Ellen Gray: Teen parents' daughter is focus of MTV's 'Awkward'

Ashley Rickards stars in "Awkward."
Ashley Rickards stars in "Awkward."
Posted: July 19, 2011

AWKWARD. 11 tonight, MTV.

JENNA HAMILTON just wants what every other 15-year-old girl on MTV wants: to stand out from the crowd, no matter what it takes.

Fortunately for Jenna, the focus of the network's newest scripted series "Awkward," standing out won't require quite as much as it does of the real-life stars of "Teen Mom," the "reality" hit that's "Awkward's" far-from-graceful lead-in.

Though Jenna (Ashley Rickards) does, as she puts it, get deflowered in the show's first few minutes, this isn't, she assures us, the "inciting incident of some sappy special about how I got knocked up on the last day of camp - I knew better than to bareback."

Instead, it's a slapstick accident and a misunderstanding involving aspirin, a tub and a hair dryer that turns Jenna into a girl with a gigantic cast on her left arm and more Facebook friends than she ever knew she had.

As tempting as it is to suggest Jenna is "My So-Called Life's" Angela Chase with a blog - a comparison that's already been made and that MTV is happy to entertain - "Awkward" is more like a scripted sequel to "Teen Mom," Jenna being the surprisingly well-adjusted product of the union of two 17-year-olds.

Which means Claire Danes, who played Angela, is now exactly old enough to be Jenna's mother (though the role belongs to Nikki deLoach). Jenna's dad is played by Mike Faiola ("quarterlife"), who looks no more than five years past the hot-potential- boyfriend stage himself.

MTV parents may look cooler than real ones, but in their own way, they're just as lame as the rest of us, trust me.

The actual hot, potential boyfriend, Jordan Catalano 2.0 if you like, is a guy named Matty (Beau Mirchoff), whose reluctance to get further involved with Jenna is going to be tested, Jenna being actually pretty adorable.

And so is "Awkward," which, like "Glee," deals gently and semicomically with issues of sexuality and bullying but never really draws blood.

Because cutting any deeper might make things awkward.

Wolf Blitzer goes mobile

CNN went live yesterday with the mobile experience some of us had been hoping for when it unveiled its iPhone/iPad app - true live streaming, not just of selected stories or events, but of the 24-hour news network's actual shows.

Included in the package, which is also available online at CNN.com: CNN's even shriller sister network HLN. Which means, you could, if you choose, carry Nancy Grace with you wherever you go.

(Hey, there's no accounting for taste.)

If you already have the CNN app, you'll need to update it through Apple's app store and then - because this offer is available only to subscribers to "a multichannel video service," says CNN - you'll need to remember your authentication information for that service (as in your Comcast ID and password if you happen to have Comcast).

This last step took me only about 15 minutes - it would have taken under a minute if I could only keep track of the 10,000 passwords in my life - and now I have both apps working.

Playing the iPad side by side with my office TV shows the stream's a little behind, just as streams from my Slingbox usually are. But the picture quality's excellent on our sometimes balky office Wi-Fi and not terrible on my iPhone's 3G.

The 3G stream's probably going to be more important in the long run, since like most people, I usually turn to the news network only when something's actually happening - and that doesn't always coincide with my being near a TV.

CNN, by the way, says 10 million people have downloaded its mobile apps already.

'Ludo Bites America'

If you're not yet tired of TV chefs but have had it with imported experts telling Americans how to cook and what to eat, you might want to check out "Ludo Bites America" (9 tonight, Sundance Channel).

Classically trained French chef Ludovic Lefebvre ("Top Chef Masters") and his wife, Krissy - an attorney who once vied for a job with Donald Trump on "The Apprentice" - are on an all-American road trip, learning about regional cooking and opening pop-up restaurants along the way.

It's billed as something of a learning experience for Ludo, who really does seem interested in finding out all about chilies but who's also not above getting temperamental as things heat up in the kitchen.

"Nobody here has a sense of emergency!" he complains in tonight's episode, after taking umbrage when the woman whose Santa Fe, N.M., restaurant he's commandeered for the night dares to call him "sweetheart."

With an attitude like that, he should probably steer clear of diners. *

Send email to graye@phillynews.com, follow me on Twitter at @elgray or for even more on TV: go.philly.com/

ellengray.

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