June 12, 2013



TWISTED:  Tuesday 9PM on ABCFamily – If Nothing Else Is On…

ABCFamily’s TWISTED has an arresting premise.  11-year old Danny Desai was arrested and convicting for strangling his aunt to death while she was babysitting him and his two best friends Jo and Lacey.  (The crime is committed off-screen and out of Jo and Lacey’s presence, so all manner of surprises are possible down the road.)  Now, 5 years later, Danny (grown into hunky Avan Jogia) has served his juvenile sentence and, released from jail, he’s come back home, where he’s a high school pariah–his insta-nickname is “Socio”–and before long the prime suspect in another murder.  Meanwhile, he tries to rekindle his friendship with smart, sensitive Jo (now Maddie Hasson, who played the gypsy girl on last season’s The Finder) and popular Lacey (Kylie Bunbury), who’ve also become estranged from each other over the years.

What Twisted lacks, at least in its pilot, is–well, a killer instinct.  Unlike the somewhat similarly plotted Bates Motel, Adam Milch’s script gives Danny some sardonic dialogue, but it’s not willing to lean too far into black humor or subversive storytelling.  Despite the probable red herrings (the second victim was robbed of her necklace, which used to belong to Danny’s aunt and which, we learn at the end of the pilot, Danny now has), Danny doesn’t exude much of a potential threat.  He seems like a fairly standard-issue teen anti-hero, one far more likely to be the innocent victim of a conspiracy than a brutal sociopathic killer.  Similarly, the show is in too much of a hurry to reunite him with Jo and Lacey, who are basically buddies with him once again by the end of the pilot, despite any lingering doubts they have about him and five years of their own issues.  All too quickly, Twisted seems to be reducing itself to a surprisingly bland teen murder mystery.  (It doesn’t help that director Jon Amiel brings little visual flair to the pilot.)

Of course, it’s still early, and perhaps Milch has some narrative tricks up his sleeve.  The three leads are all likable, even if each of them seems to fit neatly into a high school movie/TV type (there’s also a nerdy best friend for Jo, and although we haven’t yet him, we know that Lacey has a jock boyfriend, so most of the Breakfast Club archetypes are covered).  Adults include Sam Robards as Jo’s father, who happens to be Chief of Police, and Denise Richards as Danny’s formerly socialite mother, as well as a guest spot for Kathy Najimy as the school psychology teacher (she’s on hand to provide a definition for “sociopath” for those viewers who need it).  Presumably any or all of these will be potential suspects at some point during the season.

In a way, Twisted is an example of how far TV drama has come, even the most populist kind, over the past decade.  It would once have seemed daring merely to center a teen drama around a character convicted of murder as a child, but now that’s only mildly titillating, and we want deeper, more disturbing shocks from our dark serials.  Perhaps Twisted is just getting started, and will have plenty of those to offer.  And even with its apparent flaws, there’s this:  as convicted-murderer-returning-to-suspicious-small-town dramas go, Twisted is already far more enjoyable than Rectify.


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."