Awkward is an American teen comedy series created by Lauren Iungerich for MTV. The show's central character is Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), a Palos Verdes, California, teenager who struggles with her identity, especially after an accident is misconstrued as a suicide attempt.
The series premiered on July 19, 2011. MTV renewed the series for a second season on August 24, 2011. The second season premiered on June 28, 2012 at 10:30pm.Awkward was officially renewed for a third season with an order of 20 episodes on July 25, 2012, which began airing on April 16, 2013 at 10:00pm. On June 26, 2013 it was announced that the show's creator Lauren Iungerich would be exiting the show after production of Season 3 concludes on June 27, 2013. The rest of the show's third season will pick up on October 22, 2013.
MTV renewed the series for a fourth season on August 5, 2013 with new showrunners, Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler, to replace creator and former showrunner, Lauren Iungerich.
Awkward's first season was generally well-received with television critics praising the show's realism and writing as well as its central character, and was included in various critics' top ten lists. The show also earned several award nominations, winning one Teen Choice Award and one People's Choice Award.
Social outcast Jenna Hamilton, after receiving a "carefrontation" letter, has an accident. It looks like she tried to commit suicide. By making changes and embracing her misfortune, she becomes well-known to her peers through her blog.
After losing her virginity to the popular Matty McKibben during summer camp, Jenna continues a secret relationship that consists only of sex with him at high school. Jenna later begins to develop a relationship with Matty's best friend, Jake Rosati. Jenna ends her relationship with Matty to be with Jake, and both eventually agree to not tell Jake about it. Jenna finds out who wrote her the confrontation letter.
Jake falls in love with Jenna oblivious to her lingering feelings toward Matty and his best friend's feeling towards his girlfriend. Towards the end of the second season resident mean girl and Jenna's nemesis, Sadie, exposes the relationship to Jake who then breaks up with Jenna. Matty goes to Jenna's house to comfort her and they end up kissing. Jake, realizing he had made a mistake breaking up with Jenna, also goes to her house and witnesses the kiss. What then follows is a public fist fight between Matty and Jake later at school and their eventual make up and a decision to force Jenna to choose between them. Jenna chooses Matty over Jake and they start over their relationship, with Matty not being embarrassed to be seen in public anymore. Jake starts to date Tamara, Jenna's BFF. Ricky Schwartz kisses a guy.
Tamara, Jake and Valerie go on a trip to Europe. When they get back, Tamara has a whole new look and a deeper relationship with Jake. Ricky Schwartz dies. Tamara becomes the socialite that she always aspired to be but her ambitions may just be getting in between her relationship with Jake. Ming, Jenna's other BFF finally finds a boyfriend and becomes head of the "Asian Mafia." Jenna starts taking a creative writing class where she meets Collin. As Jenna gets bored with her relationship with Matty, she starts a fling with Collin. Mid-season break.
This affair is then revealed on Jenna's 17th birthday party. Matty is willing to forgive Jenna but she wants to end the relationship. Jenna also ends relationships with her friends and family. Leaving herself with only Collin to fall on. Collin brings out a new side of Jenna, one that was never expected from her and finds herself in a dark place. Jenna realizes that she has made some bad decisions and needs to mend some broken relationships. Jenna still has feelings for Matty; she picks up on wrong clues and believes Matty is going to ask her to prom only to find out he wanted to take her new friend Bailey. Jenna is distraught and tells her mother she won't go to prom. Through inspiration from a book called "Unraveled" (written by a familiar face) and the encouragement from her mother (and referring to the carefrontation letter), Jenna realizes who she wants to be.
Cast and characters
Ashley Rickards as Jenna Hamilton, a 17-year-old "invisible" girl in high school with an irreverent, optimistic outlook on life, who just wants to fit in. Things go from bad to worse when she gets a mysterious "care-frontation" letter in which the writer says she could disappear and no one would notice. Her reaction leads to a misunderstanding of epic proportions causing everyone to believe that Jenna's accident was a failed suicide attempt. She loses her virginity to Matty, but he doesn't want to take their relationship public, which causes complications. Jenna is best friends with Tamara and Ming. Jenna is the nemesis of Sadie Saxton. Later in the first season, she begins a relationship with Jake Rosati. In the second season, Jenna tells Jake she isn't a virgin leading Jake to become somewhat jealous. After Jake breaks up with her, she admits that she is still in love with Matty. Jenna and Matty officially get back together in the season 2 finale but she wonders if she made the right decision. At the beginning of season 3, Jenna starts to have feelings for the new boy in school, Collin and tries to get over those feelings while still dating Matty. She makes out with Collin in the summer finale and it is unknown if Matty saw them or not. Soon she cheats on Matty, breaks up with him, and starts dating Collin. Because of her dating Collin, her personality, (and fashion sense) is completely changed. She becomes more daring and more of a bad girl.
