Well, everything, really; everything went wrong and Awkward turned into Awful right from the get-go of the start of the fourth season. And this is really sad because I really, really enjoy Awkward and considering I wasn’t really the target demographic of the show, I found myself rooting for Jenna, hating her, and seeing a lot of myself back when I was that age. It was so well-written, hip-smart, clever, touching, and funny.
But in one fell swoop, MTV decided it can do away with Lauren Iungerich, the show’s creator and show runner, and replaced her with Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler (90210, So Notorious) and instantaneously, the show lost its soul. Season 4 started and it felt like watching an episode of The Twilight Zone, except it went on for the whole season.
Myles McNutt of The AV Club got it right in this article: With a change in showrunners, MTV’s Awkward lives up to its title.
The characters just seem like shadows or hollowed out versions of their former selves and, despite all the growing up that they did in the past three seasons, they reverted back to the most derivative version of themselves come season 4. It was infuriating; especially when you consider how the show ended in season 3, with Jenna finding happiness and comfort with being her own person and dancing alone at the dance. It brought tears to my eyes.
I’m a 35 year old gay guy. In my youth, I always thought that I’d be happier if I were with someone but as I got older, I realised I needed to be me first and then, I could be ready to even think about being with someone else. Seeing this intelligent teenager finding a semblance of that wisdom after three seasons of wrong choices and allowing her emotions to get the better of her was just a triumphant moment. Then season 4 started and they threw it out of the window.
It seems that Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler wanted to sink lower and appeal to the very basic of least common denominators and just focus on the love and sex angle which has been overplayed. Instead of moving forward, they thought it would be better to take several steps back.
And they ruined the most essential detail of Lauren Iungerich’s writing: that all the supporting characters in Jenna’s life, from Tamara, Ming, Kyle, Lissa, and even Val, were all important contrasts and counterpoints to Jenna as a person. She interacts with these people throughout the series and in the process we see who she is in comparison to them, how she’s like them and how she’s not like them, and it creates the tension to her problems and motivates her choices. She gets mad at Kyle for stalking her but she’s just as obsessed with Matty; but at the end of the day, for all his weirdness, he is in a creative writing class just like her. Instead, come fourth season, all the supporting characters have been reduced to mere punchlines. Lissa is just a crazy-ass Jesus freak. Kyle is just plain weird. It just doesn’t work.
I would laugh out loud while watching Awkward during its first three seasons, but I can only remember one or two times that I actually laughed in the fourth season. One or two times in 10 episodes!
The reason why I laughed is probably because of Sadie, the only person who the new showrunners actually did good by. Sadie is the only character in season 4 that wasn’t reduced into a caricature. She actually grew as a character and they delved into her layers and she came out the only thing in the show worth watching.
And it is sad because the actors are still amazing — all of them — but with such a pathetic storyline and a weak script, there was not much that they could do; except for Molly Tarlov, who must have had a field day and enjoying herself, because it showed and I enjoyed every minute of her.
And the introduction of the new characters just seemed like a pathetic ploy to make Awkward cooler (as if the show needed to be any cooler, which it didn’t). Eva just seemed so fake and as her character spun into Gossip Girl territory (so wrong, so off-key into the world of Awkward) and showed that Alberghini and Chessler was more involved and focused on plot and shocking the characters into life, rather than character development and theme. The two gay characters, Theo and Cole, was also off-key and didn’t do anything to improve the narrative. They were just annoying plot devices that were neither funny nor compelling. At least Clark was funny and contributed in the growth of Jenna’s character and the reality of Palos Hills significantly when he was in the show.
Such a long rant over a teenage show on MTV but Awkward was so good. A lot of people were disappointed by the third season and Jenna’s descent into the darkness and how quickly she got out of it. I excuse the speed of which things turned haywire for Jenna because, one, it was properly motivated, and, two, it is a television show with only 20 episodes of a 30-minute show to complete that story arc. And Jenna’s epiphany, dancing on her own, to Robyn’s Dancing on My Own, was just triumphant and celebratory and right. It was just right.
I loved this show. I loved the characters. I love the dynamic and the story of Jenna and Lacey and how much she has grown in three seasons. I am pissed off that MTV felt that they thought they could keep the form and build it from just the form and none of the heart and the substance which made it so great in the first place.
Bad move, MTV. I’m not watching Awkward anymore.