MTV has been making non-music related content for decades as far back as the 1980s. 1992’s The Real World and 1995’s Road Rules are pioneers of the Reality genre. Scripted narrative shows also date back to 1992 and have included Awkward, The Hard Times of RJ Berger, Teen Wolf and short-lived adaptations of The Inbetweeners and Skins.
The latest is Faking It, yet another teen comedy set amongst the cliques of a US high school. We’ve seen so many of these on television where sassy kids bicker and bully, try to fit in, prank one another, argue with parents and teachers, compete for sports try-outs and wag class. They are universal themes.
What distinguishes Faking It from predecessors is its reversal of queer acceptance. While Glee made it ok to be gay, in Faking It even the straight kids wanna be gay because it means they’re not boring. Who knew American teen TV could be so ironic?
The setting is Austin, Texas -a state not generally known for its progressive social politics. Best friends, the oddly-named Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk), are new students at Hester High School. They are dead keen to belong to a clique where individuality is celebrated (a paradox, of sorts).
But they weren’t quite ready for being mistaken as lesbians by new gay pal Shane, Michael Willett.
Shane invites them to a party where he spurs on his friends to vote for Karma and Amy as the school’s first same-sex homecoming queens -a move that doesn’t go down well with the local jock and cheerleader.
Amy encourages Karma to play along with the charade if it fast-tracks their acceptance, despite dashing hunk Liam (Gregg Sulkin) vying for her affections.
But when Karma gets cold feet on the idea it looks like the jig could be up, causing her to make a rash display of affection that suggests a whole lot more is actually going on. Now it’s a case of who is foolin’ who and keeping up appearances may be much harder than previously thought…
During one moment of doubt between friends we hear, “You’re the Fey to my Poehler, the Rihanna to my Katy Perry, the Lucy to my Ethel.”
Faking It is presented with a buoyant, young cast who never resort to cheap jokes for the sake of them, but is driven by character and conflict. It flips high school stereotypes and depicts crushes, friendships and teen LGBT issues with humour, leaving it well-placed to entertain first and educate second. There should also be great opportunities for supporting characters to add plenty of colour to this rainbow.
Developed by Carter Covington (Greek, 10 Things I Hate About You), it’s no surprise that this has won a Teen Choice Award for “Choice TV Breakout Show” and been approved for a second season.
With clever ideas like this, MTV can happily keep straying from its original remit as a music video turntable.
Faking It premieres 8:30pm Monday September 15th on MTV.