A Ravenswood Community
ABC Family (ended 2014)


Since it first debuted the college-set series Greek in 2007, ABC Family has continued to make a name for itself with original scripted programming. It's no longer a network just for children, and it's got a lot more going on than the long-running 13 Days of Halloween celebration. Most notably is the ever-popular Pretty Little Liars, which centers on a group of teen girls drawn together by a dead friend and a network of secrets and lies. The series is still going strong four seasons in, despite an increasingly convoluted web of red herrings and deceit. And to network executives, that sort of set-up means one thing: spin-off! Enter Ravenswood, the supernatural baby cousin of Pretty Little Liars that premiered tonight on the heels of PLL's annual Halloween special.

Not every successful TV series needs or deserves a spin-off. Sometimes they do very well—think Frasier, a spin-off of Cheers that ran for 11 seasons, or Angel, a darker and more adult spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that stood on its own for five seasons. But sometimes they tank, like Joanie Loves Chachi (a spin-off of Happy Days), or Caprica (a prequel spin-off of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica that lasted only one season), or, as NBC knows all too well, Joey (a spin-off of Friends). It's often difficult to tell whether or not a spin-off will succeed, but there are two essential pieces to the puzzle that must be present for a spin-off of the non-CSI variety to be successful: 1.) a compelling and charismatic lead character, and 2.) an interesting premise.

Sometimes a very strong character can help balance a shaky premise and vice versa, but that's not always the case. The CW is currently experiencing this problem with The Originals, it's new spin-off The Vampire Diaries; even though Klaus was an interesting character and fan favorite on TVD, he's not necessarily a good lead, and we still don't know whether the series will be successful. But does a spin-off even have a chance if both its lead character and its premise start out weak? Well, early on, that's what Ravenswood will be trying to find out.


Let me get this out of the way early: I really enjoyed Ravenswood's pilot. But I have a number of concerns about whether it marks the beginning of a compelling show. Bear with me.

Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn) has been a supporting player on Pretty Little Liars for a few seasons now. He's the boyfriend of one of the show's four main characters, Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson), but he's essentially still a mystery to viewers. We know he grew up in foster homes and was only recently reunited with both of his birth parents, and we know he's pretty great at hacking technology, but we don't know much else. This makes Caleb a great choice to lead a spin-off, but also a terrible one. His backstory is still vague enough that it's possible his family linage leads back to Ravenswood, and since hasn't got much of a family, he can easily leave PLL's Rosewood to hop a bus to the spooky town next door. But no matter his likability index, I don't think he's a strong-enough character on his own to anchor his own show.

What's more, it's very clear that Ravenswood is ABC Family's answer to the popular supernatural genre that's been successful for The CW in the past; the network is attempting to capitalize on the momentum created by the vampires, werewolves, and witches craze before everyone finally has had enough of it and it dies out. And that's okay—if you like that sort of thing. Lucky for ABC Family, I am unashamed to admit my love for all things teen drama and all things supernatural. Mixing the two is basically my kryptonite. And I think Ravenswood probably checks enough boxes that it will be a successful series for the network, whose target demographic is generally younger than the broadcast networks'. But that doesn't mean it's that good yet. 


The premise of the series revolves around a mysterious curse that's affected the town of Ravenswood for generations. The pilot was very confusing in both the set-up and the execution of this story; Caleb arrived in town with a new character named Miranda (Nicole Gale Anderson), and the two are apparently friendly enough that he's staying in town to protect her at Hanna's request. As I'm writing this, Pretty Little Liars' annual Halloween special has yet to air—it wasn't screened for press—and I assuming that some of the Ravenswood pilot's more head-scratchy elements will make sense once I've seen it. But even as a PLL fan I felt like I'd just walked into a French class after taking Spanish for three years. You recognize similar patterns, but it's still confusing. I can only imagine that non-PLL viewers were pretty lost.

The pilot attempted to introduce both characters and explain their reasons for being in Ravenswood via a voiceover at the beginning of the episode. The bottom line is that it wasn't enough, and that's bad. If seasoned fans of the parent series are confused, new viewers who stumble across the spin-off while flipping channels—or who think the premise sounds interesting on paper—don't even stand a chance. We all hate it when spin-offs spend a lot of time rehashing things we learned in the original series, but it's a simple necessity, and Ravenswood seems to have forgotten that.

