Firstly I just have to say that my general attitude towards spin-offs is negative. The whole idea just reeks of trying to capitalize on the success of another show. Too often the birth of one seems to be less the result of the creators being inspired by the original story, and more the result of being inspired by the advertisement revenues. Also, it feels like a spin-off dilutes the legacy of the original story.
Spin-offs are usually weaker products, and having them on air during or immediately after the original show leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A spin-off is after all an extension of the original show, and albeit having an independent story, it feels like it taints the ending of the original one. Spin-offs have a lot to live up to, and usually they fail. Therefore, every time a spin-off is announced, I feel disappointed. That's why I don't like the idea of a Breaking Bad spin-off. Even though it seems to have great people behind it, it still feels like it rips open the ending of the fantastic BB, and continues the story on its own, less great path. Some spin-offs successfully manage to create universes of their own, but mostly they are just like the weaker, shrivelled up conjoined twin that is desperately trying to survive attached to the side of the viable sibling. Because of this image, I have a very difficult time reviewing spin-offs neutrally, and this will affect my views on this show too.
My first reaction to Ravenswood was "oh no, not good". The main problem is that the story still feels like a sub-plot to PLL, a mystery that Caleb is supposed to solve on his own in about five episodes before he returns back to Hannah/PLL. What are the people behind Ravenswood planning? That this show has enough material to go on for six-seven seasons until Caleb is in his early 30s?
To my knowledge this series has gotten an order of 10 episodes so far. That could work; a mini-series that expands the PLL universe a little on the side, and explains a few of its unanswered mysteries. But a show on its own? Nope. Of course, the further the show goes on, the more the story will develop and find its own path. It has a mystery of its own, unrelated to case Allison. Maybe I should give it a chance, wait to see which direction it takes, and not compare it too much with PLL. But at the moment I just can't imagine that anything the writers cook up will take this show out of the shadow of PLL. Even though Caleb is "just" Hannah's boyfriend, he is still quite central to the PLL story. And because of that, his presence in Ravenswood brings a part of PLL with him. On top of that, the fact that the town is a mysterious place that has appeared in PLL before, makes Ravenswood (the show) seem too much like a little sister to PLL, instead of a separate companion show. Ravenswood's characters and their fates are just too strongly connected to Pretty Little Liars to be compelling on their own. It's also a shame that the most loved couple on PLL, Hannah and Caleb, has been broken up by sending him away from Rosewood.
Unfortunately, to me, the premise behind Ravenswood seems too forced. It's like someone decided that a new show is needed, and to make it easier for the audience to embrace, they decided to spin it off from PLL. But because there was no large unexplored avenue of the story to follow, or a character whose background to dig around in, they decided to make shit up; create a nearby town, add spooky stuff, tie in a few PLL episodes with this town, send in one of the less important PLL characters, and presto, a new show is created. However, because of the earlier ties between Ravenswood (the town) and PLL, it feels like the umbilical cord between the two shows has not been severed. If Ravenswood (the show) had been created without any PLL connection, it might be able to try to make a life on its own. But now it must somehow maintain at least some kind of a link to PLL. It's like the creators needed an excuse to write a show that rides on the success wave of Pretty Little Liars, and the result was Ravenswood. If one creates a spin-off, there needs to be a very good reason for it; a really good character or story line to study in a new show. Ravenswood seems to have neither.
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