Beau Mirchoff as Matty McKibben, one of Jenna's love interests. Despite being popular, athletic, and handsome, Matty is extremely concerned with his peers' perception of him. He had sex with Jenna in a supply closet at summer camp. He doesn't want anyone to know what he did with her and he and Jenna embark on a secret on/off relationship throughout the first season. Matty is also best friends with Jake Rosati and is the object of Sadie's affection. As the first season progresses Matty and Jenna become closer, however in the season one finale Jenna breaks it off. In the season two premiere he asks Jenna for another chance but she rejects him for his best friend Jake Rosati. Later, Matty admits that he loves her, but she has already committed to Jake. However, later in season 2 on episode 8, Jake finds out about Matty and Jenna's secret relationship and dumps her for feeling cheated and lied to. Matty later shows up at Jenna's house to comfort her, but both end up kissing as Jake watches to his horror from the window. Matty and Jenna officially get back together in the season 2 finale. During season 3, Matty and Jenna grow distant, due to Jenna having growing feelings for Collin. In the summer finale, Matty admits that he was embarrassed of Jenna after her accident, because he thought she tried to commit suicide because her accident was the same day they had sex for the first time. After he admits this, Jenna makes out with Collin in his car as Matty walks up, it is unknown if he saw them kissing or not.
Nikki DeLoach as Lacey Hamilton, Jenna's mother, who is clueless about raising a child. A superficial plastic surgery fanatic, she had Jenna when she was a teenager and gave up on her dreams of going to college, using the funds to get breast implants instead. In the Season One finale, Jenna finds out that she wrote the Care-Frontation letter she received at the beginning of the season. In the second season premiere, Jenna tells her mother she knows she wrote the letter, and in the second episode opts to share this information with Jenna's father, Kevin. Later on in episode 8, Jenna's mother meets up with an old friend, Ben after feeling the need to meet other guys. But, by the end of season 2, Lacey and Kevin are back together.
Jillian Rose Reed as Tamara "T" Kaplan, one of Jenna's best friends. She is extremely loud and outgoing, but openly desires to be accepted and popular. She has an on-again-off-again relationship with Ricky Schwartz, which has caused her to behave irrationally in the past. When Jenna accidentally kisses Ricky at a party, Tamara ends their friendship by claiming that she was the one who wrote the care-frontation letter. She quickly realizes that Jenna was not responsible for her actions that night, and the two reconcile. During the season one finale, Tamara ends her relationship with Ricky after finding out that he asked three other girls to the winter formal before her. They get back together at the dance when Ricky quotes a Missed-Connections ad that he placed for her. By the second season, Tamara and Ricky are together, but she breaks up with him once again when she catches him kissing another girl during a school assembly. She spends the rest of the season trying to get over him, despite that fact that he has started dating Sadie. In the second season finale, she makes out with Jake because she is upset over how bad the past year has been for her. Starting at the end of season 2 Jake and Tamara start a relationship together. Tamara replaces Lissa on the cheerleading team after she gets into a cheer accident.
Brett Davern as Jake Rosati, Jenna's other love interest. He is the class president, popular, smart, and outgoing. Jake is best friends with Matty and started off dating Lissa before the beginning of Season One, but eventually broke up with her due to his feelings for Jenna and the way Lissa and Sadie treat him. Unlike Matty, who thinks with the team, Jake thinks for himself. He leads, rather than follows, and is a sensitive guy with a heart of gold. Jake and Jenna grow closer, leading him to develop a crush on her. At first Jenna does not reciprocate these feelings, but she eventually realizes that he is kind, honest, and thoughtful towards her. He doesn't mind being seen in public with Jenna, unlike Matty, and he doesn't care about what other people think of him. At the start of season two, Jake is publicly dating Jenna. However, he becomes constantly jealous of the guy Jenna was in love with before him, not knowing it was Matty. Soon, Jake finds out about their relationship and breaks up with Jenna, only to regret his decision later. However, it is too late to revoke his decision to break up with Jenna when he accidentally sees Jenna and Matty kissing. At the end of the season 2 finale, Jake begins a relationship with Tamara.
