Preview: MTV's Awkward. Pays Homage to John Hughes, Mean Girls

The title of MTV’s new comedy, Awkward., says it allclumsy period included.

In the series premiere this Tuesday at 11/10c, klutzy Jenna (One Tree Hill‘s Ashley Rickards) is thrown for a loop when everyone assumes that an epic accident was really a suicide attempt. Suddenly, she has to wear an embarrassing cast and hear classmates whispering about her. As if that’s not enough, her crush, Matty (Desperate Housewives‘ Beau Mirchoff), is totally ignoring her. Yes, being a teenager sucks, but here’s why Awkward. doesn’t.

IT’S REAL AND RELATABLE | Creator Lauren Iungerich, a former writer on ABC Family’s gone-too-soon 10 Things I Hate About You, has an adage that everyone can relate to: “High school starts in high school, but it never ends. Life is high school,” she says. In her quest to make a teen series that’s authentic to that experience, Iungerich was inspired by the films of John Hughes, particularly Sixteen Candles. The idea was to “do something that John Hughes would have done if he were making television [today].” Like Samantha (Molly Ringwald) in Sixteen Candles, Jenna is not a cliched ‘type’ but a regular teenager. “[Samantha] was just invisible,” explains Iungerich. “To me, most people live in that anonymous area of life. … [Jenna] hasn’t formed her identity yet. She’s figuring it out.” And rather than letting her accident define her in a negative way, it becomes a blessing in disguise that empowers Jenna. The “theme of the show is, you can’t change what happens to you, but you can change the way you feel about it,” says Rickards, whose Jenna fights back with a very dry sense of humor. Adds Iungerich: “It’s really a show not about suicide or taking her life. It’s really about life.”

MATTY IS THE NEW JORDAN CATALANO | Like the My So-Called Life hunk that Jared Leto played was to Claire Danes’ Angela Chase, Matty is the hottie just out of Jenna’s reach. He’s “a little confused sometimes,” describes Mirchoff. In other words, a stupid boy who just can’t get it right. But there’s more to Matty than it at first appears. “I wanted to create a [real] boy who’s not cookie-cutter like a bad boy,” describes Iungerich. “[Matty’s] complicated. [Jenna] never really knows where she stands with him.” While he may let her down on more than one occasion, Matty will also surprise Jenna. After all, even Jordan got it right at least once, when he took Angela’s hand in the hallway. “Right when she thinks, ‘I’m done with him,’ he does the most amazing thing,” teases Iungerich. So what draws the popular guy to the school laughingstock? “She’s different,” replies Mirchoff. “When [Matty and Jenna are] at the summer camp, it’s an opportunity for me to get to know her. … You realize that Matty’s interested in her intellect and her weirdness and her realness.”

LOVE TRIANGLES, DUH! | What would high school be without one? Matty’s outgoing best friend, Jake (Cold Case‘s Brett Davern), will also be drawn to Jenna’s newfound devil-may-care attitude, especially when she volunteers for a school stunt. “He doesn’t care what people think of him, either,” says Davern. “He’s not afraid to be silly. … I think when Jenna does that, it’s like, ‘Oh!’” But Jake’s got a girlfriend, cheerleading minion and Abstinence Club president Lissa (Greer Grammer). Not to mention the fact that he’d be betraying the bro code if he pursued Jenna. In his defense, “Jake has no idea about Matty and Jenna,” points out Davern, adding with a smile, “Yeah, there’s some things that might develop.”

Forget love triangles. What would high school be without some popular mean girls? Enter Sadie (Huge‘s Molly Tarlov), a clever Regina George type cheerleader, who manipulates the school staff, makes life hell for Jenna and bosses around Lissa. Sadie has “a really deep-rooted insecurity, which drives her to be so mean,” explains Tarlov. We’ll get more insight into what makes her tick in an episode called “Queen Beyotches,” which follows Sadie home. Providing shelter from Sadie’s storm are Jenna’s two two best friends: catchphrase-spouting Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) and sheltered tomboy Ming (Jessica Lu), who gets life lessons from a surprising source. “She learns everything from Lifetime because her parents are very overprotective,” says Lu, who relates to her character’s strict Asian upbringing. “If she goes on a date, she will get raped and have a baby.”

IT’S RAUNCHY BUT SWEET | The premiere episode doesn’t waste any time taking advantage of its cable home. “MTV pushes the envelope where they need to push the envelope,” assures Reed. “The edgy content that we do explore, we do it in a humorous way, so it doesn’t come across as racy as maybe it could.” Iungerich hastens to add that she’s also careful to back up the show’s more scandalous humor with genuine feeling. “If you’re going to go to a raunchy place, especially for girls, you need to end on something that’s really romantic,” she explains. So, in the end, the show is “very heartfelt. You’ll tear up, I promise.”

Can’t wait to watch Awkward.? Check out the entire first episode for free here.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. maj says:

    Matty and Jenna – did they steal the names from 13 going on 30…?