One element of Ravenswood that both PLL and non-PLL fans are equally in the dark about is the mysterious curse that's supposed to be the entire foundation of the series—it was hardly explained in the pilot. On one hand, giving away too much information too soon would negate the need for a series at all, so that's somewhat forgivable. On the other hand, PLL has often struggled with the pacing of its mysteries—so the pilot's withholding of info isn't a good sign—not to mention the fact that the curse currently sounds pretty lame. Five teenagers all die after a soldier returns home from war unscathed, his entire troop having perished in combat. Repeat every X amount of years. Guys, that's like the most boring curse ever. There better be a damn good reason someone cursed this town. I want some ridiculous, juicy, totally teen-drama reason it even exists, because as it stands, there's nothing particularly compelling going on here. The moldy ghost woman that's haunting Caleb and Miranda is fun, and the car plunging into the river in the final moments of the pilot was fun, but we're going to need a lot more spooky, a lot more scary, and a lot more action-y things to happen before this story is actually worthy of a series. Pretty Little Liars has proven that it can still do shocking reveals (see: the Season 3 summer finale), so let's hope this trait carries over to Ravenswood.


On the character front, aside from a few standouts—particularly Britne Oldford's Remy, whose father runs the local newspaper and whose mother is an army vet who just returned from overseas (insert flashing neon arrow here)—the rest of the characters are rather bland. Miranda, who arrives in Ravenswood looking for her only living relative—her uncle, who put her in the foster care system at the age of three when her parents died—isn't all that interesting, and it's obvious her family story is going to be a main plot point, so that's kind of disappointing. She also complains a lot, and I didn't feel any emotion when she confronted her uncle about why he essentially abandoned her. Oddly enough, though the uncle character wasn't a big part of the pilot, he was one of its most intriguing figures. His name is Raymond (Steven Cabral), he runs a funeral home, and he's exactly the type of person you'd expect to run a funeral home in a creepy city plagued by a supernatural curse. So he's worth keeping an eye on for his quiet creepiness alone.

The remaining two characters, siblings Luke (Brett Dier) and Olivia (Merritt Patterson), recently lost their father, and the citizens of Ravenswood seem to believe that their mother murdered him, which makes them social outcasts. So far, I really like the idea of this particular storyline; the introduction, with the Black Widow spray-painted onto the tombstone, was full of potential. But other than that, we've only seen Luke and Olivia complain about it, and they have little to no personality. If the writers can flesh that out, it might make for a compelling arc. I must say that I did appreciate the Glee-esque slushie to Olivia's face during the parade, though. I would question why the parade was held at night, but this is Ravenswood, where people throw parties in cemeteries, so I'll chalk it up to weird town shenanigans and keep moving.


Overall, aside from the initial confusion due to Ravenswood's rushed set-up, the show is clearly its own series, with a different tone and feel than Pretty Little Liars. The events are also separate from the parent series, though I'm sure we'll see occasional cameos from the Rosewood girls—especially Hanna, considering her relationship with Caleb is still a thing (for now). But I don't think viewers need to like one show to like the other. Many people have already pointed out that it doesn't make sense for Ravenswood and Pretty Little Liars to exist in the same universe if only one of them has supernatural elements, but that's easily explained away: Just because the events of PLL aren't supernatural in nature doesn't mean that supernatural things don't exist in the show's world. It just means PLL's events are more rooted in human nature than weird magical phenomena. And besides, it's not like there are werewolves running around this new town—it's a curse and a rotting woman hiding behind curtains, trying to drown good-looking young men in bathtubs, or pulling Rebekah Mikaelsons and making cars swerve off of bridges to kill pretty teenagers. Ravenswood is like, supernatural-adjacent at best.

Ravenswood has a lot of work to do if it wants to become a weekly staple on DVRs across America, but because it's a series on ABC Family, that shouldn't actually be all that surprising. The show isn't trying to be perfect television. It's a teen drama in the same vein as most of the network's other programming. There's unintentionally hilarious dialogue, and almost everyone is making bad decisions, but for fans of the network and fans of PLL, it'll probably work just fine. If you're looking to ABC Family for serious quality programming, you should probably rethink your life choices anyway.



NOTES


– Would you stay in a town after seeing your name and face on a tombstone?

– You guys are so lucky I refrained from making an "unkindness of ravens" joke. 