Molly Tarlov as Sadie Saxton, Jenna's nemesis. Sadie becomes the most popular girl at school thanks to her parents buying her influence, yet is the one with the biggest weight issues of the "popular kids". Despite Sadie's popularity and power, Jenna senses that Sadie feels she never measures up. Sadie makes excuses for her bad behavior because she feels entitled; she thinks the world owes her for having to suffer a "fat gene", that she has everything except the perfect body. Her infamous catchphrase is a very sarcastic and distinctive "You're welcome," that she normally says after a rude comment. She had a secret crush on Matty which was mainly the reason why she hated Jenna, but in the season two premiere, she hooks up with him at a New Year's Eve party and realizes that he's nothing special. Ironically, Jenna sympathizes with Sadie and tries to help her but her attempts are misinterpreted by Sadie as the same sort of mean girl tricks she is known to do. After her failed hookup with Matty, she kisses Ricky Schwartz which leads to a secret relationship. Her and Ricky's secret relationship soon ends when she finds him kissing Clark in the season 2 finale. In a drunken stupor, she comes close to apologizing to Jenna but passes out on Tamara's lap.
Desi Lydic as Valerie Marks, the school counselor. She clearly has her own problems as she tries too hard to be like the teenagers she is there to help. She's a lonely person who feels her gift in life is helping people. She crosses boundaries and acts inappropriately around students; when Valerie is assigned to talk to Jenna once a week, their relationship becomes increasingly unprofessional as Valerie comes to think of Jenna as her best friend. On Jenna's sixteenth birthday, as a present she gives her the movie Sixteen Candles and also quotes famous lines from the film. She has a romantic relationship with a fellow teacher at the school. Soon "Val" becomes friendly with Jenna's mom, "Lace", and are seen together quite frequently.
Greer Grammer as Lissa (Season 3, recurring previously), Jake's ex-girlfriend, and Sadie's best friend. She is usually identified as being ditsy, and for having very strong christian beliefs. At the beginning of the show, Lissa is very insecure about her relationship with Jake due to her taking a virginity pledge, and often gets advice from Sadie. Like that she could have anal sex (which she called her "be-hymen") because that didn't count, and to take a naked picture of Jenna in order to humiliate her. When Jake breaks up with her, she realizes Sadie destroyed her relationship with Jake due to her constant meddling, and ends their friendship. In the beginning of the second season, Lissa asks for forgiveness from Jenna, and tries to form a friendship with her. She also decides to take Sadie back, because she believes that God put Sadie in her life as a test. It is also shown that she still has feelings for Jake.
Jessica Lu as Ming Huang (Season 3, recurring previously), Jenna's other best friend. She is portrayed as a down-to-earth indie-style teenager with strict Chinese parents. Ming gets mad at Jenna for telling Tamara about her secret relationship with Matty instead of telling her and because of that she feels left out, but still remains supportive of Jenna. She has a secret relationship with Fred Wu due to the Mafia Gang. Fred Wu is sent away, leading to a physical fight with Becca (Jessika Van), ending in Ming becoming the new leader of the Mafia.
Mike Faiola as Kevin Hamilton, Jenna's father. He is shown as being the more responsible parent as opposed to his wife and to be caring and supportive to Jenna through rough times. He and Lacey separate after she tells him that she wrote the letter. By the end of season 2, Kevin and Lacey are back together. Soon after Jenna gets birth control pills, Kevin finds them, and irrationally calls Matty's parents, telling them that the two are having sex. This leads to a fight between families over dinner and leads to Matty's week stay at the Hamilton house.
Jessika Van as Becca, the ringleader of the Asians or the "Asian Mafia" at Palos Hills High School. She frequently conflicts with Ming, and is considered Ming's archrival in the series. Knowledge is her power, and allows her to fulfill her own agenda. She also manipulates others for her own personal gain. Becca's not out to help Ming, but rather to help herself. She knows everything about every Asian in Palos Hills, and demonstrates this by describing the origins of Ming's Grandparents. In the episode "Reality Check," Ming punches Becca in the face. However, instead of being suspended, Becca attains a number of signed affidavits (from the Asian students) saying that she ran into a door by accident, thereby demonstrating her clout within the Asians of Palos Hills High. However, as she is forced to leave the school, Ming Huang takes over as the ringleader of the Asian mafia.