  2. Dubs says:

    *Yawn* sounds like every other high school related show but with suggestive or raunchy dialogue. The popualar boy who likes the loser, time wasting love triangles only to have the loser and popular guy be end game, the insecure popualr girl who eventually shows he softer side (so overdone, btw, why cant the popular mean girls BE popular mean girls). Who still watches MTV, anyways?

    • Alicia says:

      Agreed, so redundant and unnecessary. Hell, even the cheerleader who is abstinence club president is a rip-off (Hello, Quinn from Glee).
      When a show is copying Glee that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

      • Nicole says:

        Who knows though – this show could actually be good, which would be a huge improvement over Glee. I’m willing to give it a chance. 10 Things was really funny and well-written, so I’m optimistic.

        All that being said, there will NEVER be another Jordan Catalano.

      • Penny says:

        Lmfaoo! I thought of Glee too, with Awkwards.’ carbon copy of Quinn, the cheerleader abstinence club thing. I agree, I smell some copycats but ‘awkardly’ I don’t think Glee is that bad, to me so many shows were weak this year (30 Rock, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory).

      • Lauren says:

        Actually I think the whole thing is a combination of the Princess Diaries (books, not the movie) and Glee. The secondary characters, particularly her best friends and the odd best guy friend are straight out of The Princess Diaries. Like Mia’s best friend who gets all of their love advice out of romance novels and lifetime movies because her parents won’t let her date. Then of course there is the Fabray knock off of the Abstinence club. All in all the description reminds me more of The Princess Diaries than anything else. Except the main character is weird rather than a princess. I suppose if it doesn’t succumb to stereotypes it could be good. I always thought that Disney slaughtered the Princess Diaries.

    • Dane says:

      It’s a formula that keeps getting used because it WORKS. I loved the first ep and can’t wait to see more!

  3. Marissa says:

    I’m really excited about this show. The two things that sold me on it were the John Hughes references and the fact that it was created by a former writer for “10 Things I Hate About You.” That show was very thoughtfully written and gone far too soon.

    The formula that others are complaining about above works for me because it’s relatable. Just about every girl in high school wishes the popular guy would give her the time of day and can’t stand that one gorgeous, seemingly mean girl that rules the school. That can also be reversed, as many guys lust after the cheerleader and resent the quarterback. That’s how high school is, and it brings forth emotions that are real. I dig it.

    • Emily says:

      Same here about the John Hughes references. And I really liked Ashley in OTH so will definitely be giving this show a chance.

    • Lauren says:

      Just a thought, what about a show that’s about the pressure of BEING the beautiful people. Every TV show and movie makes them look one dimensional and superficial but they are still people and they have to be teenagers with every other teen watching them. Not a shallow portrayal like Glee or Gossip Girl but a real series about the insecurity and perfectionism that motivates teen “popular kids” to be who they are. I’d watch that show. It’ll probably never get written though because most people in show business WERE the kicked around invisible kid in high school and who wants to write about the enemy? I know I was one of the “Arts freaks” in my school.

  4. Kristin says:

    They aired the pilot on and it was really good, i was surprised because by the promos i thought it was just going to be a lame misfit type show but i found it very realistic and funny

  5. B says:

    Maybe the high schools in my area are anomalies but I have never heard of one actually having abstinence clubs. Moreover, the portrayal of these fictional individuals in these clubs is often one-dimensional and used purely to mock the idea of virgin teenagers. Its lazy writing as well as probably detrimental to the self esteem of teens who do believe in abstinence or at least aren’t ready for sex in high school. Having said that, I was a fan of 10 things and love John Hughes movies so I hope this show and the writers rise above the easy cliches of high school

  6. Elle says:

    I watched it and its actually really funny I love it!It’s kind of like Easy A in a lot of ways.

    • Eli says:

      Yeah it’s totally the same. Except that Emma Stone played a girl who everyone thought was a slut, but she actually wasn’t. Whereas this girl in Awkward. plays a girl who is a slut but everyone thinks she isn’t.

      • Anne says:

        How is sleeping with ONE guy slutty? Way to perpetuate the stereotype that a female is either a prude or a slut. Thanks.

        • mell says:

          ummmmm shes a slut because she made her self sooooooooo easy to matty wtf…slut doesnt just mean sleeping with many guys…youre pretty much a slut if you do one guy youre not even dating many many times…pretty much what jenna does

  7. NYTeach says:

    Love, love, love this show!!! I was a total Jenna in high school in the ’80s. Thank goodness I didn’t live in the digital age… I would have Bern in big trouble!

  8. Reanni says:

    Best comedy show ever luv it allot and follow me on twitter name:@zzvtalove

  9. maresa says:

    the best tv show ever! every episode has me excited! p.s-mattty is HOT!

  10. Kalista Miller says:

    Sarcastic and funny, a perfect combination. :)

  11. Gemma says:

    There was a show written about the popular kids, it was called Popular and written by Ryan Murphy from Glee. Yeah it had “misfits” but it had the focus on beautiful people too, I used to love it.
    I think Awkward is great actually, it’s not breaking any barriers but it’s entertaining enough.