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Series / Awkward.

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Awkward. is a live action MTV dramedy about the life of Jenna Hamilton, a social outcast who gains attention after a misconstrued suicide attempt.

Jenna is a normal, everyday Cool Loser. She has Amazingly Embarrassing Parents, who, due to having her in high school, never quite grew up themselves. She has a crush on popular jock Matty McKibbon. She hangs out with her two best friends, Tamara Kaplan and Ming Huang and tries to avoid the wrath of Sadie Saxton. Jenna's life changes on the last day of summer camp when she loses her virginity to Matty and then receives an anonymous letter that calls her out on her faults. Jenna's reaction to the back to back humiliation is mistaken for a suicide attempt. Jenna now faces sudden attention and infamy. Jenna decides to take the situation in her own hands and attempts to rework it for the positive. Throughout the first season she navigates being in a secret relationship with Matty while his best friend Jake Rosati develops a crush on her despite dating Sadie's friend Lissa. Meanwhile, she tries to figure out who wrote the anonymous letter.


The series premiered July 19, 2011. Despite initially appearing like a Cliché Storm, it quickly became a sleeper hit, developing a surprising Periphery Demographic and gaining critical praise, who agreed that it was better than it sounds. The fifth and final season aired in the fall of 2015.

This Live Action TV Show provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Season 2 introduces us to the Asian clique (half-seriously referred to as the Asian mafia), ruled with an iron fist by Becca, a girl who enjoys ambiguous verbal exchanges and Batman Gambits.
  • Above the Influence: Subverted with Ming and Fred in the Season 3 finale. Ming assumes he wants to have sex with her on prom night, and uses roundabout ways to get him not to, only for him to tell her he doesn't.
  • Adults Are Useless: So very much. Especially guidance counselor Valerie, who usually ends up making things worse for Jenna by misunderstanding whatever it is Jenna's telling her about.
    • Especially noticeable in Se1Ep2 where a nude photo of Jenna is circulated... And it's Jenna who points out that it's illegal, not Valerie.
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  • Alliterative Name: Matty McKibbon, Sadie Saxton.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sadie, an inversion of the usual stick-thin blonde, being a full-figured brunette.
    • Jenna herself, in a alternate reality fantasy in "Once upon a blog". She even got her own Catchphrase: "Sorry; I'm not sorry."
    • The Julies of later seasons play it straight, down to being stick-thin blondes.
  • Abusive Parents: Like mother like daughter. Sadie's mother proves to be incredibly emotionally abusive towards her daughter. After she leaves Sadie with her alcoholic aunt for 2-3 seasons (a year, probably), she returns and seems to have moved on from her terrible methods. She gradually regains Sadie's trust, occasionally using Allie for some of the less obvious ploys, and tells Sadie she wants her to meet her boyfriend. Turns out, she only wanted to prove to her boyfriend that she was close to her daughter (she definitely fed him some embellished lies about texting/Skyping/etc Sadie everyday). After Sadie learns about this, she decides to cut her mother out of her life entirely.
  • Always Someone Better: Jenna's thoughts on Olivia aka Jenna Plus. Luckily, she has nothing to worry about.
    • Likewise, Jenna feels this way again about Eva in Season 4. She may have something to worry about, if she really does want to pursue a romantic relationship with Matty. Again.
    • Heavily implied that this is why Sadie despises Jenna so much. Jenna has her ideal figure, her crush Matty's romantic interest, the respect of the mother she's desperately trying to please and, during season 2, her best friend Lissa's friendship.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Jenna's mother still reminisces about her high school popularity. Her implants apparently feel like the real thing, and she'll happily let guests feel for themselves. Her dad is better, but still does some horribly awkward things, such as give his daughter condoms for Christmas.
    Lacey: You're embarrassing Jenna.
    Jenna: You're both embarrassing Jenna!
    • Ming's parents are pretty bad as well.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ming's parents apparently think she's gay, and she does take a girl to the Winter Formal. She apparently is straight, however.
  • Anything That Moves: Ricky Schwartz, who has hooked up with girls, boys, and possibly Tamara's dog.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Ming is a bit of a subversion. Apparently her grades are poor enough that her parents, "doubt that she's actually Chinese."
  • The Baby Trap: In an Alternate Universe, Jenna pulls one of Jake in order to keep him from dumping her. He figures it out and promptly dumps her... Only for to turn out to really be pregnant.
