Unconventional time twister 'Cruel Summer' hits Freeform

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
'Cruel Summer': Unconventional time twister hits Freeform
Sandy Kenyon reports on the new thriller on Freeform called "Cruel Summer."

A new thriller on Freeform called "Cruel Summer" is being called "unconventional" and a "time twister," and its structure is highly unusual for primetime TV.

"Cruel Summer" tells the story two high school students in the 1990s, one popular and the other an outsider -- and each girl gets to tell their version of what happened.

Although this is definitely a different format, it's also fascinating and highly entertaining.

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"Cruel Summer" goes decades back in time and then jumps between three different years during the course of each episode.

In 1993, Jeanette is sweet but awkward. In 1994, she is no longer nave and dating the boyfriend of a popular girl named Kate, who has gone missing. In 1995, the once shy teen is in a considerably darker place -- as she makes clear by telling us, "I have been lied about, spit at, made fun of, I am the most hated person in the nation."

Jeanette is played by Chiara Aurelia.

"There are shifting perspectives, and you're kind of following two girls in two different worlds with two drastically different experiences," she said.

Teen angst is omnipresent, as the trailer notes, "We all want what we can't have, even if we have to change ourselves to get it."

One episode is told from Jeanette's point of view, while the next hour is from Kate's perspective. And these different points of view alternate for the run of the series.

"It's mysterious, it's nostalgic, it's interesting," said Olivia Holt, who plays Kate. "It's captivating, and you are really drawn in from the moment you start the show. And you're really transported back in time to the 90s."

The young stars were not yet alive that decade, but anyone who was will recall the sounds of dial-up modems. Holt needed some explainers, and Aurelia was still figuring things out months after filming.

"There was a lot of technology we didn't quite understand, with the pagers and the dial-up modems, and Walkmans and all that jazz," she said. "There was definitely a lot of the prop department looking at me going, 'Chiara, c'mon!'"

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Holt has been working for Disney since joining XD's "Kickin' It" in 2010, and she also starred in Freeform's Marvel drama "Cloak and Dagger."

"I grew up watching and believing in all things Disney," she said. "I think Mickey has been the boss since before he was actually my boss."

I didn't expect to like "Cruel Summer" as much as I did, as the series is not aimed at me. I am certainly not in the target audience, but I still got into it and urge you to check it out.

"Cruel Summer" was created by the same guy, Bert V. Royal, who wrote the feature film "Easy A" starring Emma Stone and Melissa McCarthy. His latest creation airs at 9 p.m. on Tuesday nights on Freeform.