“And Then What Happened” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 8.46.49 PMWe actually really enjoyed this week’s Awkward., mostly because of the relatively unusual format. Positioning the majority of the episode in flashback, with just the right balance of mystery and filling in of blanks, was a great approach. It kept us interested. The piecemeal unfolding of the story of the aftermath of Jenna’s party kept us on the hook until the very end, which was itself made more poignant by the relative levity of the rest of the episode.

And it was light. Humor was a big part of “And Then What Happened”, playing into it in the flashbacks and the interludes. The individual characters’ storytelling style – which could almost be seen as neat little vignettes of their personalities – brought a good few laughs, making us a little relieved. Perhaps this half of the season will not be so plagued by the problems we discussed last week.

But, as we said, that ending was a stark contrast to the rest of the episode. Allowing ourselves to believe that Jenna and Matty would be okay (even if we didn’t necessarily want them to be), and enjoying the sense of fun that “And Then What Happened” sported, made that ending feel like a slap in the face. It’s definitely not a conclusion we expected, and we were kind of gobsmacked.

After two and a half seasons of Jenna pining after Matty, of thinking she wasn’t good enough for him, of wanting nothing more than Continue reading

“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

“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

“Indecent Exposure” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 5.55.10 PMAwkward. saw slight improvement this week, but not enough to totally rid us of our fears about the MTV smash. There were a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, some not-too-serious teen drama, more build up of whatever’s going on between Jenna and Collin, more Sadie and Tamara frenemy bonding… all in all, it gave us a lot of what we looked for and loved in the first and second season. But it’s still not working. We’re beginning to feel as though something has irretrievably changed and that it will never go back to being the show we liked. Maybe we just have to accept that and move on.

Going by that metric, however, this episode was a coup. For all of the above reasons, and for the fact that the story does advance every week (something that we cannot always say about the big hitters on the bigger networks), it deserves merit. We are still enjoying Mr Hart, Jenna and Matty’s developing relationship, and Sadie’s downfall. We were also intrigued by Lissa’s reaction to Tamara and Sadie contacting Ricky’s spirit and her confession to Jake. Is Lissa the one who killed Ricky?

The fact that the rest of the show is less than perfect 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

“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