    • Eva sets up one for for Matty in season 4, with a positive pregnancy test she got from "Whoria Gloria" in exchange for earrings she stole from Matty's Mom.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Tamara, who is so bad that there's a conspiracy within the drama department to keep her out of shows.
  • Beautiful All Along: Notably averted with Jenna — Matty notices her the way she is, despite being the jock and she being the 'invisible girl.'
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Eva, especially when around Sadie. She seems to take delight in bragging about her past exploits and seems to enjoy undermining Sadie as much as Sadie enjoys undermining her. She also makes it seem like Jenna was rude about Matty being in jail and tries to drive a wedge between Jenna and Matty (even going so far as to put her underwear in Jenna's bed to make it seem like they had sex in it). The last one blows up in her face as Jenna quickly realizes that Matty is too decent a person to do such a thing.
  • Brick Joke: Clark jokes that he will make out with Sadie's boyfriend. They end up in seven minutes in heaven.
  • Blackmail: Jenna blackmails Sadie with her food journal to gets Sadie to get her and her mother inducted into the Knick Knackers.
    • Guidance Counselor Valerie is promoted to Vice Principal after using a tape containing footage of the VP and Principal in intimate situations as leverage. Except she had no idea what was on the tape; Becca did, and knew Val would deliver it right to who she wanted to blackmail.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: In Season 3, Lissa (blonde), Sadie (brunette), and Tamara (redhead). In Season 4, Eva (blonde), Jenna (brunette), and Tamara (redhead).
  • Bookends: When Jenna first receives the letter, her mother gives it to her while talking on the phone and complaining about how Jenna won't style her hair. In Season 2, Jenna lets Lacey know that she's figured it out by giving Lacey a letter while she's talking on the phone, happy that Jenna is finally styling her hair.
  • Bully Turned Buddy: After an entire high-school career of being bullied by Sadie, she and Tamara ended up running into each other after college...and became best friends, closer than Tamara and Jenna were. However, this doesn't last forever, as Tamara eventually realizes that Sadie is the same mean person she was in high-school, and breaks their friendship off.
  • Catchphrase: "You're welcome" is Sadie's tag after any of her brutal comments (which she claims are uncomfortable truths people need to hear). In one episode she becomes her own Phrase Catcher when Jenna blackmails her with personal information and ends the threat with a pitch perfect "You're welcome."
    • Jenna briefly has one in a Season 2 episode where she thinks of doing over her relationships with Matty and Jake. In her do-over with Matty, she became an Alpha Bitch who would say: "Sorry; I'm not sorry."
  • Character Blog: Jenna keeps a running journal of events in her life along with her private thoughts. In Season 1, it's a bit confusing how her specific journal works, as it would seem to be private (no repercussions from things she writes there), but she has people following or subscribing to her through it. The Season 2 premiere establishes the blog had been public for all to read, but no visitors had ever commented (until now). Towards the end of the season, it is publicly talked about by many people and there are HUGE repercussions to everything Jenna has already written, forcing her to go offline and write in an old fashioned pen-and-paper diary to have some private thoughts to herself.
  • Character Tics: Matty sniffing his armpits.
  • Characterization Marches On: Jenna and Matty's insecure selves in season 1 seem very weird compared to the confidence levels later in the show.
  • Crying at Your Birthday Party: Played with. Jenna was revealed to have been sobbing on her bed during her surprise birthday party in the third season... because she herself ruined the party by wandering into the room while cheating on Matty with Collin.
  • Dartboard of Hate: The creative writing teacher uses Principal Cox's face for one during class.
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: Once Ming makes good with the Asian Mafia, the leader Becca gives her a cheat-sheet for the next test...but she only gets a B. Becca explains that if they gave her a perfect cheat-sheet, it'd look a lot more suspicious to everyone, so they're keeping her slightly above-average.
  • Driven to Suicide: What everyone thinks was the cause of Jenna's accident. It's all a misunderstanding but hardly anyone believes her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Becca got Val to replace the current VP because they were interfering with where she and her friends liked to park.
  • Extreme Doormat: Val, who is very easily swayed by her students. She starts to learn though as time goes on, especially in regards to Sadie.
  • Fake Guest Star: Jessica Lu and Greer Grammer, who portray Ming and Lissa, respectively.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Eva's last ditch plan to manipulate Matty into staying with her. It later came to light that she bribed some other poor girl for her positive pregnancy test.
    • Jenna pulls one on Jake in a fantasy scenario in season 2, only to actually end up pregnant.