– Life is more fun without context:

... "Come on, let's go take pictures of our tombstones." 

... "I don't want my best friend getting bugs in her teeth." 

... "Your wind had hands; my shower curtain had shoulders."


What'd you think of Ravenswood's series premiere?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 2/4/2014

Season 1 : Episode 10

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Why is there a shower curtain if they have no shower?!!!
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Okay okay its not that bad the first season of anything is a growing period, so I don't want it to be canceled i feel they have potential.
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I'm finally getting caught up with this show, and so far, liking it a lot, even if the dissonance between it and PLL keep catching up with me. I just had to say, if it were me driving the car on the bridge, I would totally end up running over wet demon girl (or Rebekah Mikaelson) while slamming on my brakes the whole way. I have never understood this particular tv trope of veering off a bridge to avoid a person in the road, possibly because I am from Michigan and "don't veer for deer" is programmed into us before we even get to driver's ed. And because anyone who walks in the middle of the road at night/low visibility is an idiot.
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I am not happy because they took Caleb off of a great show and put him on this. They're really messing with Hannah and Caleb relationship with that Miranda girl. I rather watch the lying game, Bun-heads, or especially TNLOCK. I am really voting for a second season of TNLOCK. Any way this show need to cancel so Caleb and Hanna relationship wont end. why didn't they chose Toby for ravenswood, he best suited for it about his mother past. Toby fit more in fro ravenswood.
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Ravenswood pilot was definitely not bad and I might even enjoyed it but the facts still remain; ABCfamily in desperate need to sell the viewers a spinoff series from their most successful show they managed to actually ruin Pretty little liars' credibility! They dared to alter PLL's premise of a non supernatural series so that they can call Ravenswood a spinoff. Genre wise they are in a completely different universe. The Halloween special of PLLs was ridiculous. So many unexplainable things happened that were simply ridiculous even for a halloween episode. Yes there was a great scene at the end that really moved the plot of the story, but the whole episode was filled with unsubstantial ideas of ghosts and curses, people magically disappearing and mystical entrances disappearing etc... ABCfamily really made a number on PLLs and I don't think it was worth it to ruin a solid show's credibility just to make a spinoff show.
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I wasn't impressed. I would have rather seen the second half of S2 of The Lying Game than this. Unfortuantely that just got cancelled, with a lot of potential left.
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and Bunheads
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bunheads :-(
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Well, I did kind of enjoy it and can definitely see the potential but how bad was the acting? Some of them seemed like they were in acting class or something and the ending was so cheesy. Lets hope it picks up as it finds its feet.
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I thought that the pilot was pretty good. A lot of mysteries were presented that intrigue me enough to stayed tuned and learn what they all entail. Caleb is not only staying because Hanna asked him. He's also staying because of the mystery of his family history (the headstone). He's not gonna walk away from that. It's a good thing he's in contact with dad and can ask questions.

1) the headstone --sure! I would want to know more about a relative that I resemble and was named after

2) I'm not even sure what the "unkindness of ravens" even means. I do know that ravens have a lot of mysticism and lore surrounding them. It is a bird of birth, death, and magic. It is also an omen. The sound a raven was believed to foretell a death or an outcome of a battle and for hot weather (expect it when a raven faces a clouded sun). They can also incorporate and mimic the calls of other species. Ravens are also not intimidated by others and are very fast and wary and are not easy prey for other animals and birds. They are also known for their amorous behavior.

3) why wouldn't you take a picture? You'd have proof and people wouldn't think you were nuts. It's too bad they didn't take the photos right away, but it was dark.

Because there was no voiceover, I did watch the episode of PLL (4.13) that spun off Ravenswood so I wasn't so confused. But I don't watch PLL so I was still confused as to why the girls even came to Ravenswood. I figured that was a minor detail and not really relevant to the Ravenswood storyline.

I liked Caleb and Miranda and I think they are strong enough characters to anchor a show. I can't wait until next week's resolution of the cliff hanger!

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a group of ravens is called an "unkindness of Ravens"
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Am I the only one who think it was actually ok ?
Probably cause I am not a huge fan of PLL, I stopped watching it at the 1st part of last season cause I was tired of getting no answers.

