August 28, 2013



Whenever The Killing feels badly about how abused it gets for being a lame murder mystery dotted with time-wasting red herrings, it can look over at TWISTED to boost its morale.  With the help of the biggest lead-in ABCFamily has to offer in Pretty Little Liars, Twisted managed to keep its ratings decent enough for a back-order renewal (to begin in January), but the content of the drama has shown little if any improvement since its mediocre debut.

The situation is very much the way it was when we arrived in Green Grove, New York.  16-year old Danny Desai (Avan Jogia) has been released from juvie after serving 5 years for the strangling murder of his aunt–a crime he admits, but with a motive he absolutely refuses to reveal.  He won’t even tell his best friends, Jo (Madelaine Hassan) and Lacey (Kylie Bunbury), who had vowed to stay away from him when he came back home, a plan that didn’t last long.  Although Twisted, created by Adam Milch, throws around definitions of “sociopath” every now and again to create the illusion that maybe Danny really is dangerous, he’s barely even a surly bad-boy, more like the one most likely to become a really cool high school English teacher.  For their parts, both Jo and Lacey are drawn to Danny’s lustrous hair and air of injured innocence (Lacey with more success than Jo).  That injury got stronger when fellow student Regina was murdered at the end of the pilot, with all evidence inevitably pointing at him.  Since then, the trio have gone all teen detective, uncovering very little beyond the fact that dead Regina was getting cash from an unknown source and had a connection with a Connecticut apartment owned by Danny’s supposedly dead father.  (The “revelation” that dad was actually alive, saved for the last seconds of the finale, was about as anticlimactic a reveal as any TV thriller has had lately.)

Twisted is plotted with painful sluggishness, and Jo and Lacey do little more than alternate between bonding and dissing.  The supporting characters are worse, including Jo’s nerdish lapdog-like Mathlete buddy Rico (Ashton Moio), and Lacey’s mean jock ex Archie (Grey Damon), who framed Danny for a school poisoning.  The only character who threatened to become interesting was Tyler (Chris Zylka), an aspiring filmmaker who was merrily exploiting Danny for his own purposes, but he’s become so suspicious that he might as well hand out cards that read “Am I the Killer or a Red Herring?  Pick One.”  Hassan is the most impressive of the young performers, although in their defense, there’s little in the material to help them out.  The season finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Debra J. Fisher and directed by Joe Lazarov, had Jo and Lacey furious with each other yet again (a video of Lacey making out with Danny had gone viral), but soon to bond over another piece of seemingly damning evidence against Danny, a murder weapon generously loaded with his fingerprints.

The show fares slightly better with its adults.  Jo’s father the sheriff (Sam Robards) has become more tolerable since he stopped being Danny’s implacable foe (although now the show has added a private detective from Connecticut to supposedly assist him, and she’s so clearly shady that she might as well be Tyler’s mother–and who knows, maybe she is).  Denise Richards, as Danny’s mother, subverted expectations by actually turning out to be seemingly decent.  And Jo’s mother (Kimberly Quinn) is the closest Twisted has to a character worth watching.

There’s nothing wrong with being a tawdry soap made up of teen sex and murder, as long as it’s done well.  Milch, though, doesn’t supply real sexiness or any kind of compelling mystery, and the result is utterly flat.  With ratings that last night couldn’t even hold half of its Pretty Little Liars lead-in, Twisted isn’t likely to have more than its winter order to prove that it can figure itself out.  Otherwise, it’ll be time for the express buss out of Green Grove.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."