  • Flanderization: When the show began, Ricky Schwartz was a kind of perverted band geek. By his death in season 3 he was an almost psychotic Anything That Moves sex addict who was obsessed with breasts.
    • Kyle was introduced as bizarre loner who may have a thing for Jenna because of her suicide stigma. By the end he was a complete loser who was obsessed with Jenna, bordering on Stalker with a Crush.
    • The Julies were originally just snobby girls. They eventually replaced Sadie and Lissa as the Alpha Bitches of the school, but without the subtly and depths that the other two had.
    • Sadie's mother was introduced as a cold but classy woman who loved her daughter but had little understanding for her life. By the end she had become a heartless Rich Bitch who was pretending to love Sadie as a means to secure a rich husband.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Subverted. Matty's dilemma isn't that Jake and Jenna are fighting over him, rather that Jake is also interested in Jenna and Matty doesn't want to betray his best friend. However, he goes about it the wrong way and ends up losing Jenna to Jake.
  • Full-Name Basis: Ming wonders why everyone always refers to Matty by his full name.
  • Funny Background Event: In Episode 3, you can briefly see Sadie throw the poop into the hot tub.
    • In season 2, Matty habitually smacks Jenna's behind despite her dating Jake and freaks out in the background.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Ricky Schwartz's funeral (or more accurately, his shiva) shows several of his heretofore unknown paintings, including a self portrait of himself as a pimp with several scantily clad women around him and several paintings of women with huge breasts, apparently inspired by his busty female family members, and the fact that he was breastfed until he was 8. Jenna also eats some of the apparently awful-tasting food, which led to her spitting it into a nicely decorated vase... That turned out to by his urn. His candlelight vigil turns into a drunken Wild Teen Party, but not before several girls (and some guys) reveal that he broke their hearts and they hated him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "Crash'd:" Counselors Raising Awareness for Students Who-w silent-Drink.
    • The dialogue itself with things like DTR (Define the Relationship) and BBF (Back-Burner Friend).
    • Seems to be Tamara's main style of speaking. Jenna and Ming tend to slip into it too.
  • Girls Like Musicians:
    • Secondary love-interest Jake was a laid-back Nice Guy, who, fittingly, played the guitar and even had a short musical career. He has managed to attract four different girls over the course of the series.
    • For a brief time, Jenna had a fling with a boy named Owen, who's main character trait was being a talented and dedicated classical pianist. She even met him while he was playing, and their relationship was based on their supposed shared interest in music- with Jenna pretending to understand his jargon.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Exploited by Jenna and Tamara while performing in "Crash'd".
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Becca often speaks to Ming in Chinese.
  • Hidden Depths: Zigzagged with Sadie. Most days Sadie is the classic Alpha Bitch, and even after her family losing their money and all the other troubles that come her way, she still retains her bitchy attitude. She occasionally gets Pet the Dog moments, but even then, she stays the aggressive, hostile, and conceited soul she always has been.
    • Tamara also counts. Despite her being very ditzy and driven by the urge to be popular, she's actually a good student, ranking #17 of her year, while Jenna for example is only #137.
  • High-School Dance: Granted, since the show is set in a high school. Seasons 1, 3 and 5 have at least one episode set at a Dance.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Jenna's parents, who got married after a Teen Pregnancy.
  • Hippie Teacher: Val, although she is more of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander than hippie, but fits the mold by being a horrible disciplinarian and treating the kids (especially Jenna) like they're her friends.
  • Humiliation Conga: Jenna goes through several, repeatedly. The most notable is probably "My Super Bittersweet Sixteen" since it takes place on her birthday.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Tamara wished Ricky were dead and even found some spells to cast on him.
  • Its Pronounced Tropay: It's Ta-mar-a, not Tam-er-a. Her mother is Tam-er-a.
    • Eva isn't pronounced "Ee-vah" or "A-vah", but rather "Eh-vuh".
  • Jerk Jock: Averted. For the most part, both Jake and Matty are pretty nice guys.
  • Karma Houdini: Sadie often pulls things that really should get her detention, suspension, or even expulsion, almost always without consequences. She eventually gets caught out by Val at the end of Season 1, who tells her that what she did steal and then publish Jenna's letter on the backs of the Winter Formal ballots is an expulsion-worthy offense, but she'll let her off with being banned from the formal. When Sadie ignores her, Val dumps punch on her head while everyone else is looking away.
  • Lady Drunk: Aunt Ally. Implied with Lissa's mom.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Matty for Jenna, to the point that he becomes much more monogamous in general when they break up in hope of recapturing that magic with someone else.