Nolan Gerard Funk as Collin Jennings, a student in Jenna's creative writing class. They share a bit of animosity with one another. He dated a girl named Angelique, whom Sadie hates. He and Jenna start to get closer when he comes to support her at her reading at the local coffee house. After that Jenna starts to have fantasies about Collin. She is required to write the fantasy of how she lost her virginity. It turns out secretly being about how she fantasizes her first time with Collin would be. Soon after, he breaks up with Angelique. They continue to have subtle chemistry. At the end of the spring finale, Jenna decides to go to a party that Collin invited her to. She decides to stay with him instead of going to another party with Matty. While Collin drops Jenna off at the other party to meet up with Matty, they end up making out in the car. Jenna briefly dated Collin after breaking up with Matty, but broke up with Collin after he slept with his ex.
Matthew Fahey as Ricky Schwartz, Tamara's on again off again crush. He is in the band with Tamara, and is shown to be quite the player. Jenna accidentally kissed him at her house party, which caused severe tension between her and Tamara. After asking Tamera out to the winter formal, she breaks up with him when she finds out that he asked three other girls before her. But he wins her back at the dance by quoting an ad he placed for Tamara on Missed Connections. In season two, he develops a secret relationship with Sadie, which ends after Sadie catches him making out with Clark in the season finale. He often calls Tamara "beautiful" as a nickname, and Sadie "doll-face". He dies from a peanut allergy at the beginning of the season 3 premiere, but he reveals via Sadie's spirit board that his death was actually no accident.
Joey Haro as Clark Stevenson, the tribute to her when he won Formal Princess. They grow closer during season two when Jenna attends a youth Christian retreat, where he explains his religious beliefs. In the season two finale, he reveals himself as the anonymous poster on her blog, and is caught making out with Ricky Schwartz.
Wesam Keesh as Kyle, a mysterious boy who attends school with Jenna. He walks around with a shirt that says "Jenna Lives" and Jenna comes to believe that he is obsessed with her. She later gives up on the idea of him being a stalker when she finds out that Jenna Lives is actually his band...only for it to turn out that he is a stalker. He reappears in season 2, having given up on Jenna Lives and now running a club called "Take It Outside", a phrase Tamara coined, leading to her believing that he is now stalking her.
Barret Swatek as Aunt Ally, Jenna's mom's best friend who first appeared in the season one episode "The Adventures of Aunt Ally and the Lil' Bitch". She smokes, drinks, and shows a clear disdain for Jenna, whom she refers to as "Lil' Bitch", since Lacey had her at a young age. In season two, she reappeared breaking the news that she was getting married to Sadie's wealthy uncle.
Kelly Sry as Fred Wu, Ming's boyfriend. He used to date Becca, the original leader of the Asian mafia. He is described as the non-stereotypical Asian.
Shane Harper as Austin Welch. He is an intelligent kid with weird tendencies who displays an interest in Sadie. While Sadie initially rebuffs his advances, she eventually caves. At the end of season three, they said "I love you" to one another.
McKaley Miller as Bailey Parker, a freshman at Palos Hills whom Jenna befriends near the end of season three. She is labeled as a slut by the school, although she's actually quite the opposite. Jenna is her only friend. She has feelings for Matty, but also knows that Jenna never got over him and places their friendship above a potential relationship with Matty.
Anthony Michael Hall as Mr. Hart, Jenna's creative writing teacher who takes pride in pushing his students outside of their comfort zones. He is also a former novelist.
"The first season is really about identity and an exploration of 'Who am I?' through the eyes of Jenna as she's exploring who she is. This season [season 2] the driving theme is, 'Who do I want to be with?' and that doesn't just pertain to romantic entanglements but also to friendships and family for everyone. The driving force of Season 3 will be 'Who do I want to be?' and making a choice in the decision of identity."
Series creator Lauren Iungerich said, "I wanted to do something that was really irreverent and really takes a very satirical look at what it's like to be a teenager, in an authentic, real, honest way". She spent time with actual high school students to elaborate the teen dialogue of the show. She also met them to talk about their lives and to make sure the show reflects the reality.
Citing her writing influences, Iungerich said she likes Friday Night Lights: "What Jason Katims did in five seasons was utterly beautiful. The story and who the people truly were came first. That's what I sort of took away from it; to be so bold as to graduate people, and wrap up story lines or allow them to come back in organic ways and to fall in love with the new characters. I want to take a lesson from that. Moving forward, I'm going to take a note from the brave things that he did in that show."
