Even though trick-or-treating won’t happen until next week, ABC Family is getting its ghoul on early on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with a Halloween-themed episode of its teen mystery drama “Pretty Little Liars” and the premiere of its spinoff series, “Ravenswood.”
Loosely based on Sara Shepard’s popular series of novels, “Pretty Little Liars” stars Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Janel Parrish and Shay Mitchell as Spencer, Hanna, Aria, Mona and Emily, respectively, high-school pals in Rosewood, Pa., probing the disappearance and supposed death of school “Queen Bee” Alison (Sasha Pieterse) after receiving messages from the mysterious “A” (later revealed to maybe be teacher Ezra Fitz, played by Ian Harding), who threatens to expose their secrets.
Earlier in the current Season 4, the nearby college town of Ravenswood was introduced as a place where strange things happen.
In “Grave New World,” Emily, Hanna, Spencer and Aria — decked out in World War I-era (or “Downton Abbey”-era) costumes — are in Ravenswood, along with Ezra and Hanna’s boyfriend, troubled loner and former foster kid Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn).
They crash the town’s Founders Day Celebration after finding a clue in “A’s” lair that Alison may still be alive (as, of course, she is). Meanwhile, Caleb meets a kindred soul named Miranda (Nicole Gale Anderson).
Also on hand is the mysterious Carla Grunwald (Meg Foster), a former sorority house mother at Ravenswood’s Cicero College.
Caleb decides to stay for a while, leading into the premiere of “Ravenswood” — from the same creative team as “PLL” — in which he joins forces with Miranda and three others (Brett Dier, Britne Oldford and Merritt Patterson) linked by a fatal curse connected to the town’s terrible history. Also starring are Steven Cabral and Foster.
While “Pretty Little Liars” shoots on the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, Calif., “Ravenswood” films in New Orleans. In fact, executive producer Oliver Goldstick is worried about the last filming location.
“I don’t even know what city I’m in,” he tells Zap2it. “I was in New Orleans, in a cemetery, until 4 o’clock. Please tell me that no one’s going to realize that in Pennsylvania, we don’t bury people in tombs that are 6 feet high. Please tell me the audience won’t notice. The cemetery is beautiful, but it is definitely distinctive.”
Blackburn, who has left behind a job where he got to film in his hometown for the strange environs of the Big Easy, isn’t as concerned about the location.
“Ravenswood is such a strange town,” he says. “It’s very ‘Twilight Zone’-esque, so I feel like it’s totally plausible. It’s not like any other town. The heart of the town is not what it seems on the outside. The look of the cemetery is the least of their problems.”
But Goldstick is able to tie the cemetery — built as it is because people can’t be buried below ground in the below-sea-level New Orleans — into the history he’s created for Ravenswood.
“There’s a line in the first episode,” he says, “that talks about a flood that came through Ravenswood at the turn of the century, like the Johnstown Flood, that was devastating. The town never was the same after.
“There’s a line of demarcation on the walls where the flood hit. It’s been immortalized through plaques and memorials. So maybe, I’m just praying, sitting in the cemetery thinking maybe the audience will go, ‘Of course, with that flood, why would you put people in the ground?’ “
Says Blackburn, “It’s a very spiritual and haunting show. It’s about ghosts and death and the loss that this town has come in contact with.”