Ravenswood is totally different, ok 2 characters come from PLL, but aside that it has its own mythology that can't be built in one pilot.
At least as it's a supernatural show, I won't be waiting for explanations or answers that will never come....or to be specific a great part has been already given in the pilot.
It has to do with the city under water, and the 5 youngsters killed cause of the return of a soldier.
YES! It has no meaning at all, but still we got answers.

It was an ok pilot for someone like me and for a friend of mine (who never watched PLL). I think this kind of show can only work with people like us, but not with people who want to see a link between the 2 shows.

Maybe people who have like it better if it has nothing to do with PLL in the first place and had watch it for what it is, a tentative of supernatural show with teenagers.

I don't say I will stick with it but I will at least give it a try for a few more episodes.
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That was the silliest pilot I have ever seen... Now, I've never watched PLL so maybe I am at a disadvantage here but still...

I do not find the leads interesting enough... and that is always a problem with me.

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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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I suppose a pilot doesn't work for me if I'm playing freecell and constantly looking at the clock. I felt like I had been watching for an hour, and it was only 9:23.

Caleb was meh, I just don't get why he needed to be there in the first place. Miranda seemed like an awful actress, and I cringed in the scene where she explained the puddle that disappeared to Caleb.

I want to like it because I love supernatural teen stuff, but I wasn't really interested in this one. I guess I'll give it another try.
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What's funny is,that in PLL Caleb and Miranda are there in middle of the night,when he sees his tombstone and here they are in daylight...so did those 2 idiots stood in same place for hours looking around each other? :D

Wow,was Caleb weird in this episode. Now he just wants answers,gets in fights,etc. And then in last scene he is screaming like a little girl "HEELP!!! HELLLP, I AM LEAD ACTOR IN THIS SHOW,I CAN'T DIEEE!!!! :D Also car isn't even fully submerged....*sigh*
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I liked Miranda a lot more in the Halloween special than the pilot but I still think she's a pretty good character. FAR better than the bland twins who don't appear to have an ounce of presence in their bodies. Overall, it was fine but I don't feel like I ever have to watch another episode. I'll just assume they all died, the show ended and that's that.
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The exposition was crazy thick in the narration at the beginning and it continued likewise throughout the entire episode. I didn't really think that Miranda was a good enough reason for Caleb to stay, I was left thinking oh, is that all? But I think the characters were't completely unredeemable and if anything their individual family plot lines might be interesting.
The pilot may have suffered from a little bit of predictability and it lacks a little of the one-liner comedy that keeps PLL light but I'm sure it'll probably find it's groove.
Honestly I didn't mind the pilot.
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I'll preface this by saying that I don't watch PLL. That being said, perhaps this helped the confusion because I just accepted that I would have no idea who these people were or what they were doing in this town together. However, confusion is the least of this pilot's worries. The exposition in this was atrocious. The black widow scene was particularly egregious on that front. Also, I can't tell if the acting is terrible or if that was a by-product of the terrible writing, but at this point, I don't care enough to watch long enough to find out. This pilot was a painful mess. If the caliber of writing on this is similar to PLL then thank God I don't watch it.
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First of all: that was one creepy uncle.
I really enjoyed the pilot.
Of course we know nothing about the characters yet, it´s just the pilot, too soon to be revealing something, it´s all too vague, I think that´s the point of the having a whole tv show right?
And you forgot to mention about the flood, and I think that´s going to be a major thing.
I just really REALLY hope it won´t end up with everybody being dead. Fingers crossed.
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It didn't draw me in like PLL did. I think to make it work they need to up the creep factor. The Halloween ep of PLL had more scares and tension. This needs to take a few pages from American Horror Story and leave me creeped out.

If it doesn't work out I hope it happens quick so Caleb can magically return to Rosewood.
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I loved the way the first episode ended its different from pretty little liars and interesting I think pretty little liars in all was better
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the pilot was very good, it totally different from PLL , curses, ghosts, demons this looks good!! providing the explanation is valid oh by the way Kaitlin THE ORIGINALS is awesome Klaus is a good lead but IMO Marcel also shares the lead
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I really like The Originals! But it's been flip flopping in quality a bit. I think the problem is also that I like Marcel so much, that I'm starting to root for him instead of Klaus. (I also miss Elijah terribly. And I haven't seen last night's episode yet, so keep all that in mind).
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it looks like the writers of ravenswood saw the movie "the ring " wayyyy tooo many times, I can't belive they took caleb out from PLL for that. also stop casting pretty people who can't act, I don't know why hanna flet the need to protect miranda where all I wanted to do is punch her out.
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you saw pretty people in the pilot? WHERE?!?
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The live airing didn't even give us that voiceover so that probably didn't help matters.

