“Surprise!” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.09.31 PMA surprisingly decent return from MTV’s Awkward., and one which certainly surprised us. During the first half of the season – which wound up for the show’s mid-season break back in early June – we weren’t always its biggest fans. We had a lot of problems with it. Most of them were Jenna. Others were predictability, a lack of the show’s intrinsic humor, too much focus on Tamara as a creator of new words and not enough focus on her as a character (with the writers focusing a little too much on Matty and Jenna), and too much of the Asian Mafia.

This first episode back rectified a lot of those issues, though whether the fixes are temporary or permanent remains to be seen. We’ve seen reprieves before, but they’ve always been brief. Whether or not the writers can maintain this uptick in quality is something we’ll have to figure out as the season progresses. But, for now, we’re hopeful.

The episode showed some of its old humor, focusing as much on the laughs – Lacey trying to keep Jenna’s surprise birthday party a surprise, and the ever-horrible biting wit of our favorite teacher of all time, Mr Hart – as on Jenna’s status as an adulterer. The approach to the Mafia made a huge difference to the return of Awkward.’s humor. Initially a comedic element, the Mafia had, in the last half-season, devolved into a source of unnecessary mystery and intrigue, removing a lot of the laughs that came naturally from it. Under Ming’s rule, however, the Mafia has Continue reading

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“Reality Check” – Awkward.

2And our brief reprieve is already past. This week saw an unwelcome return to the by now expected sub-par fare of Awkward.’s Season 3. After an episode during which we refound the faith, during which we once more believed in the magic of Jenna Hamilton et al., we’re back to the dubious ‘humor’ we’ve been presented with thus far this year.

Yes, “Reality Check” was a little bit more than we’ve come to expect recently. The laughs may have been few and far between, the Asian Mafia’s return may have been as un-amusing as usual, and Tamara’s obsession with Niall Horan may have profoundly given us the wiggins, but at least it courted controversy. Not in its content by any means – there’s nothing controversial about a teen dramedy confronting issues of lust and fantasy – but there was controversy in Jenna’s life. Conflict. Drama. And, while it was still predictable, it didn’t feel obvious. The episode was well written, to a point, and left the Collin issue wide open. It provided some tension that may sustain us through the rest of the season, and restored Sadie to her formerly villainous position.

The side issue of Ming’s new appointment as Head of the Asian Mafia was somewhat in the background, which was a blessing, but we’re now having nightmares about the alarming regularity with which the Mafia will no doubt feature. With any luck, Ming’s new position will soon see its disbanding, but we’ve never been that lucky. It’s far more likely that we will be forced to endure week after week of Ming’s unsolicited rise to the top, her transition from member of the Asian masses to all-knowing, all-controlling mob boss. The Black Donnellys of MTV shows, perhaps? Unlikely, but that’s a show we’d watch. As it stands, it’s not something we want to see on Awkward. – that storyline has never appealed.

We could say that we hope that this episode was the aberration, not last week’s, but, again, we’ve never been that lucky. – K

Quoteworthy: “The rumors have been swirling about yesterday’s fight, but I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth. In detail. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a good bitch brawl.” – Val

“Rubbed Raw and Reeling” – Awkward.

627Finally, an episode that felt like a return to the Awkward. we’ve been missing. This was funny, unpredictable and true to life – all the hallmarks of the hit MTC show’s heyday and aspects of it that have all too often been difficult to find this season. Recent episodes have smacked of obviousness. Events have been predictable and without thought. Jenna (and the characters surrounding her) was beginning to feel like a typical teenager in the worst possible way – perhaps the most severe indictment we can give the show. But this was an occasionally majestic return to form.

The low point for us was, arguably, the main event: Jenna’s reading at the open mic night. Much was made of Jenna’s “pussy” status, something (when we look back) that is long established. But we found we weren’t much interested in her ‘taking the plunge’ and going public with her writing. The nod to Season 1, coming in the form of a reading of Jenna’s very first voiceover, was a nice touch, but the inserts made Jenna look neither witty nor charming. We would have liked to hear the entire story just to get a flavor of what the audience apparently saw in her but, alas, that was not to be.

