MTV’s newest scripted series is Faking It, airing after the once-great Awkward. Faking It is the story of two best friends who are mistaken for being a lesbian couple. Half of the pair, starving for attention, decides this could be their ticket to popularity, and leaps at the chance to continue the charade. The other is less enthusiastic, but since her pal really wants her to do this, she reluctantly agrees, perhaps hoping for something more to develop.
Tonally, Faking It matches Awkward. pretty well. Both are set in a high school, and feature misfits who want to be well known, but only for good things. There’s a bully and a love interest, as well as well-meaning, but somewhat clueless, parents. There’s also a hint of a cartoonishness in both series, more comedy than drama.
When Awkward. was at its height, the characters were sharp and well-developed. Faking It struggles with this depth and authenticity out of the gate. The school itself is ridiculously unrealistic, a place in Texas where the weird and special are actually respected and revered. What kind of place would the jocks be looked down upon and beauty is ignored? It just doesn’t gel with the real world, and hurts the overall effect of the piece, even when the narration acknowledges the oddity.
Faking It hinges on its main cast, and across the board, while not quite hitting all the right notes yet, they are pretty good. Katie Stevens (American Idol) is sympathetic as Karma, the exuberant half of the couple, wanting attention, but without being so self-involved as to turn viewers off. Greg Sulkin (Wizards of Waverly Place) is serviceable as Karma’s crush, an artistic soul that takes people as they are and is honest. Sometimes he may not be the most thoughtful person, but he isn’t a hater. Bailey Buntain (Bunheads) is terrific as mean girl Lauren, struggling with her own issues which color her better than the stereotype she could be.
And then there’s Rita Volk (The Hungover Games) who is fantastically memorable Amy. Amy is Karma’s better half, but throughout the first episode, it’s quite clear that Amy is dealing with serious internal conflict. At first, one might think Volk is an inconsistent performer, not sure quite which direction to take Amy in. As the story unfolds, however, it becomes apparent there’s something more at play. Amy is actually gay and in love with Karma.
Without this twist (which Volk telegraphs just the right amount), I don’t think Faking It works. And without as earnest a player as Volk, showing us the pain and angst in Amy’s face, it becomes standard drivel. Because these elements are arranged correctly, though, what viewers get is someone who is trying to find her self, further confused by attention she’s getting from a friend who is out of sync with her needs and emotions. Toss in the fact that Lauren’s mother is marrying Amy’s father, and there is drama to be mined in this sitcom, but not the forced kind, and while there are only nuggets of greatness in the pilot, this series could go somewhere.
I also adore Michael J. Willett (United States of Tara) as Shane. He jumps to the wrong conclusion about Amy and Karma, revealing a bit of narcissism as he sees what he wants to see in others, rather than the truth, but he’s also incredibly kind to the pair. He may have some selfish interests, but those aren’t his only motivating factors. His flaws can be chalked up to naivety and brashness of youth, not ruining the draw he has as the all-important catalyst.
Faking It does not have me hooked yet. But there are enough goodies tucked away to bring me back for another outing. Who knows? It might even replace the now-tarnished Awkward. as the sole reason to keep MTV in my channel list.
Faking It airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on MTV.
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