We Finally Know Why Pretty Little Liars Got Canceled

When Pretty Little Liars debuted, there was a lot going on. The outfits were questionable, the eyebrows were thin, Instagram had just been born, and Kim Kardashian got married to Kris Humphries. The 2010s were, without question, rough, which makes our fascination with overly dramatic teenage shows like PLL that much more understandable.

The iconic show that premiered in 2010 grabbed teenagers' attention everywhere. Fans threw viewing parties and devised their own theories as to who "A" was. The show was filled with speculation and drama, from the surprising amount of death for a show designed for teens to a controversial teacher-student relationship that most definitely had some parents nervous. Pretty Little Liars retained a huge fan base, and with each season, the plot lines got crazier and crazier.

So it came as a shock and a sadness to fans when the show wrapped up after seven seasons on the air. The identity of "A" had changed more times than most could keep track of, and the show left plenty of unanswered questions and cliffhangers. So, here's everything you need to know, because we finally know why Pretty Little Liars got canceled.

Instead of a Season 8, fans of Pretty Little Liars were met with a cancelation

Yes, Pretty Little Liars existed for seven seasons. So if you were one of the fans who dropped off the watch list around Season 4, this might come as a surprise. But for the diehard fans who couldn't get enough of Rosewood, the news that there wouldn't be an eighth season came as a shock. As noted by Variety, the announcement of the show's cancelation came during a Facebook Live event with the show's creator, I. Marlene King, and the show's main cast members — Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, and Sasha Pieterse. The announcement was made half-way through the seventh season, with ten episodes and the two-hour season finale left. 

"Through brilliant storytelling, compelling characters and social media phenomena, Pretty Little Liars paved the way for television shows, writers and cast to interact and engage with audiences on a national and global scale like never before, which led the series to unparalleled success," Karey Burke, Freeform's executive vice president of programming and development, said about the show's ending. And, yes, the two-hour season finale was just as bonkers as you'd imagine. 

Pretty Little Liars didn't start off with the most positive critical response

While Pretty Little Liars was known for its plot and its drama and it had a loyal fan base, the show wasn't critically acclaimed. Shortly after its premiere, Pretty Little Liars was hit with a slew of criticism, including a pretty scathing review in the New York Post

"If you are a parent of someone addicted to Sara Shepherd's Pretty Little Liars young adult novels, have I got a show you will probably hate," the New York Post critique read. "For the same reason your daughter will likely fall for this pretty little silly show, you will want to keep her away from it. I mean, it's hard to believe that just last year, all she wanted was an American Girl doll — and now this!?!"

We see where the critic was coming from. Just in the premiere episode alone were drug use, an adult relationship with a minor, and, of course, a murder. The critique went on to say that the show had "no socially redeeming value," which is code for "this show is worth skipping." Not the best footing for a new show to start off on.

What about the storyline? Creators say that Pretty Little Liars had "run its course"

Pretty Little Liars had more twists than most of us could recall, and it left audiences with a lot of questions. That was something that the show's creator, I. Marlene King, was aware of because she addressed it when the announcement of the show's cancelation was made.

"I'm excited for fans to finally have all of their questions answered, and I believe they will be satisfied with the wild ride that is our last ten episodes," she said, noting that "ultimately, the story had run its course," according to Variety. But we're not so sure that the questions were answered, and some of the cast members were left with cliffhangers, too. 

Sasha Pieterse, who played Alison, told ET after the cancellation of a Pretty Little Liars spin-off that she had questions about her character's relationship status, among other things. "Ultimately I would have loved more closure for the fans and more answers for me," she said. "I don't know who killed Nolan. I know everybody has Emison questions, so I think what I've decided is to answer them myself." Pieterse is just one of many who have come to their own Pretty Little Liars conclusions.

Pretty Little Liars' creator turned her attention toward other projects

Here's something that might anger some of the Pretty Little Liars super fans out there — the network and the studio behind Pretty Little Liars wanted additional seasons of the show, but not everyone was on board. As noted by TheWrap, I. Marlene King, the show's creator, asked the cast who wanted to stay and who wanted to goUltimately, King set her sights on other projects. 

So what did King trade Pretty Little Liars for? A show starring Bella Thorne. "I am ... thrilled to embark on my next endeavor Famous In Love with Bella Thorne and for PLL fans to get wrapped up in Paige's rise to stardom and the pitfalls of Hollywood," she said, as noted by Variety. But the show was unsuccessful, and, as noted by Variety, it was canceled after two seasons. In a statement, Freeform said the network was proud to have aired the show, but that it would not be picked up for Season 3. "We want to thank our colleagues at Warner Horizon and our incredible producers, writers, cast and crew, especially Marlene King, for their creativity, hard work and dedication," the statement read.

