Awkward. is back for a supersized 20 episode third season. After a humbling second season that saw the show land on last year’s Bitch Awards Worst List, can the show rebound from last year’s disastrous season?
Let’s bitch it out…
The short answer: yes. The Awkward. that we know and love is back. Hallelujah!
The writing, the acting and the editing is front and center in this double dose of S3 episodes. Last season the biggest issue that I had with the show was that all of the characters acted like selfish idiots, especially Jenna (Ashley Rickards). It seems that I like Jenna best when she’s a bit off kilter because in these first two episodes, she’s back in my good books: vulnerable, desperate, and witty.
The pregnancy scare in particular is a well-earned twist. A lesser show would have simply saddled Sadie (Molly Tarlov) with an unwanted pregnancy – it’s much ballsier to suggest that it is Jenna who has a “bun in the oven”. This is one thing that Awkward. does exceedingly well: it knows how to explore legitimate teen issues. Let’s face it, horny teenagers are a population that are at risk for unwanted pregnancy and we know that Jenna and Matty (Beau Mirchoff) can get a little stupid when it comes to carnal acts. A pregnancy scare is completely in character for these two, as is Jenna’s gut-reaction not to tell her boyfriend. Perhaps that’s unfair to say given the emotional depth Matty demonstrated last season, but Jenna is already feeling isolated and alone after a summer without BFFs Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) and – to a lesser extent – Ming (Jessica Lu, once again sidelined), which easily explains her apprehension to confide in her boyfriend.
Of the two episodes (both written and directed by series creator Lauren Iungerich), ‘Cha-Cha-Changes’ is the stronger offering. As a reintroduction to the series, it perfectly balances the themes and tone and helpfully catches up back up to the characters after the long break between seasons. On the flip side, ‘Responsibly Irresponsible’ effectively tickles the funny bone as Ricky’s (Matthew Fahey) untimely death is handled with wit aplomb, even if it does at times make light of the idea of a dead teenager. Thankfully it allows the irreplaceable Tarlov an opportunity to shine as the girl who refuses to mourn her ex-boyfriend – a position everyone wants to force her into.
There are two elements that don’t strike quite the right balance, however. The two episodes are less than successful at establishing Jake (Brett Davern) and Tamara as a legitimate couple. ‘Cha-Cha-Changes’ introduces them in a jokey fashion – the overly cutesy vocalisms are appropriately grating (since we identify with Jenna, who is clearly uncomfortable with the PDAs) – but that doesn’t help us buy into Tamara’s proclamation of love at the end of ‘Responsibly Irresponsible’.
The worst element, by far, is Lacey’s (Nikki Deloach) parenting advice about contraceptives. Though Matty’s jilted reaction is well-earned (and hints at a larger communication conflict he and Jenna will face next episode), I was appalled by the suggestion that girls “bear the burden” because they get pregnant and boys don’t. While I don’t doubt that this was a deliberate attempt on Iungerich’s behalf to stir up some controversy, this is an antiquated and insulting notion. The fact that this message goes unchallenged, and in fact is actually approved of by Jenna, doesn’t sit well with me. I know it’s not the last of this storyline, but I still didn’t like the way that Awkward. handled its contraceptives issue.
So ‘A’ for effort, with some minor reservations.
- It’s continually frustrating how underutilized Ming and Lissa (Greer Grammer) are in the grand scheme of things. At least the storyline introduced last season of Ming’s involvement in the Asian Mafia will continue. Poor Lissa has no storyline aside from continuing her (admittedly funny) dumb blonde schtick
- On the flip side, however, a larger role for Kyle (Wesam Keesh) – the former headliner of ‘Jenna Lives’ and possibly her creepy stalker – is definitely fun. Awkward. has a vibrant cache of secondary characters that add a great deal of colour to the proceedings when they sporadically pop up
- Everyone catch a glimpse of new hottie Colin (Nolan Funk) in Jenna’s Creative Writing class? He’s sensitive, he’s insightful, he’s hot. I’m sure this guy will be nothing but trouble
- Speaking of Creative Writing, Anthony Michael Hall’s portrayal of Mr. Hart is an absolute hoot. I love these completely unrealistic depictions of teachers, if only because it’s so jarring to see an authority figure intimidate, antagonize and curse at students. Looking forward to seeing more of this inappropriate character, as well as Jenna’s experiences down the rabbit hole
- Finally, what’s worse: Tamara calling Jake “Jacques” or Matty’s atrocious tattoo “Jenna 4 Ever”? I’ll go with the tattoo, if only because anything permanent that’s associated with relationships on this show is probably not a good idea. Also, it’ll be upside down to everyone but him
Best Lines – ‘Cha-Cha-Changes’:
- Mr. Hart (reading anonymous student fears): “’I’m afraid I masturbate too much’” (Points to creepy guy) “You are.”
- Lacey (discussing childbirth and its aftermath): “It’s haaaard to poop.”
Best Lines – ‘Responsibly Irresponsible’
- Creepy guy (about Sadie): “Did she abort that mission?”
- Sadie (at the girl who drops off a plush toy): “I’m not in mourning and if I was, what the f*ck would a penguin do?”
- Desi Lydic’s Val (escorting a student out of her office): “It’s okay…no one ever died because their uncle touched them”
- Val (when Jenna suggests she had a connection with Ricky): “Were you guys freebasing?”
- Creepy guy (holding Ricky’s ashes): “Feel free to snort a little bit. It was epic”
How did the double-dose of Awkward. work for you? Are you happy to have a frazzled Jenna back, or did you have as many difficulties with her last season as I did? Do you buy into the Tamara/Jake relationship? Is Mr. Hart your new favourite TV teacher? And do you think Matty has a right to be angry at Jenna, or is Lacey’s parental advice sound? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts
Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV