While Awkward. is sailing away, Faking It is just picking up steam. Again, that show started off a bit rocky — I very much disliked the first few episodes, which hinged entirely on Karma and Amy faking being lesbians. But Faking It slowly grew up and away from that by incorporating some reality, some exploration, valid depictions of various types of queerness, and even an intersex character (who only becomes more popular once the school learns about the identity she’s been keeping secret).
Once the series focused less on their ruse and more on Amy’s questioning — is she gay? Straight? Bi? In love with Karma or just super close to her best friend? Only queer for Karma? — Faking It became truly great. It approaches teen sexuality with an open mind and delicate writing, really getting into the grittiness and confusion that come along with questioning when you’re in high school. The wide range of characters — straight Karma, bi Amy (she still finds herself attracted to men), gay Shane, intersex Lauren, etc. — is not something that you see often on television, especially in a teen comedy.
The first few episodes of Faking It‘s third season further this dedication to teen sexuality. Karma is trying to have a strictly friends-with-benefits situation with the boy who is in love with her (and who she is likely in love with too), Lauren is dealing with the school knowing her secret while also being student council president, Shane is trying to ignore the fact that he basically outed his MMA fighter boyfriend so they could be seen together, and Amy is trying to have a solid relationship with another girl who may not be cool with her bisexuality, instead wanting Amy to be 100% gay.
MTV has found success with these teen sitcoms, exploring specific aspects of high school life without coming off as pandering or out of touch. Sure, some of the dialogue (especially in Awkward.) will make you groan, and both series still tend to go overboard with outlandish storylines (there’s a narc character in Faking It posing as a high schooler, a major drug bust, and a storyline about Karma’s family’s financial troubles). But Faking It and Awkward. are shows that deal carefully and respectfully with teen life — and the best way to create a teen sitcom is to treat teenagers with respect.