Freeform Prepares for Life Without 'Pretty Little Liars' 

by Marc Berman  |  04.19.2017

As it prepares to say good-bye to Pretty Little Liars, Freeform has picked up five new primetime series, including its first Marvel-themed comedy.

“With compelling programming and innovative viewing experiences that combine linear with on-demand, Freeform is redefining what it means to be a television network for today’s consumer,” said Freeform President Tom Ascheim.

The breakdown is three new dramas — Siren, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger (trailer above) and The Bold Type; new single-camera comedy Alone Together; and Marvel’s New Warriors, a new comedic live-action adaptation of the Marvel comic featuring young adult heroes.

New Dramas

Siren hopes to capitalize on the Pretty Little Liars’ formula of intrigue and suspense as the arrival of a mysterious girl (Eline Powell) who shakes up life at fictional coastal town Bristol Cove. Although unlike the pretty little liars, this girl is actually a mermaid.

Cloak & Dagger follows the interracial romance between Tandy Bowen (Olivia Holt) and Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), who come from different backgrounds. Each of them has grown up with a secret and each realizes they are better off working as a team: Tandy can emit light daggers and Tyrone has the ability to engulf others in darkness.

The Bold Type showcases the so-called outrageous lives and loves of young women working at global women’s magazine, Scarlet, starring Transparent and The Office’s Melora Hardin as the hard-as-nails editor. Think Amy Schumer’s job in Trainwreck or Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

New Comedies

Alone Together features Esther Povitsky (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Benji Aflalo (Not Safe with Nikki Glaser) as platonic best friends who want nothing more than to be accepted by the vain and status-obsessed culture of Los Angeles.

And Marvel’s New Warriors is about six young people with powers living and working together.

Freeform also is launching weekly half-hour late-night talk show Truth & Iliza, hosted by Iliza Schlesinger (who also hosted the Freeform upfront presentation), which will be themed around a single question that she will attempt to answer through a mix of studio and field pieces. It premieres on Tuesday, May 2 at 10 p.m. ET.

In development is the cable net’s first potential new animated comedy, Sticks, which is described as Daria meets HBO’s Girls.

Recently debuting on Freeform out of the final episodes of Pretty Little Liars is Famous in Love, based on the book by Rebecca Serle, which follows an ordinary college student (Bella Thorne) who gets her big break after auditioning in a Hollywood movie and now must navigate life as the new “It Girl.”

In other words, the emphasis at Freeform is on a combination of properties targeted to young females active in social media who the network is hoping will a) like to laugh, and is b) still interested in a good, meaty mystery, and c) will post all about their passion on social media.

Of course, the real question Freeform is pondering is what life will look like without Pretty Little Liars, which closes its landmark seven-season run on June 20. While never a notable hit by the traditional Nielsen ratings, Pretty Little Liars is a social-media poster child, demonstrating why Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr all matter. The drama consistently placed in the top five among the most talked-about shows on Twitter on a weekly basis, and it has given Freeform a platform rich in social interest.

Once Pretty Little Liars does ultimately end, finding the next “Must Tweet” social hit may not be all that easy.

“One show can change the fate, or at least the perception of an entire network, which is exactly what Pretty Little Liars did for Freeform,” noted media consultant Bill Carroll. “Like any breakout hit, in this case based on social media, Freeform might have a challenge finding that next big thing. Only time will tell if any of these new shows resonate. But based on the descriptions of these new properties, Freeform does understand who its audience is and there seems to be an added attempt to attract more young males.”

Freeform, additionally, has announced the “Freeform’s Summer Fling” for summer 2018, which will be a two-day celebration with performances, panels and meet-and-greets curated by influencers within music, comedy and pop culture. Highlights will be available on all digital and social platforms.

The cable net also will introduce the tentatively titled Hollywood Movie Night with Karlie Kloss, featuring supermodel Karlie Kloss and her friends offering commentary around their favorite movies. Freeform is partnering with Time Inc.’s People to develop multiple original scripted movies based on celebrity, pop culture and entertainment news. And the network’s popular “25 Days of Christmas” will be highlighted by holiday special Decorating Disney, which will showcase the transformation of all 12 Disney theme parks, four cruise ships and resorts into winter wonderlands.

Freeform’s original movie slate will include Angry Angel (working title) in December 2017, the story of a young woman who tries to get back to heaven after she messes up; and Life-Size 2, starring Tyra Banks, in December 2018, a sequel to Disney movie Life-Size.

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