CliqueClack TV

Missing My So-Called Life? Check out MTV’s Awkward!

Jenna Hamilton is Angela Chase reborn. "Awkward." embodies every single thing I loved about "My So-Called Life" and other '90s teen dramas. Pretty boy Jordan Catalano? Check. Wacky minority friend? Check! Slutty female friend? Check. Check. Check!

There were three shows I loved in the ’90s which I felt perfectly captured my too-smart-for-the-world, all-black-wearing, undo-the-dominant-paradigm angsty, I’m-so-misunderstood teen self: ABC’s My So-Called Life (1994-1995), MTV’s Daria (1997-2001), ABC’s Life Goes On (1989-1993) as well as ABC’s Once and Again (1999-2002). All included too-smart for the world brunettes who lusted after and eventually landed the perfect popular boy. While I have the Daria DVD sets on back order and both Life Goes On as well as Once and Again had full seasons, a hole always remained in my heart for My So-Called Life’s early cancellation. I loved the show because it perfectly captured how I felt at that age: lost, misunderstood, unpopular and adrift. Angela Chase (portrayed by Claire Danes‘ luminous old world eyes) embodied everything the ’90s teen felt and then some. After ABC cancelled it after only one season (one *#!&&#*@# season!!!), I mourned the show’s early passing.

Even as recently as last year, I STILL hoped My So-Called Life’s series creator, Winnie Holzman, would call together Claire Danes and her executive production staff to pen the show’s final seasons. Luckily, after watching two seasons of MTV’s Awkward. back-to-back I no longer have that desire. Awkward. IS My So-Called Life: The Missing Years.

Awkward. surrounds incredibly normal, yet inexplicably unpopular “freak” Jenna Hamilton. After receiving an anonymous letter calling her a wuss through numbered points, she writes an anguished blog post in response and goes to take a bath. But, after taking a couple aspirin for a headache, she accidentally falls into the bathtub, knocking a hairdryer into the bath water while spilling aspirin onto the bathroom tiles. Yeah. Awkward. Unsurprisingly, everyone in her immediate social circle, including her parents, teachers, friends, and schoolmates assume that she’s a suicidal spaz. And, that’s just the pilot.

I love Awkward., not just because Jenna Hamilton gives me major Angela Chase vibes, but because it perfectly captures the teen angst experience without belittling it, slutting it up or turning it into saccharine words. It’s honest, raw and open. It’s everything I loved about My-So Called Life.

Although Awkward. incorporates the templates of my favorite ’90s TV shows, especially My So-Called Life, that doesn’t make it less poignant. And, yes, Jenna is clearly Angela Chase, a pretty girl lost in the anonymity of public high school, who convinces herself she means nothing because she doesn’t stand out. Hence, the letter she receives. Like Angela Chase, it’s her shyness and awkwardness that prevents her from joining the halls of popularity, rather than her “freakish” nature; but she doesn’t realize it initially. Like Angela Chase, she’s comparatively normal when juxtaposed with her best friends. The awesomely sarcastic and truth-telling Ming is a modern-day Ricky. While she doesn’t deal with issues of sexuality, she deals with racial issues as a minority in a suburban white high school, while snarking at her underrepresented status. Awkward.‘s Lacey is practically Rayanne’s younger cousin both physically and through her actions. Like Rayanne, Lacey is hyper-sexual. However, while Rayanne uses her sexuality to flaunt the label people ascribe to her: slut, Lacey does it out of insecurity. As a former non-hottie who wore external braces, Lacey willingly makes out with anyone, including her douchey ex-boyfriend, to feel popular and reclaim the sexual appeal she believes she lost in her braces years.

Overall, I view the show as a ’90s tribute. Jenna’s interest in the class jock, Matty, who stomps over her feelings while secretly desiring her, mirrors Angela’s relationship with Jordan Catalano. However, Akward.‘s love triangle emerging between good guy, Jake, and abtacular jock, Matty, reminded me of Life Goes On’s final two seasons where Becca finds herself pulled between her initial crush, Tyler, and the sensitive hottie, Jessie. Hell, even Awkward.‘s clothing, dim lighting and rough production values all give me a ’90s vibe.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t even know that Awkward. existed until this weekend when I found myself working from home and using Hulu videos to keep me company. After watching the available season two episodes on Hulu, I immediately ran to to watch the season one episodes. Heck, I was hooked after the first episode in the second season. For awhile, I wondered why I loved the show so much until I realized: Jenna is Angela and Angela was me. And, I’m gratified that other articles exist affirming the ’90s connection I felt.

So, while I will always miss Angela Chase. I’ve decided to stop my decades-long, one-woman writing campaign to ABC to  bring back My So-Called Life – I don’t need it anymore. I have Awkward.

Photo Credit: MTV

Categories: | Features | General | News | TV Shows |

2 Responses to “Missing My So-Called Life? Check out MTV’s Awkward!”

August 21, 2012 at 2:10 PM

I love Awkward. I get where you’re coming from with the My So Called Life comparison, but stylistically, they are worlds apart. Awkward is hilarious, and a really light touch. It’s like if My So Called Life, Daria, and the 21 Jump Street reboot were put together and had a entertaining MTV kid to try to make amends for the Jersey Shore.

August 27, 2012 at 3:30 PM

I really, really disagree with your comparison between Ming and Ricky. Ricky had more dimension and wasn’t just “the minority character.” Although I like Ming, she’s basically given nothing interesting to do other than act as a vessel for Asian stereotype jokes.

While Awkward is really entertaining, I don’t think it deserves to be called the next MSCL. I’m a product of Jenna’s generation, not Angela’s, but I still found MSCL so much more honest than Awkward in its depiction of teen issues, especially things like teen sex and parental issues. I don’t get what’s so “true” about Awkward.

As this article says, Awkward is really snarky and self-aware. In my opinion, that’s what makes it innately incapable of being “honest” and “real.” The writing is meant to entertain, not realistically portray teen life.

In my opinion, Awkward is a good show, but not near the league of MSCL. If anything, it’s the funnier, hipster sister.

Powered By OneLink