Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An AWKWARD "Surprise!"

Article first published as An AWKWARD "Surprise!" on TheTVKing.

MTV's Awkward. resumed its third season this week with "Surprise!" Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) catches Jenna (Ashley Rickards) and Collin (Nolan Funk) making out, angrily telling Jenna to knock it off. Jenna knows that her friend is right, she should not be cheating on Matty (Beau Mirchoff). Matty's attempts to make Jenna's birthday special only make her feel worse, and he's not the only one with plans for the day.

I love MTV's Awkward. and have always been a big supporter of the series, telling many friends about it and swaying lots of people I know to give it a try. That being said, I am really hating the Jenna-Collin storyline. It would be one thing if Jenna was torn between two guys; that's happened on the show before legitimately. But cheating, as she does, is just wrong.

Jenna is the main character. We want to like her and root for her. When she goes this far off course, though, doing things most viewers will agree is wrong, it hurts her character. It's OK to have a crisis of faith and struggle to do the right thing. It's not OK to have Jenna knowingly carry on a wrong affair.

What "Surprise!" shows us is that Jenna and Collin's relationship is all about hormones. They can't keep their hands off one another long enough to have a talk. This isn't the basis of a healthy relationship, anyway, only the start of a hot tryst that will cool off as quickly as it is fired up. Knowing Collin isn't Jenna's true love, at least not without a lot of growth and change, makes Jenna's actions even more inexcusable.

Awkward. is a very authentic story of a teenage girl, and that's why I've always loved it. Yes, it's natural to think anyone in such a situation, all of the sudden having become popular and beloved because she has come out of her shell, could let it all go to her head and screw up big. That's probably why "Surprise!" takes us down this path, in keeping with what has come before it.

Yet, we also want our television leads to be heroic, even if only in small, common ways. Jenna having the sense to keep her hands off Collin, or to break things off with Matty first, are what we're looking for her to do, and as much as this other version does have lots of drama, a must for a series to stay interesting, it's the wrong kind of drama. It will take a lot for Jenna to come back from this.

Thankfully, her friends feel the same way in the little bits we've seen of them reacting to it. At the end of "Surprise!", everyone important now knows about the affair, so we'll probably see even more of this in the weeks to come. By allowing Tamara and the others to condemn Jenna, Awkward. may just provide itself a path through this dark stuff and onto better things. If nothing else, at least Jenna's behavior isn't glamorized or celebrated, so it's not like the writers are trying to convince us to think something we're opposed to.

Awkward. is still authentic and enjoyable. It's just really hard to watch Jenna act this way, making "Surprise!" squirm-worthy, too. It reminds me of why I can't watch the film Mean Girls because sometimes teenage girls just become completely terrible people for awhile. It's a phase many go through; I'd just hoped Jenna might be an exception.

Meanwhile, Ming (Jessica Lu) is undergoing a similar transformation, the power of being head of the Asian Mafia threatening to derail her being with Fred Wu (Kelly Sry). She doesn't really cross any lines, though, which I am most grateful for. Having two characters screw up royally right off the bat would not be a good way to start a run.

I must say I am still really, really enjoying Mr. Hart (Anthony Michael Hall). His crabby, witty lines definitely add some good humor to the proceedings. He's a terrific recurring addition to the cast.

Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on MTV.

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