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A Comic Valentine Courtesy Of MTV: A Smart And Funny Tale Of High School Awkwardness,
This review is from: Awkward: Season 1 (DVD)
One of the most pleasant surprises of the television season came courtesy of MTV with the clever comedy "Awkward." In truth, I didn't expect much more than a retread of typical high school cliches served up by super stylized and self-aware characters. Yes, "Awkward" does adhere to many classic elements that we've seen in countless other productions, but here they seem fresh, updated, and quite smart. "Sixteen Candles" and "Heathers" are two high school films with strong female protagonists that I really connected with many years ago. I'd be proud to say that "Awkward" sticks closely to the successful formula of the past and modernizes it for contemporary audiences. Combining the sweet awkwardness (for lack of a better word) of "Sixteen Candles" with the brutal ruthlessness of "Heathers," this show is an expert blend of black comedy, romance, and outright slapstick. And it's terrifically entertaining with savvy and quotable dialogue.
Ashley Rickards plays the central character of Jenna, a normal teen experiencing the expected angst of growing up today. Jenna is sort of an every girl character--grounded and relatable, smart without being overly precious. She's not particular popular, but has had a clandestine affair with the boy of her dreams over the summer. She receives a biting and critical letter anonymously that savages her very existence. Before she has time to process it, though, she has a mishap that everyone believes is a suicide attempt. Suddenly, Jenna is thrust into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Season One consists of twelve episodes that show Jenna gaining in confidence as she adapts to her newfound fame, attempts to unlock the mystery of the letter, and tries to woo her secret lover into a public relationship when his best friend is also smitten with her. Rickards is backed by an able and enthusiastic cast, but this is largely her show. And you really do care about what will happen to her.
While the comedy of "Awkward" is heightened, the show does a great job highlighting real situations kids go through. The episodic scripts are tight, focused, and funny and all build upon one another. Aside from the writing and Rickards, I'll highlight a few standouts. Molly Tarlov as the resident mean girl and Desi Lydic as a well meaning guidance counselor are played to the hilt (over-the-top even, but hysterical) and get many of the best lines. Nikki Deloach scores as an over-involved mother that wants to relive her youth and Jillian Rose Reed is reliably saucy as a best friend. Then there's Beau Mirchoff (better used here than he was on Desperate Housewives) and Brett Davern as the other two sides of Rickard's romantic triangle. This triangle had the most potential for disaster--yet it plays alternately sweet, sad, and blisteringly funny. Just as you know it will figure prominently in the season's final episode (and it does), the last scene serves up an even bigger surprise setting the stage for Season Two. The show was officially picked up, so now is the chance to catch up. I may not be the intended target audience for "Awkward, but nevertheless--I was thoroughly charmed. KGHarris, 9/11.