Jessica Mills, as much as she would like to make you laugh, would like to make you cringe. But, like a lap-dance recipient who thinks he’s got an outside shot at a date, still wants you to hold out hope.
Awkward Embraces is her buddy series about some of the finer and more detailed ephemera of dating and, to a lesser extent, hooking up (from the awkward first hello to the even more awkward first move, the latter of which are in very short supply in the show).
Mills stars as ‘Jessica,’ along with her pals Candis (Candis Phlegm; yes- that’s what the credit says) and Lyndsey (Doolen). As the dominate dater in the group, Jessica is most frequently found sharing the results of her misguided exploits to her gal-pals at home or to Candis at work. Candis and Lyndsey, for their parts, are given occasional forums for their own courtship adventures (under-dating and over-dating, respectively).
The series begins at the office, with Candis finagling an appropriately awkward, but also overly wrought, visit from the IT guy (aka the IT Guy), who dons a leather fanny-pack (which he at one point rapidly zips open and closed as if he’s a prop-comic). He manages to get Jessica to say yes to a date.
Because Awkward Embraces, for reasons of plot-driving and/or budget, is a bit of a super-teaser, both literally and figuratively, you have to stick around to find out if anyone will actually score.
The general premise of the series is to ritualize, to exorcise, and to otherwise play out our – or, should I say, people under 30’s – dating challenges, for the purpose of both comedy and catharsis. OK. I’m cool with that. The show’s vlog features the main players and their friends reading dating horror stories that readers send in, just in case their mission isn’t clear.
The latter half of the first season is devoted largely to Jessica’s evolution with Kevin, who actually seems like real dating material. On their first date, he patiently listens, albeit with overly-forced arched brows, to Jessica’s impassioned descriptions of beloved sci-fi characters, before getting an “emergency” call and bailing.
Presumably, there are many viewers who can identify with one side or the other, but verisimilitude isn’t what Mills is after – it’s awkwardness. The space between two uncomfortable bodies during a date, whether it’s in the form of anti-courtship in the case of Jessica, or an inadequate protrusion in the case of Lyndsey (episode 3 is dubbed ‘The Bulge’).
Awkward Embraces’ sweet spot is maintaining a persistent, interminable, Sisyphean climb to non-consummation. The final two episodes of the season consist of such an onscreen chemistry tease that, ultimately, you have to applaud Mills for sticking with restraint until the end.
If you’re looking for a comedy, you’ll likely be a bit disappointed. This is more soft-chuckles of recognition territory. But if you’re looking for sacrificial re-enactments of 21st century dating inelegance, you’ll find plenty to feast on. And there looks to be more in Season 2…Jessica may even get laid.