Far more interesting to us were the events and characters surrounding Jenna, painting her almost as an uninvolved observer in her own story. Taking part in the open mic night solely because of threats from Mr Hart and derision from Val, her actions were reactive, not proactive. But it’s still always a pleasure to be privy to new aspects of Jenna’s character – it’s been far too long since we were – even if only in her new found awareness of existing character traits. It makes Jenna once more a 3D person. Not ‘That Girl’ or ‘Matty’s Girl’, but Continue reading

“Guilt Trippin'” – Awkward.

Awkward-MTV-Season-3-Episode-7-Guilt-Trippin-550x289The less said about this week’s Awkward. the better. It lacked all of the very few things we enjoy about this season – Collin, Mr Hart – and, instead, focused on the very worst about it. It was predictable to a fault. It trotted out the Asian Mafia, which, while funny once, now just feels like the writers are flogging a dead horse. (They’re just not entertaining anymore. Yes, we know the showrunners are playing a long game here, but it’s indecipherable and crazy in the very worst ways.) And, worst of all, it felt like a crappy diary entry.

For a show has always centered on Jenna confiding in her private blog, it has, up to this point, always somehow avoided coming across as a whiny teenager’s emo diary entry. Not so this week. Some combination of Jenna’s self-centered thought (‘I was miserable when I was single and saw happy couples so now everyone must be miserable when they see me’), her irritation at Tamara for telling Jake everything, and her misery because Matty doesn’t dance turned the episode into the very worst aspect of teen culture – a stream of constant complaints. To add insult to injury, the laughs were few and far between, and the ending was so low-key that it took us a beat to realize it was even over.

In the grand scheme of Awkward. episodes, this one hit a new low. – K

Quoteworthy: “Bro code can suck it.” – Tamara

“That Girl Strikes Again” – Awkward.

1As if we weren’t having enough problems with the current season of Awkward. – we just can’t enjoy it as much as we did the previous two – they spring a Halloween episode on us in the middle of May. Talk about festive whiplash! If they try to make us watch a Christmas episode in June there may be trouble.

This episode focused on Jenna’s continued feelings of social isolation… is what we would say if this was a serious show that was still doing emotion well. In reality, it was an episode about Jenna feeling like Matty was out of her league, being manipulative to put herself in a situation where she would feel like he was more like her, being a bitch when she gets there, and then lying to him. We’re sensing trouble in paradise, and we don’t think Matty is the troublemaker. He seems increasingly like the affectionate, emotionally honest and upfront young man Jenna wanted him to be and, the more he changes, the less she likes him. Her internal response when he asked why she liked him – “Abs, teeth, abs, hair, abs.” – while hilarious, was incredibly telling about the future of this relationship. We don’t think that future is going to be too long.

More trouble may be brewing in the form of Collin’s girlfriend, Angelique (Brooke Anne Smith). She seems like the proverbial devil on Jenna’s shoulder. Instant friends, bad attitudes. They both seem to behave similarly toward their boyfriends – not very well. IMDb has Angelique as a recurring character, and we see drama in her future.

“That Girl Strikes Again” threw up another potential arc in the form of Continue reading

“Let’s Talk About Sex” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 10.15.33 AMWe’re still not sure about this season. We’re always unsure when we’re watching something we review whether we’re being fair enough. We worry that the act of taking notes and writing down quotes affects the flow of the episode so much that we don’t like it because of us, not it. With Awkward., for the first time ever, we actually hope that that’s what’s wrong. That it’s our human error, for want of a better phrase. This season just isn’t drawing us in the way that the other two did. In all honesty, we never loved the second season as much as we did the first. Awkward. had lost some of its magic through its success – a fairly common occurrence. Our real problem now is trying to decide if Season 3 is worse than the second one. We think the answer has to be, ‘yes and no’.

A cop-out, maybe, but the truth, too. Some of this season is simply not as good as either of the first two. Jenna’s dad (the first time we’ve seen him this season) was ridiculous in “Let’s Talk About Sex”. We find it hard to imagine that any parent’s first reaction on hearing that his daughter is having sex would be to call the parents of her ‘partner in crime’. Valerie is increasingly becoming a parody of herself, Jack Sparrowing in the worst possible way. Tamara is becoming more and more of an annoyance to us – her voice seems to become shriller with each passing week, and her energetic flights of fancy more exuberant. She’s a teenage girl, so we can’t call her out on her over-reactions (we’re in our mid-20s and we’re still prone to them), but we do sometimes wish she’d scale back all that… ‘Tamara-ness’.