    • Ricky Schwartz for Sadie in season 2, only for him to eventually tire of her just like all his other interests.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: Seasons 4 and 5, when Creator Lauren Iungerich left the show and new showrunners were brought on, which changed the show towards a more stereotypical high school show. The plots have become increasingly soapy and dramatic.
  • Love Triangle: Jenna between Matty and Jake. In Season 3 there's one between Jenna, Bailey, and Matty.
    • Love Dodecahedron: Tamara pines for Ricky Schwartz who dumped her for Sadie who had a crush on Matty, who was having a secret relationship with Jenna who ended up hooking up with Jake after Jake left Lissa for her.
    • Another Love Triangle/Dodecahedron was formed in Season 3, with Jenna dating Matty, but having fantasies about Collin who already has a girlfriend.
    • In Season 4, the main love triangle was at first between Matty, Jenna, and Eva, then in the second half of the season switches to Matty, Jenna, and Gabby. At the end of season 4 it gets more complicated as Jake and Gabby hook up, and Matty realizes he still loves Jenna, only for her to begin dating Brian.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The period at the end.
  • Missing Mom: Darlene, Sadie's mom. For an entire two seasons. When she comes back, it's not much better.
  • Monochrome Casting: The show is overwhelmingly white. The only major character of color in the first three seasons is Ming, with some supporting Asian characters for the Asian Mafia story. After Ming is Put on a Bus there's only a couple Tokens like Gabby.
  • Nominated as a Prank: The nerdy, awkward, unpopular Kyle was nominated as part of Prom Court as a potential King, along with Jenna as a potential Queen, both as joke votes. While Jenna caught onto the joke almost immediately, Kyle legitimately thought people might vote for him, building up to an eventual, cruel heartbreak when he didn't win. Then Matty, who actually won, lied and claimed that Kyle won, allowing Kyle to be the Prom King.
  • No Phones Tonight: Matty and Jake turned their phones off for a 'Bro-B-Q.' Thus Matty missed Jenna calling him to come help her.
  • New Year's Kiss: In "Auld Lang Party," the broken-up Jenna and Matty make a pact to defy this trope by promising that they won't hook up with anybody at the New Year's party, trying to start the year with a clean slate. However, due to a misunderstanding where Jenna thinks Matt's off with an "older woman" (he's really spending the night with his mom), she breaks the pact by making out with a piano player named Owen.
  • One-Word Title: The title is about the awkwardness of being a social outcast after a suicide attempt.
  • Overly Specific Afterlife: Played for Laughs, when gay couple Theo and Cole tell the religious-but-questioning Lyssa that gay people don't go to hell- they go to gay heaven. She freaks out over "how many heavens there are", and wonders whether or not bisexuals "go back and forth" between gay and straight heaven.
  • Parental Betrayal: The mysterious writer of the letter is revealed to be Jenna's mother.
  • Parents as People: Jenna's parents, who may be embarrassing but have a reasonable excuse for their behavior and are genuinely good parents (aside from getting stoned and writing mean anonymous letters that is).
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Sadie's preferred method of bullying. She may have learned from her mother (who uses similar comments to get her daughter to lose weight).
  • Pet the Dog: Lissa gets some nice moments in the later Season 1 episodes, particularly in "Fateful" where she compliments Jenna and finally stands up to Sadie.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Matty and Sadie once she gets over her crush on him.
  • Potty Emergency: Jake really has to go to the bathroom during the night he and Matty spend in jail.
  • Prom Wrecker: Heartbroken after a breakup, Tamara attempts to convince her classmates to not only skip prom, but to revolt against it, up to and including publicly denouncing the very concept of prom over megaphone. However, when Jenna decides to ask her, Tamara breaks character, revealing she really did want to go to prom.
  • Put On The Bus: Ming, starting with season 4. It's implied the Asian mafia is responsible for this.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The season 3 episode "And Then What Happened" has a variation on this as everyone tries to piece together what is going on with Jenna and Matty following her surprise party. It differs from the usual trope as the story is mostly the same, with everyone adding to the details rather than their perspective, but there are small differences in each person's version and parts where their memories get foggy.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: A variant. First Becca has Ming's boyfriend Fred Wu's house re-districted to move him to a different school, then after finding out they're still together, frames him for a cheating scandal, which causes him to be sent to live in Idaho.
