MTV gets teen angst right on “Awkward”

 
 

Let me start this post with a very important preface because I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea. While AfterEllen.com is owned by MTV Networks, MTV does not own my mind, my opinions or the computer I am writing this on. Therefore, when I write about MTV’s new series, Awkward (premiering tonight at 11/10 p.m.), any and all opinions you see here are ones I stand behind. </endrant>

After having witnessed one terrible episode of the short-lived U.S. version of Skins, I was fully prepared to spend an hour rolling my eyes at the Awkward  screener I had received in the mail. It was a huge and glorious surprise when, at the end of the first two episodes, I was hoping someone had screwed up and sent me the entire season by mistake.

The series is centered around and narrated by 15-year-old Jenna Hamilton (played by Ashley Rickards), an angsty, but not overly-angsty, teenage girl who has been happy to live out her days in the shadows of popularity. Like most teenage girls with high-speed internet access and wisdom beyond her years, Jenna uses her blog, aptly titled The Invisible Girl, as an outlet for sharing her trials and tribulations.

After coming home from camp and losing her v-card to the popular guy she’s been pining after, Matty, Jenna’s online diary has a whole new mess of things to deal with — the least of which is that Matty says he can’t let anyone know he likes her. An evil, but I guess benevolent, anonymous letter writer was somehow able to get a note to Jenna basically telling her she’s got her head up her ass and she has to stop being such a “P”-word (a word I hate almost as much as “secretion”). Unfortunately, just after receiving this message, a case of her being a klutz turns into what ends up looking like a suicide attempt and lands her in the hospital with a large cast permanently holding her arm up and mandatory high school guidance counselor visits.

This is the set up, so now you may be wondering just why you should be watching it especially if the lead character isn’t gay. First and foremost, whoever is in charge of the casting deserves major kudos for making Ashley Rickards the series lead. Some of you may recognize Rickards as the runaway who lived with Brooke Davis for a while on One Tree Hill. Richards can convey an entire message just through facial expressions alone. 

Secondly, I have to believe any new TV show being put on by MTV will include at least one gay character. Adding to that, any show trying to profile what it’s like to feel awkward and be a teenager must include gay characters or else whoever is in charge has totally lost their damn minds. In fact, after watching the first two episodes, I’d be willing to place bets on the two characters I think will have a “come to Gaga” moment within the first season: Matty’s best friend, sensitive popular guy who doesn’t pressure his girlfriend for sex, Jake; and one of Jenna’s best friends, Ming, who stepped onto the screen and I shouted, “Gaysian!” before pausing to take a picture of her to share with you all.

Most of all, the show reminds me of an amalgam of some old great TV shows, Doogie HowserPopular, My So-Called Life, with some newer films, Juno and American Pie, thrown in for good measure. I’ll be interested in seeing how the show unfolds — they’ve got a variety of very different characters and personalities to work into storylines. Rickards’ supporting cast includes Nikki DeLoach as Jenna’s hot mom who rebels against having given birth to Jenna in her teens by continuing to act like a teen herself. Molly Tarlov plays Sadie, the overweight but popular bitch who has apparently gained everyone’s adoration by being rich. Jenna’s best friend, Tamara, is a hyper-sexual, Juno-speaking, Sarah Silverman look-alike played by Jillian Rose Reed. Finally, the hippie-dippy school guidance counselor who obviously needs some of her own counseling, Valerie, is played very cutely by Desi Lydic.

So, what do you think, will you be giving Awkward a chance? Are there any storylines you hope they cover that haven’t been done before? Are there any storylines you hope they avoid?

Watch the teaser for Awkward:

Awkward premieres tonight at 11/10c on MTV. You can also watch the first episode at MTV.com, before it premieres on television.

 
 

Tags: , ,