Pretty Little Liars took a bit of a hit after this failed spinoff

Successful spin-offs are hard to pull off, there's no doubt about it. And Pretty Little Liars took a bit of a hit when its spinoff, Ravenswood, was canceled in 2014 after just one season. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, ABC Family canceled the show — which featured Pretty Little Liars' Tyler Blackburn in his same role as Caleb — after ten episodes. The show only raked in about 1.4 million viewers and never performed the way that Pretty Little Liars did. 

The spin-off focused on Blackburn's character, as well as on new personalities, and, of course, the town of Ravenswood, Pa., which had endured a curse for decades. The show was full of the same kind of twists and turns that Pretty Little Liars brought to the screen, and despite having the same creator and a lot of overlapping themes, Ravenswood didn't deliver. Blackburn returned to Pretty Little Liars shortly after the spin-off ended, but it was a bit of a hit to the show.

Some people believe that Pretty Little Liars should've ended after Season 2

Here's something that hits Pretty Little Liars hard — some viewers thought the show should've ended after Season 2. As noted by Bustle, the show's plot and any sense of realness that it had started to go downhill after the second season, specifically the series reveal that Mona was "A," the girls' online bully. And Bustle had a point. The show's plot after the second season was full of insanity that brought it from the realm of "this could potentially happen" to "this is bats**t crazy." 

Of course, the show's creator had other plans, though she didn't even have the idea of an "Uber A" until the beginning of Season 5. According to Troian Bellisario, who played Spencer, I. Marlene King let her in on the "Uber A" plan since it heavily involved her character. "Marlene took me aside and told me, 'I have an idea, but I don't know if the network will let me do it,'" Bellisario told Elle. "So I sat on it for over a year. Then at the end of season six, she said, 'We're going to do it.' It was like the starting gun at the races."

This Pretty Little Liars actress rebelled against the insanity of the show's plot for ages

It's hard to imagine that some of the cast members of Pretty Little Liars were against the show's plot, but, as noted by Elle, Troian Bellisario was. She told the magazine in a sit-down that she "beat [her] head" against the show and its insanity for a decent amount of time, and it was only after a conversation with one of the show's directors that her perspective began to change. 

The director in question, Norman Buckley, told Bellisario to focus on the very real emotional aspects of the show, rather than on the crazy plot. It was clearly what she needed to hear. "I think a lot about stories that are science fiction or fantasy. If your characters live in a world with dragons and magical powers, or in a world where we can easily travel through space and time, then your job is to play it for keeps," she said.  

Of course, there weren't any dragons in Pretty Little Liars, just a lot of high heels and back stabbing (and actual stabbing). We can imagine that script reads were pretty insane for the actors bringing the Pretty Little Liars world to life.

Pretty Little Liars' ratings were really beginning to drop

To the television world, ratings mean everything, and Pretty Little Liars started to lose its viewership over time. As noted by TV Series Finale, the third season of the show raked in huge numbers of viewers, mostly within the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. The season averaged 1.1 million viewers in the key demographic and 2.59 million viewers overall, not bad at all. But by the seventh season of the show, it was a whole different story. Pretty Little Liars was only hitting about 550,000 viewers in the key demographic, with only 1.1 million viewers overall.

What contributed to the sharp decline? As noted by BuzzFeed, viewers grew tired of some of the plot points, like the fact that Ezra had a relationship with not just one minor, but two. Or that Jenna blackmailed Toby into having a relationship with her but umm... they were step-siblings. The show was all kinds of bonkers, and some fans just didn't have it in them to see it through to the end.

Some members of the main Pretty Little Liars cast wanted to sign on to other projects

All good things must come to an end, and Pretty Little Liars was one of those things. And while some casts get incredibly upset when their shows come to an end, the series' main cast members were ready to sign on to other projects, which makes sense since they had spent seven years playing the same characters. As noted by Variety, the main cast members had already started to branch out while still maintaining their performances on Pretty Little Liars, but they were ready to spread their wings.

Shay Mitchell, who played Emily, had already started branching out with the comedy Mother's Day and had landed a role in the horror film Cadaver shortly after the show ended. Lucy Hale, who played Aria, signed with ICM, and Troian Bellisario had signed onto an indie project, Sister Cities, on Lifetime. By the time Pretty Little Liars ended, Ashley Benson, who played Hannah, had starred in James Franco's film Spring Breakers, and Janel Parrish had been a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. One thing was clear: The cast was ready to move on.

