For a network that is purposefully pitched to the lowest common denominator of teenagers, MTV has a pretty impressive history in a lot of different genres of TV shows. Musical programming, animation, sketch comedy, reality TV…well, okay, not so much the first three anymore. Still, any network that can support the blue-collar emotion of 16 & Pregnant alongside the trashy decadence of Jersey Shore deserves at least some kind of acclaim. But one thing has always proven elusive for MTV: good, solid, fictional programming. Example 1: the debut last night of Made: The Movie, which managed to combine every single teen comedy ever made into a cliché-bot cocktail of blandness.
I don’t want to really describe Made in detail, since I don’t want to bore myself or you, but let’s just point out all the disparate parts of this tweeny-bopping Frankenstein:
Juno: The main character of Made is a band geek so band-geeky that everyone calls her Tuba. Tuba is played by Ellen Page-lookalike Cyrina Fiallo with the broadest strokes of hipsterdom – oversized jacket, garage-punk band – but she’s basically Juno without the pregnancy.
High School Musical: Tuba dreams of being a cheerleader. The cheerleaders are all deeply freaked out by this possibility, because any upending of the high school social order will lead to chaos. Basically, the plot of Made is the “Stick to the Status Quo” dance number, except without the music, the dancing, or the gay subtext.
Bring It On: The only interesting character in Made is the head cheerleader, Andi, played by Rachel Skarsten. Like everyone else in the movie, Skarsten looks way too old to be in high school, but her character arc – she realizes that there’s more to life than popularity, like being in a bad pop-punk band – is surprisingly affecting. Unfortunately, her character mostly drowns in a lengthy subplot about a cheerleading squad coup, which you’ll remember from Bring It On, Bring it On Again, Bring It On: All or Nothing, and Bring It On: Criminal Intent.
Mean Girls: One of the best things about the Tina Fey comedy is just how specifically it captures the social stratification of high school, as when Lizzy Caplan pointedly separates the “Asian Nerds” from the “Cool Asians.” Made has a lot of the same story beats as Mean Girls – a snarky best friend, a nice-guy jock love interest, a My Fair Lady-ish plotline, and a “Why can’t we all just get along” speech – but none of the characters really seem all that different.
Glee: There’s a character in Made who constantly throws hot dogs at unpopular people, which is basically like a grosser version of a Slushie attack. On a deeper level, the whole movie feels very Glee-like – candy colors, miles-over-the-top acting, a big performance at the end — without any of the fun. Basically, imagine that everyone on Glee talked like Mr. Schuester and Sue Sylvester didn’t exist.
PopWatchers, did any of you experience Made: The Movie? Am I being too harsh on it? And am I missing some awesome, underrated piece of MTV fictional programming? Don’t say Undressed.