  • Red Herring: Tamara writing the "care-frontation" letter.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: Jenna and Matty's relationship. Although they were only officially together in season 2, their relationship kept going through the same stages: Jenna/Matty realizes they're still in love. However, one of them is beginning to be involved with someone else. They briefly flirt with getting back together. Jenna then does something to mess it up. The other party ends up breaking up with the other person. Repeat next season.
  • Rich Bitch: Sadie. Loses the "rich" part in Season 3.
  • Running Gag: "Fred Wu" "Fred Who?" "Fred Wu!" Gets inverted in "Guilt Trippin'," where Becca initiates it and changes the end to: "I didn't really know him, either."
  • School Play: Jenna gets the lead role of "Dead Stacy" in "CRASH'D." Jake is her leading man, "Dead Johnny" and Tamara and Ricky Schwartz end up co-starring as "Nick and Natalie."
  • Season Fauxnale: The fourth season's mid-season finale definitely seems like it was meant to be the season finale, with Sadie finding out the truth about Eva. This is probably because Season 4 originally was planned to have 10 episodes.
  • Senior Year Struggles: The penultimate season involves Jenna and her friends having their Senior Year. Highlights include Jenna ruining the Senior Prank by being too eager, she and the others figuring out where they want to go after high-school, and a disastrous Senior Movie Night featuring a showing of Pink Flamingos. Jenna also spends the entire year trying to finally resolve her relationship with Matty before both of them have to leave for college.
  • Shout-Out: Jenna's mom and Ben went to a Halloween party as Kid N' Play.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Jake and Tamara in Season 3.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Played straight with Jenna's love interests, Jake and Matty.
  • Shouldn't We Be In Class Right Now: Even though much of the action takes place in school, the characters are rarely actually shown to attend class or do school work.
  • Snark Knight: Jenna. Her first reaction is usually sarcastic, but she does try to be nice to people, even to Sadie.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jenna gets one after her supposed suicide attempt. Except it was just a misunderstanding. Or is it?
    • Eva towards Matty, as it turns out.
  • Strawman U: Invoked Trope in one episode. When Jenna visits her dad's alma mater, she expects to get a "Berserkeley," i.e. a liberal utopia, however, she gets more of a generic state university instead.
  • Take That!: In the first episode when Jenna is losing her virginity to Matty her voiceover states that "This isn't the story of how I got knocked up at summer camp. I knew better than to bareback it." This could be a take that to The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was a popular show at the time the pilot aired about a teen girl who gets pregnant when she loses her virginity at summer camp. Despite its premise, Secret Life came across as very anti-sex while Awkward. is very sex positive.
  • Technical Virgin: Lissa has taken a vow of chastity but is perfectly willing to give Jake hand jobs and even go so far as to offer him anal sex.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Jenna is the result of her mother's.
    • And in alternate universe, she herself gets one from Jake.
    • In Season 3, the whole school believes Sadie to be pregnant, and Jenna has a pregnancy scare in the premiere.
    • Eva says she's pregnant with Matty's baby in season 4 only for it to turn out to be a Fake Pregnancy.
      • Instead, it's minor character "Whoria" Gloria whose positive pregnancy test was used by Eva
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Tamara is convinced that the Drama Department has a conspiracy against her to keep her out of shows. Jenna rolls her eyes at this. Later in the episode, Jenna finds out from Val that this is exactly the case.
  • Token Minority: Ming in seasons 1-3. Gabby in seasons 4-5.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ming and Tamara, with Jenna falling firmly in the middle. She wears skirts and other girly clothes but doesn't put much effort into her appearance outside of a braid or Tomboyish Ponytail.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Jenna in season 3. She gets better but never does a full back pedal to her original niceness.
    • Jake in season 4.
  • Totally Radical: The dialogue occasionally steers into this.
    Tamara: "I'm hitting shuffle on this conversation."
  • Toxic Friend Influence: When Jenna dates Collin, she tries drugs, alienates all her friends, and even gets Valerie fired.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: One of the photos taken at Jenna's wild party portrays a guy vomiting.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Sadie is desperate for her mother's approval. While not uncaring, her mother is somewhat cold and isn't sensitive what her daughter is going through.
  • What If?: In one episode, Jenna imagines what would happen in 3 scenarios, one in which she actually made Matty ask her out formally at camp, another where she told Jake about Matty, and another where she never went to camp in the first place. They all end badly.
  • Wild Teen Party: Jenna throws one in Season One. Or, to be more exact, her mother and Aunt Ally throw one and Jenna goes along with it.
  • Women Are Wiser: Inverted. Jenna's dad is much wiser than her mother.

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