ABC Family has cornered the market on shows featuring alternative versions of domestic life. There’s “The Fosters,” a series about multi-ethnic kids, both biological and from foster care, being raised by lesbians. “Baby Daddy” is a comedy about a young, single father. “Bunheads” (now cancelled) explores what happens to the familial ties between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law after the son/husband dies while “Switched at Birth” takes a look at two families who are forced to deal with the fact that they have been raising each other’s daughters thanks to a mix-up at the hospital. No matter how you define “family” programming, these are edgy choices. It’s not a surprise then that the latest addition to the ABC family schedule is “Twisted,” a drama about a boy who returns to his hometown after spending five years in juvenile detention. His crime? He killed his Aunt.
We meet Danny Desai (Avan Jogia) as an eleven-year old. His best friends Lacey Porter (Kylie Bunbury) and Jo Masterson (Maddie Hasson) are playing on a swing set when Danny emerges from a house carrying a red jump rope. He cryptically tells them he “had to do it.” Fast forward five years and Danny, whose admission is taken as a confession that he killed his Aunt Tara, returns to his hometown and enrolls in high school where he catches up with the now 16 year-old Lacey and Jo. Lacy is popular and Jo quietly gets by on the fringes of teenage society.
It wouldn’t be much of a show if Lacey and Jo refused to speak to Danny so their animosity toward him is quickly resolved. Then Lacey’s friend is killed and Danny, being the town’s resident murderer, is the prime suspect. Jo decides to play amateur sleuth to clear his name while Lacey isn’t quite as committed. This subplot is not as interesting as the mystery of why Danny killed Aunt Tara, who, if her expression in the family portrait is anything to go by, doesn’t look like she’s a candidate for Aunt of the Year.
Why did Danny do it? The answer, of course, is the mystery that drives the show and the writers do a good job of slowly teasing clues. The teenage dialogue is sharp with sarcasm and dark humor and Jogia especially, commands his scenes. Denise Richards, as Danny’s mother, adds a certain amount of soap opera melodrama that often makes it feel like she’s on a different show. But it also prevents the plot from taking itself too seriously.
I know what you’re thinking: Why would a mother insist her son return to the scene of the crime? Turns out, murderer’s homes aren’t in high demand. Richards, in her best attempt at not being wooden, explains that they couldn’t sell the house. It’s a believable excuse that allows the story to move forward.
The main reason to watch however, is Jogia who plays Danny with a combination of charm and dark mystery. He’s convincingly normal. Or is he? Thanks mainly to his performance, the series has just enough of a “twisted” storyline to make you want to find out why Aunt Tara met her end.
“Twisted” is on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on ABC Family.