Pretty Little Liars' creator was relieved that the show ended

If all fans, past and present, can agree on one thing about Pretty Little Liars, it's this: the show was stressful to watch. From the up-and-down relationships and the breakups (we're looking at you, Aria and Ezra) to the untimely deaths to the coverups to the murders, viewers really didn't know what to expect from one episode to the next. And it looks like the emotional toll that the show took not only impacted the viewers, but the show's creator as well. 

In an interview with TV Line, I. Marlene King divulged that the show was heavy and occupied a ton of space for her. "It's like happy/sad," she said. "It's such a weird feeling of mixed emotions, but 'relief' is probably the biggest word of all. All that mythology was taking up so much space in my brain, and I can now release it." It was hard for us to watch and process the show, let alone be the mastermind that cooked up all the drama, so we hope that King got the much-deserved break she needed after the show came to a close.

Pretty Little Liars was starting to drop as a favorite among teens

Among the award shows that exist, one is both brutally honest and a direct reflection of the fans — the Teen Choice Awards. The awards rely on votes from viewers, which makes the popularity of certain TV shows painfully clear.

In 2010, the year that Pretty Little Liars premiered, the show was nominated for three awards: Choice Summer TV Show, Choice Summer TV Star Male, and Choice Summer TV Star Female. The show swept all three categories, solidifying its place on the stage, as noted by Entertainment Weekly. Three years later, the show made such a huge dent in the awards swept up at the Teen Choice Awards that it was easy to think that the show had won every category. It garnered awards for Choice TV Show, Choice TV Actor, Choice TV Actress, Choice TV Villain, Choice Summer TV Show, and Choice Summer TV Star Male, according to MTV News

That was the show's peak, and by the time the 2017 Teen Choice Awards rolled around, Pretty Little Liars only snagged two awards. Leave it to teens to tell you exactly what they think.

Some fans were so upset with Pretty Little Liars' ending that they rewrote their own versions

Pretty Little Liars had its viewers divided. Some hated Toby and Spencer together, while others thought that Jenna was behind everything. Still other viewers thought that Aria and Ezra were just not it, while other fans had theories as to who "A" was and who really killed Allison. 

Well, as the show progressed, fan theories began to be either proven or debunked, and by the time the two-hour series finale rolled around, fans were so enveloped in the "Uber A" mystery. But, as noted by Refinery29, some fans were so upset with the Pretty Little Liars' series finale that they wrote their own endings. Yes, you read that correctly. 

Some viewers were upset that one of the main villains of the show, Bethany, didn't even appear on screen until Season 6. Others were confused by the whole "evil British twin" thing that went down with Spencer and Alex Drake. And here's the thing that caps all the frustration off — there were 13 deaths in Pretty Little Liars, and few of them were explained. We'll leave it to the fans to make themselves feel better about the ending.

Despite its cancelation, Pretty Little Liars was the inspiration for many teen shows that followed

While fans and theorists alike can critique and complain about Pretty Little Liars, the show had massive influence not just on its audience, but on the teen television scene as a whole. As noted by Collider, the show paved the way for a new generation of young adult dramas, not just because of its engaging plot, but because of the ways in which social media was used to further the show's audience and appeal. 

Until Pretty Little Liars burst onto the scene, the only young adult show that even dared to be as dramatic was The Vampire Diaries. Since the liars graced our screens, teen dramas have taken a bunch of different forms and, as such, have really pushed the boundaries. Think of Pretty Little Liars, and then think of Riverdale — the parallels between the tones of both shows are enormous. Think about Euphoria and the ways in which Zendaya's character went through it in high school. So many shows owe much to Pretty Little Liars, whether it's obvious or not.

This Pretty Little Liars spinoff was also canceled, much to fans' surprise

Diehard Pretty Little Liars fans were met with amazing news shortly after the show wrapped — a spinoff, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, was in the works. The show brought back fan favorites like Alison and Mona, but despite the success of the original show, The Perfectionists did not stick and, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter, was canceled in 2019 after just one season. 

Given the ratings, it's no wonder that the show didn't last long. Pretty Little Liars, at its peak, had over 2.5 million viewers each week. The Perfectionists had an average of 600,000 viewers and only garnered 260,000 the night it premiered. Of course, it did leave many fans very upset, with some even taking to Twitter to air their grievances.

"I hate networks that cancel shows on cliffhangers. The Lying Game, Star, Young and Hungry, and now #PLLThePerfectionists," a user wrote. "Like if you're going to cancel s**t, at least give them proper send offs. Just ending s**t abruptly is annoying." Looks like fans are going to have to speculate as to what their favorite Rosewood characters are up to.