And why bring up the season three summer finale???? The obsession that stemmed from that episode.......

I'm not sold yet, but I'll give the show a couple of episodes. I think PLL was definitely helped by having the book series to go off so I think it'll take them a few more episodes to get their footing.
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They didn't give you the voiceover?!? WTF.
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Nope. I think it was because they were marketing it as a two-hour event so it segued from the end of PLL to the next morning instantaneously.
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i guess i'll find out tomorrow night. if not. then i guess it wasn't meant to be. i am a big fan of PLL. of all the guys there, i like Caleb the best. so i am interested in this new show... if its good as PLL. then why not follow the show religiously.
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i love caleb too! and I love the new girl miranda already! I'm sure you'll love it! :)
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yeah. i know the new girl from the tv series jonas at disney channel. but why did she have to die? will all of them die too?
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the creators of the ravenswood spinoff apparently looked at the rule "don't mix incompatible story genres" and said f*ck you! so now, we've gone from pretty little liars' "i know what you did last summer" ripoff murder mystery genre to ravenswood's "the grudge" ripoff horror/mystery? dude, seriously, wtf!? we might as well steal shawn spencer from "psych" and use his crime solving abilities on "supernatural" to help sam & dean. no? well, that makes about as much sense as taking hot, super-hacker sidekick caleb from the world of romance/murder/mystery and dropping him one town over so he can experience "poltergeist" meets "final destination". seriously, who gives a f*ck who "a" is now, or what's happening to allison -- if f*cking DEMONS, GHOSTS and EVIL CURSES suddenly exist and are roaming in the next town? wtf were they thinking? they better explain this or give themselves a cactus enema.
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Give us some sort of clues as to where one thought ends and another begins. Capitals at the beginnings of sentences...something. Otherwise, it just looks like you're on speed and have mental diarrhea.
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It's never too late to start changing who you are, Stan. I don't generally comment in here, but I read a lot. You strike me as someone who never has anything nice to say.
You're a good-looking guy. You are obviously intelligent. You seem to know a good deal about television shows, which makes you a good candidate for this site. Why not use those talents to keep this community a positive one? There's no need to go around belittling people with whom you don't agree, or whose style you don't favor. You don't need to always be the first in line to point out coding mistakes or design flaws, either. Just show a little kindness to people. I promise you'll enjoy life a lot more...and so will those around you.
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Thank you for your input. I'll take it under consideration. I will respectfully point out that a site devoted to review and critique of TV shows is going to attract those who are interested in review and critique. And if someone can't receive that feedback as well as give it, they are too thin skinned to be on a site that provides it.
I encourage, compliment, and admire where I think it's deserved - and despite your claim, I do have a good deal nice to say. My responses to Jen, Tim, Lily, MaryAnn, Cory, Noel, Kaitlin and Price are usually positive. And you have no way to determine how often I add a thumbs up to a post, but the posters do.
I don't pull my punches, however, and while I can click the thumbs up, there's no thumbs down. There's no real difference in saying Super Fun Night nauseates and saying the post I've just read is difficult to decipher. Both are a result of the producer failing to connect with his audience. As to coding mistakes, the "squeaky wheel" proverb is apt. The positive and quick responsiveness of the TV.com staff bears that out.
I assure you I enjoy life - both the joy and the pain of it - and if my criticisms provoke backlash, they also get a lot of approval from others who agree. If I were to base my comments on polling, I'd be more aggressive than I am. I am generally content with the responses I get, including yours. I can't expect thick skin if I don't have it myself.
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(K)iss (M)y (A)ss. and if it's not too much trouble -- (G)o (F)uck (Y)ourself...

sorry about that, i meant to type polite grammatically correct words, but ya' know, having mental diarrhea and all. i couldn't help myself.
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U mad bro? I'm just saying that either (1) you're only concerned with expressing yourself and don't care if anyone sees it, or (2) you really do want to communicate, in which case you could make it easier on those who read your contribution. Why should anyone work to understand you if you're not going to work to get your message across?
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