Catching up with ‘Awkward.’ – Season One, Episode 02-03: would make John Hughes proud

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Awkward., Season 1,

Episode 2 “Knocker Nightmare” / Episode 3 “The Way We Weren’t”

Directed by Ryan Shiraki

Written by Lauren Iungerich

After a successful pilot, Awkward. returns with a raunchy yet charming 22 minutes focusing on a teenage girl’s nightmare of having a photo of her breasts posted online and all over school. The photo of Jenna (Ashley Rickards), taken courtesy of Sadie (the show’s scene stealer), is no laughing matter, but the writers of Awkward. know very well how to blend humour in the most serious stages of teenage hell. But Jenna isn’t the only one showing off her cleavage. We learn that her mom spent her college tuition to get breast implants; say hello to Princeton and Harvard, she says while pinching away at each nipple.

While most teen sitcoms avoid any characterization of the adults, Awkward. manages to show a good deal of humour, with the parents getting a few of the best lines. The series does a fairly decent job in fleshing out Jenna’s mother and father without spending too much time away from the teenage cast. In episode 2, we learn of Jenna’s mom’s pregnancy at the early age of 18. Jenna’s mom, Lacie (played by Lacey Hamilton), doesn’t act her age, nor look it either. We learn that she has more cyber friends than her daughter and spends far more time grooming herself than Jenna. In episode 3, Lacie goes from sexy mom to cool mom, complete with an entire game plan for Jenna and Tamara, who get their first invite to a high school “in crowd” party. Escorting the girls to the social gathering, Lacie comes prepared with a bag full of beer and some good old fashion parenting advice, warning them to NOT return home too early. As if.

Two episodes in, and Jenna and Matty (Beau Mirchoff) already had sex and shared their first kiss, but if that’s not enough, Awkward. finds room for the start of a growing love triangle – introduce Jake, Matty’s best friend (Brett Davern) crushing on Jenna – a situation which can only lead to more complications. On one side, Jenna has a physical but secret relationship with Matty; and on the other, she has an emotional connect with Jake who has no problem speaking to her in public.

Ashley Rickards owes a bit of debt to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Emma Stone in Easy A. Like Stone, Rickards’s Jenna is confident, sarcastic, pretty and yes awkward, and like Leigh, she loses her virginity at summer camp by an apathetic popular jock who continues to ignore her in public. Rickards establishes herself not only as a star but as an engaging and charismatic actress who carries every beat of the show on her small boney but strong shoulders, and following in the footsteps of Molly Ringwald’s Sixteen Candles, Ashley Rickards effortlessly manages to elevate the familiar premise to something that is crude yet honest.

MTV’s Awkward. is not meant to be preachy nor shocking which is truly refreshing. The writers present a wide variety of characters, all entirely recognizable to some degree and all insecure no matter how cool they seem. More importantly each and every character is written with care. Take Sadie or instance (played by Molly Tarlov): Who couldn’t love the bitchy backhanded advice she offers each and every time ending with “You’re welcome.” Her mean girl act never gets old and her one liners like “Maybe people would stop staring at you if you could finish the abortion your mom botched,” are quotable gold! Tarlov’s charisma sells her mature character and makes the script’s snarky, pop culture-referencing dialogue elicit a head scratch from Merriam-Webster. Sadie is a character all about attitude, but also shows some of that teen girl vulnerability, and Tarlove does a fine job balancing the two.

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Perhaps the only character who does;t quite work is the school’s guidance counselor Valarie – far over the top, Desi Lydic’s performance really requires her to dial down from 10, to maybe a 2. Tamara, Jenna’s best friend (played by Jillian Rose Reed) gets some much needed screen time and unlike Jenna shows just how much she craves popularity. “Ellipses are the sluts of punctuation,” she says and desperately roams around the party snapping hundreds of photos to make her feel more welcome. Reed has a soft but no-nonsense voice and a way of delivering her fast, witty dialogue that at times pits her equally against arch-rival Sadie.

Both episode 2 and 3 were written by show creator Lauren Iungerich and directed by Ryan Shiraki. The swift pacing and simplicity of Awkward. present a world where a young woman takes charge and triumphs over peer pressure.  With whip-smart dialog and the penmanship similar to the legendary John Hughes, this high school sex comedy is way above average for this subordinate genre. Awkward. belongs in the company of Clueless, Election, Heathers, and Mean Girls – with a unique voice and something important to say each and every week.

Episode 3 ends with Jake and Jenna ditching the party early to be alone. Matty screws up royally and Tamara finds dog poop in the sauna amidst a teen-orgy-make-out session. Awkward. really isn’t a show you’d want to watch with your kids, and if you did, it would be – well you know – awkward.

– Ricky D

Other Memorable Quotes:

Lissa: “Abstinence isn’t easy and neither are you”.

Tamara: “If we don’t go then the terrorists win and by terrorists I mean Sadie”.

Sadie: “it was a public service announcement to illustrate what happens when you change in public.”

 

 

 

1 Comment
  1. Chrystina says

    What a great new find! I watched 6 episodes in one sitting (justifying it to myself by repeating “they’re only 20 minutes long”). There are definite thumbs-up and thumbs-down moments and I agree with most of your review. Some of the teenage-parent interactions are a little silly, in the same way that Skins (the British one) dealt with the generational gap, but overall, the dialogue is surprisingly well-written. Well done MTV!

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