Awkward mostly received positive reviews for its first season. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the TV series received an average score of 74, based on 13 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz explained Awkward is a "series about a high-school girl that's neither maudlin nor alarming nor conceived with intent to preach or to shock. It's further distinguished by its focus on entirely recognizable teenage pains, as endured by an entirely recognizable teenager, Jenna (Ashley Rickards). Its other distinction: strong echoes of an older kind of storytelling, the sort whose characters grow and acquire depth. This is a lot to expect these days from TV writing of any kind, much less a series about teenagers—it's relief enough when it's not about vampires."Hank Stuever of The Washington Post found that series "funny", which was "a pleasant surprise from MTV, the maker of so many lame teen comedies that I’ve lost count."The New York Times called Awkward as "a wry show about longing—for love, certainly, but also for consistency, that great intangible in the ever-morphing world of high school life". John Kubicek of BuddyTV website wrote "Just like Easy A, Mean Girls or other strong, female-centric teen comedies, Awkward has a quick wit and a very distinct vision of the world. It's the perfect blend of comedy and painful teenage awkwardness, and in the end, the title says it all." He concluded "The result is one of the most enjoyable and earnest teen comedies TV has produced". Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, David Wiegand described the show as "a very smart mix of realism and satirical exaggeration" and praised the writing for being sharp. Curt Wagner of RedEye stated Awkward is "whip-smart and hilarious" while lauding the sharpness of the writing.
"With the right amount of exaggerated realism, creator Lauren Iungerich turns all the yearning, pain and, well, awkwardness of high school into a frothy, funny satire that should make anyone feel better about their own fumbling ways."
The New York Post writer Linda Stasi gave the show a three stars rating out of four commenting "aside from the gratuitous sexual stuff, Awkward is a really good, funny, fun show". However, Stasi mentioned "this just isn't the kind of thing you'd want to watch with your kids—nor want your kids to watch." According to The Philadelphia Daily News, "Awkward like Glee deals gently and semicomically with issues of sexuality and bullying but never really draws blood".HitFix's Daniel Fienberg gave the show a B rating commenting "Not only are high school horrors pretty universal, even if the specifics change, but I can find a way to fit Awkward into a tradition of hyper-literal high school comedies like Pretty in Pink or Heathers or Mean Girls or Juno. It's not as good as any of those, but it's not as bad as Jawbreaker, which is in the same tradition."Variety's Brian Lowry was less enthusiastic about the show: "While the premise is refreshingly gimmick-free compared with RJ Berger or Teen Wolf, the situations aren't compelling enough to make this much more than a latter-day Doogie Howser, M.D. with a gender switch."
The character of Jenna Hamilton has received positive feedback. Entertainment Weekly wrote Jenna "navigates the sharky waters of high school, friends, mean cheerleaders, and cute boys with a snarky voice-over that makes her—and Awkward.—easy to fall in love with."The Huffington Post deemed Jenna's voice-overs "witty" as "[they] make this high-school dark comedy stand out from a crowd of stereotypical high school prime-time soaps." David Hinckley of the Daily News gave the show a four stars rating out of five and wrote "Awkward is very good". He explained "For all the times we've seen the high school outcast who feels alternately ignored and humiliated by her peer group, she has rarely been played better than Ashley Rickards plays Jenna Hamilton." and went on "If the dramas are exaggerated, Jenna makes the trauma feel legitimate, and her narration gives everything a knowing undertone of humor and self-awareness that keeps the most uncomfortable moments from being painful." Stasi compared Ashley Rickards to Juno actress Ellen Page: "Rickards is a great teen actress of the Ellen Page variety—the kind of kid whose pretty face and adorable bearing is swamped by her ability to look awkward and offbeat."The Washington Post wrote of Rickards: "Following the well-trod path of Molly Ringwald’s Sixteen Candles and Claire Danes’s My So-Called Life, she effortlessly manages to elevate the unfresh premise of MTV’s new Tuesday night comedy series, Awkward, to something that is tawdry yet honest.
Other characters were also well received. Kubicek appreciated that the show's villain, Sadie Saxton, is not "the typical perfect skinny girl" but "an overweight cheerleader who is popular only thanks to her parents."
Critics' top ten lists
Following its first season, Awkward was included in various critics' top ten lists.