And yet there are many aspects of the show that we love this season. Foremost among them is Continue reading

“A Little Less Conversation” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 9.38.39 PMLast week, we said that we were relieved to discover that Awkward. hadn’t suddenly started sucking. Perhaps we spoke too soon… It’s not that this week’sepisode was bad. We honestly can’t remember a time when Awkward. ever was. It just wasn’t great. Suddenly it feels like all of the magic of the season was used up in those first two episodes back and it’s going to be ‘only okay’ from here on out. We sincerely hope we’re wrong about that.

The problems with this week’s episode were not plentiful. In fact, they revolved around one thing: Jenna. We’re not sure what it was about her that so irked us this week (here at Pond Hopping Girls we’ve historically been divided about Jenna – K’s a fan, B’s not), but irked we were. We can’t really blame her for not instantly realizing that Matty was pissed, not about the almost pregnancy, but because she told Jake about it first. That wouldn’t have been our first assumption either. Our real problem with her was probably her ‘the whole world revolves around me’ attitude. Not even her trying to avoid Matty, exactly, but the lengths she went to to do it. She made Tamara uncomfortable, ruined date night (BFGFBFF, the double D is implied) and generally acted like an idiot, all in the name of ‘avoiding a talk’. Can you be more juvenile?

The Asian Mafia storyline continues, but we get nothing new from it. It was hilarious, as always, but felt a little stagnant. We know Ming is playing the long game, and is secretly dating Fred Wu (Becca’s ex) while using Henry as her beard. We just don’t know why. We’re hoping this arc unfolds significantly over the coming episodes.

A major plus for us this week was Continue reading

“Responsibly Irresponsible” – Awkward.

1That sense of satisfaction that Awkward. hasn’t suddenly started sucking remains throughout this episode. The show ably deals with the aftermath of the death of Ricky Schwartz – a storyline that is far darker than anything featured on the MTV vehicle thus far, and which could easily have overwhelmed the usually light-hearted nature of the show, but didn’t. Awkward. retained its inherent humor throughout, but didn’t shrink from exhibiting grief. It struck the perfect balance without ever, as Go On would have it, ‘going for the cry’.

The episode explored different approaches to the grieving process with humor – Matty ‘YOLOing’, Jenna reassessing her life, and Tamara completely flipping out each brought their fair share of laughs. But it was also touching and offered closure to the characters and to the viewers. The show hasn’t lost its honesty even slightly, and the speeches at Ricky’s vigil illustrated that perfectly. The episode also went a long way toward drawing the main characters back together. Tamara and Jake have DTRd and seem like the perfect couple (a relief after their overly affectionate PDA in the first episode back), the girls are the best of friends again (banishing all worries that they were drifting apart), and Jenna has overcome her pregnancy scare shock and has stopped avoiding Matty.

As the episode draws to a close Continue reading

“Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes” – Awkward.

awkward1330Talk about returning with a bang. Or the after effects of one, at least.

Awkward.’s Season 3 opener was fantastic. It confronted and allayed our fears all in one breath, while simultaneously and ably surprising us not once, but twice. That fear we were feeling was a result of the announcement that the MTV smash comedy was filling out a full season spread this year. We worried about whether the showrunners would be able to give us 20 episodes of the magic we’ve come to expect. Just as Jenna worried that her friends had moved on and forgotten her, we worried that one of our favorite shows would forget how to be funny. That question hasn’t been answered quite yet but, on first impressions, we’re not sure we have anything to worry about at all.

This first episode back was, perhaps, a little lighter on comedy than the show has been in the past, but not so drastically less funny to incite panic. It also retains thatAwkward.ness that makes it so special – yes, on the surface it’s a comedy, but it’s also a show that truly address the teenage condition, drawing attention to issues that confront teens every day. This week, it by no means half-assed it. Not only did we get the surprising (but much teased in promos) teen pregnancy storyline – which, contrary to promos, centered on Jenna, not Sadie, and was a scare, not a full blown baby-drama – but, in a shocking, final-moments reveal, the death of Ricky Schwartz.

We also get a taste of what’s to come from the rest of the extended season. We’re introduced to Continue reading