7 August 2011 | dee.reid
"Awkward." - What someone says after an uncomfortable silence...
I'm 25, and a straight male, so I'm going to have to fake it here: "Awkward." is one of the best new shows on MTV right now, which unfortunately in this day and age, does not really count for much. After a myriad of repeats of everything from "Teen Mom" to "Jersey Shore," it's nice to see a decent teen comedy show on the air once again.
I really mean it when I say that "Awkward." is a decent show. No, correction: it's an above average show that manages to actually be very funny, in addition to being very raunchy. Think about MTV's other semi-good teen comedy series, "The Hard Times of RJ Berger." Like "Hard Times," "Awkward." has been easily influenced by the recent wave of popular teen comedies at the movies, most notably 2010's "Easy A" (this show's premise borrows a central plot element from that film).
"Awkward." is also heavily influenced by the films of the late John Hughes (1950-2009), that Brat Pack filmmaker behind such classics as "Sixteen Candles" (1984), "The Breakfast Club" (1985) (my personal favorite), and "Pretty in Pink" (1986). Using those movies as an influence for its plot basis, "Awkward." tells the story of Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), a virtual 15-year-old nobody at a posh Southern California high school. She narrates the show through her online blog postings.
It's clearly established early on that Jenna is in fact, quite wise beyond her years, so obviously that has got to make her a target from the more popular students. Rickards is able to give her character a sense of humanity and vulnerability, and Social "Awkward"-ness, that makes her seem like a real person and not a Molly Ringwald stereotype (a moment extremely late in the third episode really makes this clear). In fact, Rickards's Jenna Hamilton and Ringwald's bright-and-beautiful-but-socially-rejected John Hughes-era characters - Samantha Baker in "Sixteen Candles" and Andie Walsh in "Pretty in Pink," namely - are so close in age (and emotional maturity) that it's entirely possible that Jenna *could* be Ringwald's offspring from those years.
During the summer, Jenna had a brief affair with Matty (Beau Mirchoff), the hottest hunk in school, and said affair ultimately resulted in her losing her virginity. The problem is that Jenna and every other girl in school is lusting after Matty, who does in fact appear to have genuine feelings for Jenna but does not want to take their relationship public, for obvious reasons. As the season begins, the new school year has just started and we're shown Jenna's daily life as a societal outcast at her school, her promiscuous best friend Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed), and her overweight cheer-leading nemesis - and resident mean girl/queen bee - Sadie (Molly Tarlov).
Before you know it, a freak accident one night in her bathroom results in a misconstrued rumor that Jenna had tried to commit suicide, and the rumor mill at her school goes ballistic with the news. A la Emma Stone's social-climbing Olive Pendergast in "Easy A," Jenna is thrust to the top of the high school social ladder - she's the new "it" girl that everyone is talking about, for better or for worse - and she also has to deal with the common trials & tribulations of being a socially Awkward teenager on the verge of adulthood.
"Awkward." is a genuinely funny and entertaining show, if you have a thing for teen shows. Sure it rehashes a lot of what we've seen in the past to the point that it's pretty much overkill. And Lord knows we've seen enough teen comedies over the years to know what to expect from shows like this. But where "Awkward." gets points is, I think, is its knowledge of its influences, namely the works of John Hughes. Hughes was known for complex, yet uniquely human portrayals of teenagers in his films and "Awkward." appears to display some of the humanist complexities that Hughes had made his trademark back in the '80s. You can see it with Jenna and how torn she is between Matty and another popular hunk named Jake (Brett Davern).
With this in mind, this series definitely shows promise, promise that I hope is not squandered on stupid sex jokes, humor, and raunchiness - although there is already plenty of that here.