Awkward. "Once Upon a Blog" Review: Paradigms of Jenna's Fantasies

By Tim Surette

Sep 14, 2012

Awkward. S02E11: "Once Upon a Blog"

We've always known that Awkward. was a much smarter show than it appears to be on the surface, but that's been especially apparent in recent episodes. The series has become ridiculously self-aware, starting with the chants of "Team Matty!" or "Team Jake!" in the comments of Jenna's blog in last week's episode and continuing last night, a fun reflection of the fervent fandom this plucky show has generated.

Self-awareness in television is almost guaranteed to be fun, but it's not always smart. Don't get me wrong, there's been no effort on Awkward.'s part to mask that it knows it’s a television show, especially in last night's "Once Upon a Blog," but self-awareness on TV needs to be used with one question in mind: "How does it serve the story?" Several of my favorite shows use self-awareness frequently to good effect, but more often than not they're just a service to the fans. Supernatural winks at the audience so often that its eyes are shut more than they're open, and Community (hence the homage in this article's title) has broken the fourth wall so much that it's already halfway through the fifth. Self-awareness works very well for both of those series, but I'm not sure it's ever worked as well as it did in last night's episode of Awkward., easily one of the best of the series thus far.

"Once Upon a Blog" was an orgy of "What if?" scenarios played out by Jenna. Not only was it a celebration of the show for fans, but it really nailed what the show is all about. After Breaking Bad, Awkward. is probably the most skilled show on TV with regard to making a central character's decisions and the repercussions of those decisions matter more than anything else. And in "Once Upon a Blog," we got to see Jenna's decisions played in a different way. No, they weren't "real" in the show's sense, as they were just words on a blog, spiced up for our entertainment, but they provided an adequate answer to the questions of "Why did Jenna do this?" or "Why didn't Jenna do this?" that have nagged us over the course of the series. Awkward. will be always be about Jenna Hamilton, her decisions, and sharing that experience with her, and "Once Upon a Blog" helped us recognize—through the use of exaggerated, disastrous fantasies—that maybe Jenna has been making the right decisions all along.

Or it's all bullshit, and that makes another point. The past is the past, and it cannot be undone. Jenna has to live with her decisions instead of dwelling on them. And part of living with those decisions is moving on, which is exactly what we think she did in the final moments when she made a choice between Matty or Jake (OMG). This is teenage life. Mistakes will be made, and mistakes will be lived with. It's a work in progress.



NOTES

– One might question of the placement of this episode in the season as the penultimate episode, but I think it's perfect. We're waiting for her to pick Matty or Jake, and in order to do that, she needed to get her head into a space where she can make the right decision. Looking back on things really helped her get there.

– Ummm, can we put Matty and Jake holding hands and coming out as gay as one of the top TV moments of the year? Team Jatty!

– So many hilarious things happened in this episode, I don't know where to start. Hairy Jake in the Twilight spoof? Matty's "sure whatever" shrug when Jake asked if Matty would wait in the car while he banged Jenna? "Dodged a bullet!"? Team Lame?

Ashley Rickards is great, but she failed one acting test: nailing Kristen Stewart's lone expression. In her defense, it's damn near impossible to get K-Stew's stoned/bored/fake-smiling look down pat.

– Showrunner and creator Lauren Iungerich told The Hollywood Reporter that this episode was a nod to Dan Harmon and the writers of Community.



POP QUIZ!

1. What was the biggest moment for you in "Once Upon a Blog"?
... a) Ming and Matty making out
... b) The Twilight spoof
... c) Jenna's awesome new boobs
... d) All of it

2. Who do you think Jenna called at the end?
... a) Matty
... b) Jake
... c) Jonah the guy with the Jew 'fro
... d) Other [please say who]

3. Which fantasy did you like the best?
... a) Jenna and Matty as a couple
... b) Jenna and Jake as a couple
... c) Jenna as a camp-skipper and an invisible girl
... d) Twilight!

4. Blogging: cool or not cool?
... a) It's a good outlet for the youth of today to express their feelings.
... b) NERD ALERT!
... c) It's harmless, it's the modern-day diary
... d) Lame, it's all about Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram


The correct (a.k.a. my) answers: D, A (I hope), A, B



THE JAKE VS. MATTY-o-METER

We didn't really learn who Jenna is now leaning toward, because this episode was much more about self reflection. So I'm cheating.



Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

  • Comments (28)
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  • kok_warlock Sep 16, 2012

    I'm sorry, I really love this show, but the last three episode just seem to be stringing us along for the finale, specially the two before this one.

