Not being a 15 year old American girl struggling to finish high school, it would be fair to say that Awkward isn’t really for me. I am not the target demographic.
Still, I do not reject such shows out of hand. Picking this pretty much at random from highly rated sitcoms on IMDB (this scored 7.8/10), I hoping for something I might actually enjoy. After all, sassy teenage girls are the main characters in some of my favourite shows. Buffy, Veronica Mars and Daria are all excellent shows that surpass their potential teeny limits to be great shows in their own right.
So what of Awkward?
Well, after a couple of episodes it seems pretty clear that this is definitely in the second-tier of such shows. It certainly isn’t bad, but finding out it was on MTV is hardly encouraging (note: Daria is pretty much the exception to this rule).
Now, this in itself isn’t a problem though it certainly does limit its appeal to me. But that doesn’t even matter too much, as long as the writing is good. Unfortunately, it isn’t really. It’s entertaining enough, at best. At worst, it falls into the realm of absolute stupidity and becomes unbelievable. Most of the time however it hovers on the positive side of “alright”.
There is no twist or plot, it is just one girl, Jenna Hamilton (played by Ashley Rickards) trying to get through high school. The USP is that she is thrust into the limelight of high school after an accident which looks like a failed suicide attempt. Except it doesn’t. At all.
As it happens in the very first episode, allow me a mild spoiler. She goes to take two aspirin tablets, but chokes on them. This causes her to drop the large jar on the floor which spills pills all over the place. As she chokes, she knocks a box of razors and a plugged-in hairdyer into the full bath. She then slips on the pills and knocks herself unconscious.
This is mistaken for a suicide attempt. This scene is indicative of the shows biggest problem in that it isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Nor does it have that deeply satirical bent that allows the stupid, two-dimensional characters in Daria to be so effective.
It doesn’t help that the acting is also all over the place. Whilst Ashley Rickards does a good job of playing our protagonist an narrator, Jenna Hamilton, she is fighting an uphill struggle. She brings a naturalness to the role and expresses the awkwardness of being a teenager, with a performance which suggests she has a bright future. As does Jessica Lu who plays her friend Ming Huang, though to be fair she does have more acting experience being 25 years old when the series started.
Everyone else seems to either want to do the wacky (all the women) or be personality-free zones (all the men).
Jenna’s mother, Lacey (played by Nikki Deloach) is just a fundamentally unlikable character who tries to get her 15 year old daughter to get breast implants. Jenna’s friend Tamara (played by Jillian Rose Reed) is simply abrasive and annoying without any redeeming features. School councillor Valerie (played by Desi Lydic) is portrayed as someone so unbelievably dumb as to be beyond belief.
I’m picking these three characters out because they are the first three that come to mind. All of the others are equally terrible. I’m not even going to waste time trying to work out which guy is which in order to say they’re all bland.
This is not even a dig at the actors and actresses, whom might be very good. But they are given poor material and the director seems to think the best way to compensate for that is to try and disguise it with fake wackiness, which just makes things worse.
When I started writing this, I really didn’t expect it to be quite so savage a review, but in the end I think this is a fair assessment. There is nothing particularly new here and certainly nothing that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.