It’s been a strong summer for new programming over at MTV. The network recently premiered Finding Carter, a series that poses the question, “What if a teenage girl discovered that she had been abducted as a child and was then reunited with her family, people who now feel like strangers?” So far the show has been thoughtful and resonant in its execution, but MTV didn’t start off its summer slate with drama; it started off with the smart, original, timely, ultimately poignant comedy Faking It.
The series takes place in Austin, Texas, primarily within the walls of the fictional Hester High School, a school as liberal and counterculture as its big-city surroundings. It’s there that kids who would normally be high school outsiders — the artsy and the political ones — find themselves at the top of the food chain. Think Clueless by way of Portlandia. Invisible to these hipsters-in-training are best friends Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk). Karma is desperate to be popular, but her attempts at setting herself apart all crash and burn. That is until cool kid Shane (Michael J. Willett) mistakes Karma’s friendship with Amy for a romantic one and nominates the girls to be the school’s first pair of homecoming queens. All of a sudden, Karma and Amy are scrambling to keep up the pretenses of this lie. At least, it’s a lie for Karma. Once the girls finally kiss (a desperate attempt at a school assembly to prove the authenticity of their love), Amy realizes she does have real romantic feelings for Karma. As Amy falls head over heels for her lifelong best friend, she is forced to watch in horror as Karma falls for the school’s cutest boy, Liam (Gregg Sulkin). The show plays like a Shakespearean comedy (mistaken identities! constantly switched-up romantic pairings! wit for days!) while, little by little, revealing its angsty, aching My So-Called Life–inspired heart.
The casting is perfection, and the world it creates — in which perennial outsider-types are society’s most powerful players — is teen wish fulfillment at its best. The show beautifully plays with the complications of sexual politics and identity. It’s a smart and searching series that also manages to pack in the jokes — a winning combination. The entire first season of Faking It is currently available on Hulu, with the second season premiering on Tuesday, September 23. Visit mtv.com/shows for info.