Over the past year or so MTV has really surprised me with their programming. Well, maybe “programming” is a bit too broad a word since most of their shows are still pretty typical of the channel as of the last twenty years where music (i.e. the “M” in MTV) is in the background and the young hot mess shows are front and center. Shows like, “Awkward” and “Teen Wolf”, have really stepped up the profile of this the most angst-y of channels.
“Faking It”, might have been a show where teenage drama meets barbed wire comedy meets social consciousness.
Instead, as it turns out, it’s just a show where narcissistic, self indulgent teens run around, doing and saying anything to hook up and smack down as the situation requires, while all the adults in their lives support whatever improbable plotline the writers come up with. While I don’t deny that teens are some of the most narcissistic humans on the planet, this show is RIDIC!!!
Okay, quick overview: BFF’s, Karma Ashcroft (Katie Stevens) and Amy Raudenfeld (Rita Volk) attend a very liberal arts high school, Hester High, where tolerance, creativity and acceptance are the rule not the exception. Karma is sick of not being noticed and will stop at nothing to be popular. Amy, on the other hand, is content to just get through high school. She’s not a participator or a pretend activist like Karma. She’s much more mature than her high school counterparts and counts the days until she can attend college. Amy comes from a conservative Christian family while Karma (as her name suggests) comes from a very open minded/bohemian family. The two girls couldn’t be more different. On the first day of school the girls meet two of the most popular boys in school, Liam Booker (Gregg Sulkin) and his gay best friend, Shane Harvey (Michael Willett). Karma is instantly smitten with Liam. Inexplicably, Shane assumes the girls are lesbians and promptly invites them to his party hoping to fulfill his recent goal of having lesbian friends. At the party, Shane reveals that he knows they are a couple and despite their protestations, he outs them to everyone and announces that they will be Hester High’s first lesbian homecoming queens. Just like that, they are instant celebrities (at least at Hester High) and their status sky rockets. For Karma, this is a dream come true, but for Amy it’s a nightmare that only gets worse when the two BFF’s publicly make out at the homecoming assembly. The kiss awakens Amy to feelings for Karma she never knew she had beyond friendship and every moment after the kiss is torture. Is she a for-real lesbian? Does Karma have feelings for her too? What will telling Karma the truth do to their friendship?
I know what you’re thinking. My synopsis makes the show sound much more promising than I initially laid out. Fact is I’d watch this show if it were as interesting as I just made it sound. Unfortunately, what I would actually love, is to get the 3.5 hours (7 episodes) of my life back that I wasted power watching this show so I could write this review. To put it into simple terms, the characters, while meant to be interesting with dynamic plotlines, ended up being grossly one…sometimes two dimensional. Karma is obsessed with two things: being noticed and having sex with Liam. I don’t find her character sympathetic nor am I rooting for her success. Everything she does to enhance her goals are desperate, self-fish and just plain moronic. Amy, the more likeable of the two, is for the most part, boring. She spends so much of her time obsessing over her feelings for Karma that it’s hard to get a sense of who she is in the Karma/Amy equation. For a BFF comparison, let’s take a look at Teen Wolf’s, Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien). These two characters are every bit as close as Karma and Amy, would die for each other in fact, but that being said they're both equally three dimensional. The way they behave, see the world, solve problems and interact with people are different, yet supportive of their character’s bond. Bottom line, I believe their friendship, not because of their sameness but because of their differences. It makes for much more relatable characters and interesting story arc’s. Faking It has a gigantic hole where interesting should be.
What’s really disturbing is how dumb the creators think their audience is. I get it, the school is very liberal but these kids never go to class (I have yet to see an actual teacher), have protests all the time, meet and go on dates with rando’s in the middle of a school day, talk about having three-way’s on the school’s TV network, etc. Everything and every character not a teenager is written to support the main characters agenda and that agenda is basically sex and the fake lesbian relationship. But mostly just sex. I don’t say this as a former teenager who is out of touch, I say this as person who not so long ago was a teenager and had shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My So-Called Life and Veronica Mars to name a few. Those shows explored relevant social issues pertinent to teens and managed to do so in smart, creative ways while embracing a sense of humor. I think Awkward, Teen Wolf and Orphan Black are excellent examples of shows today that are geared toward a younger audience but don’t dumb it down. And since when does being gay equal being popular? I think of all the messages put out with this show, THAT is the single most ridiculous one. Either the creators/writer's don't realize the statistics of teenage gay bashing in America, or they are hoping that just because they say being gay is cool that it will actually become a thing. Either way, there was a real opportunity with Faking It and as far as this reviewer is concerned, it’s a massive flop.
On a final note I will say not all of the characters are one dimensional. Lauren Cooper (Bailey Buntain), who play’s Amy’s soon to be step-sister, manages to give glimpses of depth which have thus far eluded most of the main characters. I admit to having a soft spot for characters you love to hate, but that said, I’m rooting for Lauren. At least for more screen time since she’s about the only character I can stand to watch. Who knows? Maybe the writer’s can mend the damage in season 2 and move the show to a higher level, but I’m not holding my breath.