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Awkward Embraces Review

on Wed, 10/19/2011 - 00:00

Although the medium is still relatively young, it is amazing how many web series share the same basic premise with increasingly mixed results. While the concept of twentysomething female friends experiencing the trials and tribulations of both life and love has found success in many quality creations, for instance, there is an exponentially higher number of other web series with the same focus that lack any sort of originality. The dating scene is another subject filled with potential comic fodder, but here again the majority of entries in this category come across as both flat and overdone.

At first glance, Awkward Embraces appears to fall into this same vein of redundancy as three female friends swap stories about their failed attempts to find male companionship. The group gathers after work and verbally share these moments of happenstance while flashbacks fill in the visual elements of each narrative. It is a “been there, seen that” storyline if ever there was one, and not only on the Internet but television as well. There is a major difference, however, between Awkward Embraces and the scores of other similarly themed shows—Awkward Embraces is actually good.

First of all, there is nothing awkward about Awkward Embraces from a production standpoint. While professionally filmed web series have become the expectation rather than the exception at this point, it is still relatively rare to find comedies that are indeed funny and actors who can truly act regardless of the medium. The trio of actresses in Awkward Embraces, on the other hand, exhibit natural ability and demonstrate a perfect sense of comic timing. Whether they are deadpanning a satirical remark, more dramatically reciting a witty one-liner or even utilizing physical humor that borders on slapstick, Lyndsey Doolan, Jessica Mills and Candis Phlegm bring their characters to life with effortless precision. It helps, of course, that the scripts are filled with more laugh-out-loud moments in under ten minutes than most half-hour television sitcoms—from the situations to the dialogue to the overall narrative, everything clicks like clockwork in each installment of Awkward Embraces.

While all three characters share screen time, it is Jessica (Jessica Mills) that receives the most attention in regards to her love life. She is the one who puts the “awkward” in Awkward Embraces with her naïve innocence and self-proclaimed geek passion for Star Trek and Star Wars. The more socially adept Candis (Candis Phlegm) and Lyndsey (Lyndsey Doolan) do their best to assist Jessica in the ways of romance, but those attempts ultimately backfire in screwball comedy fashion. In the first episode, for instance, Lyndsey intentionally breaks Jessica’s work computer so that the “cute” IT guy will come and fix it, but the wrong technician shows up instead. To make matters worse, Lyndsey has been sending e-mails to this older IT professional on behalf of Jessica.

Despite the mix-up, Jessica agrees to go on a date nonetheless. Although the two initially hit it off, the IT guy leaves before dinner arrives when he discovers that he himself is with the wrong Jessica. “Aren’t you Jewish?” he asks. “You sent out Hanukkah cards last year, didn’t you? Or is that another Jessica who works in the building?”

In addition to her dating ineptitude, Jessica’s geekdom likewise plays a key role throughout many of the episodes of Awkward Embraces. In a season two installment, Candis and Lyndsey enroll Jessica in an online dating service called “Beaming Up Love” but cannot remember the various television shows that their unsuspecting friend enjoys. They consult Google only to mistakenly find a bevy of pornographic titles along the likes of Flesh Gordon, Inside Geordi’s La Forge and Klingon My Face.

“These sound remarkably weird,” Candis comments.

“It’s science fiction, it’s supposed to be weird,” Lyndsey unknowingly replies back.

While Lyndsey may not be a geek along the likes of Jessica, she does have her own non-traditional guilty pleasure—the music of Barry Manilow. “I don’t know how you’re going to school a professor,” she matter-of-factly tells a male model who shares her obsession. “Because I majored in ‘Mandy’ and I minored in ‘Daybreak.’”

Candis, meanwhile, is a borderline nymphomaniac. “What if it’s me?” she laments when she apparently fails to arouse her latest conquest. “What if I’ve had so much sex that I’ve stretched my vaginal walls to their uttermost capacity and from this moment forward I will never ever feel sex again? Because every penis will seem like a tiny penis and my vagina will be huge, like one of those redwood trees people drive their cars through in Northern California.”

Each episode of Awkward Embraces acts as a standalone installment but references to past plotlines pop up as well, giving the web series a sense of cohesion. And although the episodes are approximately ten minutes in length, the narrative engrosses the viewer so fully that one forgets they are watching a shorter web series instead of a bona fide television show. The story of twentysomething female friends looking for love in all the wrong places has been overdone in both mediums, but Awkward Embraces has found a way to take something old and make it new again, while likewise displaying a caliber of comedy that is lacking in many similarly-themed sitcoms.

While that observation may sound “awkward” to television executives, Awkward Embraces itself is a refreshingly funny web series that actually delivers on the laughs—an entertainment oddity in a world filled with sameness.

Anthony Letizia (October 19, 2011)

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