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'Awkward' Premiere Episodes

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Awkward
Photo courtesy of MTV

The Bottom Line

Awkward is a charming and heartfelt teen comedy that sometimes tries a little too hard to be edgy.

Pros

  • Winning lead performance from Ashley Rickards
  • A range of relatable characters
  • Amusing but unsentimental portrayal of teen life

Cons

  • Sometimes strains too hard to seem edgy and modern
  • Raunchy humor occasionally falls flat

Description

  • Premieres July 19, 2011, at 11 p.m. EST on MTV
  • Stars Ashley Rickards, Beau Mirchoff, Molly Tarlov, Jillian Rose Reed, Jessica Lu, Brett Davern, Nikki DeLoach, Desi Lydic
  • Created by Lauren Iungerich

Guide Review - 'Awkward' Premiere Episodes

When MTV launched The Hard Times of RJ Berger, I was hoping for a teen comedy that would approach the mix of sweet and uncomfortable exhibited by great shows like Freaks and Geeks or My So-Called Life, only with a greater emphasis on humor. Instead I got a slightly sanitized TV version of the American Pie movies -- mostly inoffensive but far from satisfying. So I figured that MTV’s new teen comedy, Awkward, would be more of the same, since the concept is basically just a female version of Hard Times. Like RJ Berger, Awkward protagonist Jenna Hamilton is a non-entity at her high school, suddenly thrust into the spotlight thanks to a humiliating incident. Jenna doesn’t reveal her abnormally large penis to the entire school; instead she’s hospitalized following a bizarre accident that people assume is a suicide attempt. The result, however, is the same: Now all eyes are on her, and her uncomfortable existence has become even more complicated.

While Hard Times always goes for the easiest, most vulgar joke, Awkward is more nuanced and sweeter, although it’s still plenty raunchy. Creator Lauren Iungerich has an ear for how girls talk to each other when guys aren’t around, and even though some of the slang-filled teen-speak sounds forced, it also serves primarily to explore the characters’ personalities and emotions, rather than just make lazy gross-out jokes. The characters, too, are more well-rounded, even Jenna’s cartoonish cheerleader nemesis. Other than Jenna, they all conform broadly to teen pop-culture archetypes, but even two episodes in, the writers are starting to complicate those assumptions.

Jenna is clearly the most interesting person on the show, though, existing in an interesting middle ground between a surly outsider like MTV’s classic animated teen Daria and a popular girl like the cheerleaders who give her grief. Jenna’s smart and pretty but also confused and vulnerable, a mix of conflicting emotions and motivations, just like a real person. And sometimes she’s just clumsy and, well, awkward, since this is a comedy. The jokes can fall flat sometimes, especially when straining to sound edgy or vulgar, but Jenna’s clueless guidance counselor is consistently amusing. Awkward doesn’t revolutionize the teen-comedy genre, nor does it approach the genius of Freaks and Geeks or My So-Called Life. But like a raunchier version of ABC Family’s underrated 10 Things I Hate About You (on which Iungerich was a writer), it presents funny and relatable teens that you’d want to spend a half-hour with each week.

Disclosure: A review screener was provided by the network. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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