  • iAnonymous Sep 16, 2012

    Whoever didn't think the writers wouldn't leave the reveal for who she chooses until the finale, needs to take the course Television 101. I'm interested to see what happens in Season 3 though, because the love triangle won't be the story of the show anymore. I think it'll be more about Jenna figuring out where she wants to go in life.



    Also, I disagree, the two before this one pushed things forward, especially on her family's side.

  • sunnysfunny Sep 16, 2012

    1) D. All of it

    2) D. One of her friends

    3) D. Twilight

    4) C.

  • InkramNestoes Sep 16, 2012

    Amazing episode! Now I just hope it's gonna be Matty!



    Q's:

    1. D!

    2. A, has to be!

    3. A, every Jenna was good, but the bitch was definitely the best.

    4. A, depends of course, but some blogs can be pretty amazing.

  • SagaNylund Sep 15, 2012

    1. d) 2. d) the stalker? 3. c) and d). hey Jatty! 4. e) lame, just lame. Sorry. I loved that Awkward once again brought up the bromance between Jake and Matty. How adorable wasn't that scene where they held hands? I don't know anymore if I'm team Jake or Matty. I love Jake, but I feel that Jenna doesn't deserve him.

  • CiaraGlynn Sep 15, 2012

    Can we also commend whoever the hell decided 'Let's have fur sticking all out of Jake's t-shirt' because THAT WAS HILARIOUS.

    Just me? Okay.

    1. ...d) I'm nothing if not indecisive.

    2). ...d) One of her friends? I don't know! I somehow feel it was neither Jake or Matty.

    3) ...d) Twilight. Because THE FUR. OH MY WORD.

    4) ...c), because I don't do it but I get why it's done.

  • SagaNylund Sep 15, 2012

    No, not just you. The whole Twilight fantasy was hilarious!

  • CiaraGlynn Sep 16, 2012

    I'm still laughing about it.

  • tnetennba Sep 15, 2012

    I started watching this show because I thought it was a comedy, and because I saw that it was getting positive reviews and comments here. I was disappointed when I learned that it was just a soap opera for teenage girls, with some comedy in it.



    Somehow I still found it entertaining for a while, and occasionally funny. I was even curious to see what would happen next in the soapy story. But that's over now. My interest has been fading for a while, but this was the first episode where I didn't care *at all* about these characters and their problems. And the episode wasn't even funny. So I'm done.



    I'm not saying that it's a bad show, but it's clearly written *specifically* for teenage girls, by an all-female writing staff. I guess the less you have in common with teenage girls, the sooner you will lose interest. I'm surprised I lasted this long. Maybe I have more in common with them than I thought.

  • oxenden332 Sep 16, 2012

    It's clearly written by an all-female writing staff? Because clearly the only people who would be interested in writing or watching a show about women would be other women, right? Men surely have more important things to write about like sports and barbecues.

  • tnetennba Sep 16, 2012

    I checked IMDB before I made that comment, but that wasn't the moment that convinced me that they are all women. It was the scene where Matty had a line that revealed that they think 10-year-old boys don't get boners. :)



    Before that, I had thought to myself many times that *this* episode must have been written by a woman, but it's hard to explain why. It's definitely not just because the main character is girl.

  • safibwana Sep 16, 2012

    As it happens, it is written by an all-female writing staff.

  • iAnonymous Sep 16, 2012

    Dude, I'm a straight 20 year old guy and I LOVE this show. It's not just made for teenage girls like you're saying.

  • tnetennba Sep 16, 2012

    Well then you have at least recently been a teenager. I wonder if you would have felt the same way if you had been 30, 40 or 50. I would say that this show is *mainly* for girls, who are, or have recently been teenagers. The better you fit that description, the more likely you are to enjoy it.

  • buildam2005 Sep 17, 2012

    I'm a 27 year old heterosexual male and I, too, adore this show, regardless of who writes it and what the surface subject matter is. Yes, it's specifically about a teenage girl, but there are tons of well-drawn characters, hilarious jokes, and undercurrent themes that I think resonate exceptionally well with anyone who enjoys good television (I promise there's no attempt at a backhanded insult there). While it certainly is overtly built to attract a teenage female audience (it is on MTV, after all, so let's call a spade a spade), I find that its content, along with MTV's other wonderful scripted show Teen Wolf, has managed to transcend its genre in many great ways.

  • safibwana Sep 16, 2012

    Tim has the least in common with a teenage girl of any writer on this site. I'm a year 36 year old straight male. I watch it because it's one of the funniest shows on TV. Personally, I was surprised to see it on MTV because I think teenage girls mostly lack the self-awareness to get this show.

