TV review: Awkward.

From the July 26, 2012 edition

I never thought I’d write this, but I can respect MTV’s programming. Yes, the channel still offers irritating reality TV — although Bravo has proudly taken up the mantle of producing the crappiest realty junk on air — but MTV’s gamble to create a stable of scripted series has paid off.

I don’t love, or even like, some of the shows MTV has produced recently, but I understand their appeal to MTV’s core audience. One show in particular — “Awkward.” — has captured my heart and mind.

Disclaimer: I’m the hardest person to impress when it comes to series about high school. “Freaks and Geeks” was amazing, but I have serious qualms about our generation’s darling “My So-Called Life.” So when “Awkward.” premiered last summer, I had my guard up. Most high school shows lack any nuance with regards to character or storytelling and come across as mindless exercises in cliches. At first “Awkward.” appeared to be guilty of this, too.

Jenna (Ashley Rickards) was the snarky, way-too-pretty-to-be-unpopular unpopular girl who was in love with the hunky Matt (Beau Mirchoff) while the sensitive Jake (Brett Davern) pined for her in the wings.

But by playing into expectations, “Awkward.” was cunningly exploring the growth that takes place during late adolescence. Now in its second season — past episodes are available on MTV’s website — “Awkward.” has really hit its stride. As the narrative has progressed, layers within the main and auxiliary characters have been either exposed or developed very well.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that “Awkward.” is one of the funnier shows on television. The cast mostly does well with witty scripts, and Rickards’ Jenna shines in both the comedic and dramatic moments. Jenna’s friends, Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) and Ming (Jessica Lu), are ridiculous, but in a good way.

My complaints — the parents/adults are funny but often written too broadly, and the slang can be a little irritating — are far outweighed by the positives. Hell, even Jenna’s voiceover and Carrie Bradshaw-esque blog writing are treated with enough sarcasm that it’s more than tolerable.