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As The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reported earlier this month, a new take on the former Freeform hit has been picked up straight to series at HBO Max. Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is spearheading the series, which is titled Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. Aguirre-Sacasa will co-write the series alongside his Chilling Adventures of Sabrina collaborator Lindsay Calhoon Bring. Original series creator I. Marlene King is not involved.
Here’s how HBO Max describes the new take on PLL: “Twenty years ago, a series of tragic events almost ripped the blue-collar town of Millwood apart. Now, in the present day, a group of disparate teen girls — a brand-new set of Little Liars — find themselves tormented by an unknown assailant and made to pay for the secret sin their parents committed two decades ago … as well as their own. In the dark, coming-of-RAGE, horror-tinged drama Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, we find ourselves miles away from Rosewood, but within the existing Pretty Little Liars universe — in a brand-new town, with a new generation of Little Liars.”
Original Sin comes a mere three years after Pretty Little Liars wrapped its seven-season run and a year after its second spinoff was canceled at Freeform. PLL is considered a legacy title for Warner Bros. TV, which is the studio on the franchise. The young-adult-focused mystery thriller aired across the globe and spawned a couple of local adaptations. The flagship was a star-maker and social media monster and helped to launch the careers of castmembers including Lucy Hale, Tyler Blackburn and Shay Mitchell.
“We’re such huge fans of what I. Marlene King and her iconic cast created, we knew that we had to treat the original series as #canon and do something different,” Aguirre-Sacasa and Bring said in a joint statement Thursday. “So, we’re leaning into the suspense and horror in this reboot, which hopefully will honor what the fans loved about the hit series, while weaving in new, unexpected elements.”
The original series ran for seven seasons from 2010-2016 and helped to define the former ABC Family and set the tone for the Disney-owned cable network’s rebranding to Freeform under former president Tom Ascheim. Freeform attempted to launch two spinoffs out of the franchise — Pretty Little Liars: Ravenswood (2014) and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists (2019). Each lasted a single season.
The Perfectionists, it’s worth noting, was not originally designed to serve as a PLL offshoot. The series was based on the book by Sara Shepard and had King attached. Eventually, the decision was made to connect the two properties and feature original stars Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish reprising their characters who had grown up and were now attending college. Freeform’s decision to cancel The Perfectionists came as a shock last year considering PLL had been a network-defining franchise. The cabler instead leaned into scripted originals that were more grounded in reality and social issues facing its core 18-34 audience including Grown-ish, The Bold Type and Good Trouble, among others.
Aguirre-Sacasa, meanwhile, is one of Warners’ top showrunners. Last year, the Riverdale architect and Archie Comics content chief inked a rich overall deal with the studio behind his CW hit. The showrunner has had a tough summer that featured Riverdale offshoots Katy Keene — which starred former PLL favorite Hale — and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina canceled at The CW and Netflix, respectively. The former lasted one season, while the latter will wrap its run later this year after four seasons. ABC also passed on Aguirre-Sacasa’s Dracula drama The Brides.
Sources note that Aguirre-Sacasa is looking to spread his wings and branch out beyond his frequent collaborations with Greg Berlanti, who also exec produced Sabrina, Katy Keene and The Brides. Still, sources say, Aguirre-Sacasa is prepping another project set in the Archie-verse and the duo continue to collaborate on Riverdale, which returns for its fifth season in 2021 on The CW.
Alloy Entertainment’s Leslie Morgenstein and Gina Girolamo will exec produce the drama, as they did with all previous incarnations of the franchise. (Alloy controls the rights to the series and any offshoots.)
As for PLL mastermind King, she oversaw all three series as part of her former overall deal with Warners. After spending a decade with Warners, King departed the indie studio last year for a lucrative pact with Disney-owned 20th TV.
News of Aguirre-Sacasa’s new take on PLL arrives after Hale told ET in May that she felt that “when the time comes that they want to do it with a whole new cast, I might have to produce it because I’m way too protective of it.” It’s unclear if she will have any involvement with the new take.
The new PLL will join a roster of scripted originals at HBO Max including the new take on former CW hit Gossip Girl, a new take on Dune, an animated update of Gremlins and a growing roster of DC Comics-inspired fare including Doom Patrol, Green Lantern, Justice League Dark and Peacemaker, the Suicide Squad prequel.
“Roberto and Lindsay are expanding the Pretty Little Liars universe with more murder, mysteries, and scandal, and we can’t wait,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of originals at HBO Max.
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