  • tnetennba Sep 16, 2012

    Alrighty then.

  • CiaraGlynn Sep 15, 2012

    I'm the kind of viewer who cen be in the mood for anything sometimes: comedy, action, thriller, and if we're calling teenage a genre, then that too, on occasion. But I would never watch Awkward when I feel like watching something for teens. I have to disagree because while it is obviously FOR teens, that doesn't mean it's not smart. (Also the all-female writing staff has little or nothing to do with it, the man who created The OC was A MAN and that's far more chick-flickish than this). It's more like a parody of teen movies and TV shows then an addition to that genre, and it can also be more insightful than it should be, not to mention surprising, and as mentioned above, self-aware. What I'm saying is you don't necessarily need to NOT be a teenage girl to not get this show, it is, as with any show, just a matter of it not being your thing. I don't think that has to do with it being super teen-y, or written by an all-woman writing team.

  • FaselysBuklu Sep 15, 2012

    O-M-G! An actual review! O me of little faith. Standing ovation and tears on my side of the screen! Tim, please post this piece in the hallways so your fellow "reviewers" can learn from your example! XOXO...

  • pcsjunior002 Sep 15, 2012

    Agreed. Completely. This is like the single most comprehensive comedy I've ever seen. It exists on many solid levels. 1) to entertain you and make you laugh, 2) to provide commentary on the average teenager, 3) to hyperbolize the teenage struggle, 4) philosophical comedy, 5) probably about 3 other things that aren't occurring to me right now. This episode serves to show us that, as Tim said, Jenna IS this show, and, while her actual life provides the basis of the show, it in no way is the entire show. We all do the "what if" scenarios in our minds. We all make the bad choices. We all make the right choices. We all make no choice at all and see what happens because of it. We do it all. As does this show. While making us laugh at every turn. This show is my answer to a prayer for an absolutely amazing comedy set in reality (whereas "Community" might be my answer to a comedy at the other end of the spectrum). Props to everyone, but just so much to Ashley Rickards. She deserves awards (plural).



    Notes:

    -Agreed. Sure, it's predictable, but what isn't? Even with the predictability of its placement, it still manages to entertain and surprise, so how can we complain?

    -Freaking hilarious. Laughed so hard I had to pause it.

    -No more needs to be said. From "Twilight" to "Mean Girls", the fun never ends.

    -Whatever. I still say she gets awards (plural). Kristen Stewart doesn't need the ego boost.

    -I didn't read this comment until now, this very moment. Points to me for mentioning "Community" already in my post.

    Quiz:

    1) D) by a long shot. A) was pretty awesome as commentary, B) was surprisingly hilarious despite its inclusion being almost necessary, and C) was just a straight Tina Fey/"Mean Girls" homage making it so clearly D) as one cannot accurately summarize it all.

    2) B) please!!!!! A) I can really see, I really can, but I gotta root against it as he was the "love in the shadows" guy and I have to root for the afterschool special "guy who will be with you for who you are and in front of his friends" person. C) a clear throw away gag but funny nonetheless. D) I can almost see if it's her father. But it's straight B) for me as I'm Team Jake start to finish.

    3) C) for all time. A) was pretty hilarious (all the more so because any "Mean Girls" reference gets points from me), and B) was great because it was just so pedestrian, while D) was the opening (and good) throwaway gag. C) is perfect because it's so Jenna and still so very hilarious because it wouldn't have happened, no matter what she thinks.

    4) A & E), I say (TV reference intended). B) I can see, but this isn't "Doogie Howser" days anymore. C) I can see, but it's more than completely harmless. D) is out for the same reason as C. The same reason some see it as lame is the exact same reason that others deem it to be powerful. So I say A) as a good outlet and E) as individualism (user-defined). Individualism is the cool/nerdy/hipster thing of the present. With the rise of the internet friendship, the global world, the confidence inspired by a group of friends is so much easier (or harder) and so it's more about the personal attitude than anything that the person actually does. Jenna has confidence/insecurity/attitude in spades and it's part of that which made her public blog move the groundswell movement that it was (fictionally speaking, that is).



    For the record, I would have gladly dated a girl like Jenna when I was in high school. That said, if there was a girl like Jenna around me while I was in high school, I was about 15 shades too blind to see it (no hyperbole).

  • athenajos Sep 15, 2012

    Team Jatty! That was perfect.

  • gpgurl50 Sep 15, 2012

    1. D but mostly A

    2. A

    3. C

    4. D

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