yacht in the middle of the ocean.
Ok, ok, it’s hard to write an amazing, compelling story, and I give all TV writers a salute for trying, I just wish the first goal of each show was to have, well, not just a good show, but an amazing, epic, heart-stopping show. One that people just can’t put down, so to speak. None of the three leads actually has to have a romance in order to remain leads. They could just relate to each other as friends. Karen and Vikram Desai are really the only believable parents to be involved in a conspiracy. It is painful to watch the floundering efforts at making Jo’s mom relevant to the main plot. She could just be a mom who is there for her husband and daughter and still be a great character. Rico wants to be a lead, he really, really does, and as a studying nerd he could contribute oh so much as a fourth in the “scooby gang.” Plus he and Danny get along well and he actually brings out Danny’s good qualities far more than either Jo or Lacey do.
Sigh. What could have been. What could still be if only someone took control of the story. But, sadly, showbiz doesn’t really run on story. It runs on far more fickle things.