Lately, it feels like I wake up in a new hell every day, a place that is somehow always hotter and more painful than the one that preceded it. It seems like there is no good news left in this world except for this: SKAM: Austin premiered this past week, and it’s actually good!
Adapted from Julie Andem’s smash hit Norwegian show that I watched entirely via other people’s Google Drives, this Americanized version follows the same structure as its predecessor. Most days there is a short clip focused on the lives of a group of fictional teens in Austin, Texas. The segments are posted in real-time on Facebook, so if a scene takes place at lunch on Wednesday that’s exactly when we see it, and at the end of the week they all get rounded up into one 30ish-minute episode. And look, I know Facebook is websona non grata right now, but even the worst person you know does something well occasionally. Giant corporations contain multitudes.
This first week was all about meeting everyone, and as I’m typing that it’s like, duh, of course it was, it’s a pilot. Anyway, this season seems to be focused on Megan, a girl who has few friends outside of her boyfriend Marlon (played by a guy who looks like a boneless Ansel Elgort). It’s implied that she’s only an average student based on a brief glimpse of a standardized test score putting her in the 68th percentile of her class. Megan’s deskmate Poonam offhandedly tells her that, “Studies actually show, though, that it’s much healthier to be like you and not care about school or their accomplishments.”
“I care,” Megan responds, introducing us to the apparent thrust of SKAM: Austin: Megan cares a lot. She cares about spending time with Marlon, who is being shady about his whereabouts. She cares about her ex-best-friend Abby, the Sophomore Lieutenant of Bouldin High’s dance team with whom she has some kind of unfinished business. She cares about going to Talent Night, which Marlon says he can’t support because the money goes to the sports teams and “sports culture in this society is deeply conservative.” Seconds earlier he was making her listen to his bad music, which is heterosexual terrorism, but whatever. He begrudgingly agrees to go, only to bail on her the night of for a concert with his friends Tyler and Shay, who are infinitely cooler than him and will hopefully get more screentime in the coming weeks.
With her parents arguing at home, Megan drives to Talent Night on her own. Immediately, she encounters a sobbing girl on the patio of the venue and – because remember, Megan cares – asks if she can help. This girl, Kelsey, sends her inside to look for Jo, a cute, popular boy. But Megan gets distracted by her former BFF Abby, who she follows into the bathroom. Megan pleads with Abby: “Please talk to me.” To which Abigail responds, “Of course you come to the talent show dressed like a slut.” A fun thing about this show is that it reminds me of how much being a teenager sucks!
All is not lost though, and right after Abby says that a new girl, Grace, shows up. Megan and Grace have one of those Girls In The Bathroom moments where one party consoles the other about a boy/bitch/adolescent malaise. Grace is tall and confident and I’m fully prepared to stan. Like all the characters, she has an astoundingly realistic Instagram that is updated along with events of the show.
Eventually Megan grabs Hot Boy Jo and brings him outside to comfort Kelsey, who is nowhere to be found. Hot Boy Jo thinks Megan is being coy and that she just wanted to lure him outside. It turns out they hooked up at a Halloween party last year. Mortified, Megan dashes out to the parking lot only to find Kelsey with a girl who is also named Jo. A classic mix-em-up.
Turns out Kelsey was crying because she didn’t make the dance team, and Jo – who has great eyebrows and does makeup tutorials on her Instagram – makes her do her try-out routine while gassing her up in the way that only a real ride-or-die can. Megan interrupts, which is super embarrassing and made me want to die on Megan’s behalf. She gets in her car and puts her head down on the wheel which is, as the kids say, a big mood.
So now that we’ve met all our characters, we can really get going. There are few perfect pilots in the world, and this isn’t one of them, but it’s a promising start. Based on the clips that have aired since Friday’s big episode, there’s a lot of piping hot drama on the horizon — lies from Marlon, a budding friendship between Megan and Grace — that will be more than enough to distract me from what I can only assume are the end times.
- A girl at Talent Night does a nunchuks routine which reminded me of the time in high school where a guy called Lexx (two x’s) swung poi to a Crystal Castles song at our talent show. High school is so weird.
- Megan and Marlon’s relationship is so realistically adolescent that it occasionally made me uncomfortable to watch them make out. “Y’all are like, twelve, bro. This is child pornography,
I’m suing,” Tyler says during one of their makeout sessions. Huge RT from me.
- Poonam tells Megan that every night from 11 to 11:30 she watches Frozen. That’s, like, insane, right? Is watching a movie episodically something that people do? Especially a movie they’ve seen before?
- Kelsey’s dance routine is set to Kari Faux’s “This Right Here,” which is just perfect.
- When I first heard that the show was going to be on Facebook, I was wary. Who’s gonna watch something on Facebook? Well, it turns out that this is an extremely efficient venue for a show that releases a new clip every day at a different time. The notifications that a new clip had gone up were highlights of my week. I’m not the only one either — Friday’s episode already has over 3 million views, more than, say, Westworld's recent season premiere.
- Some of the kids's Instagram posts go back to 2016, which is an impressive level of attention to detail that makes me trust SKAM: Austin and Julie Andem more than I already did.