With the benefit of time, we can all smile as we look back on our collection of firsts and remember how stumbly and awkward we were. The levels vary, but no matter what anyone tells you, everyone experiences it and no one is smooth the first time out of the gate when it comes to social interactions. We’ve all had a jackass phase, is what I’m saying.
On television, though, we can see a better way with cleaner resolutions. Crushes crush back and failed driving tests magically turn into a passing grade. It’s a magical place, but while the results aren’t always relatable, the awkwardness and angst in the lead up is. So, why not take a trip down memory lane to witness the ways that some of your favorite TV shows handled some of life’s most awkward moments.
The first kiss — Saved by the Bell.
I’m not sure there’s a person on this planet whose nerves weren’t on the verge of exploding in the moment leading up to their first kiss. We’re not talking some cute kiss you may have had on the elementary-school playground, but the hormone-driven kiss that if you were lucky, left your head spinning up on cloud nine. It’s kinda hard to believe, but it wasn’t until season three of Saved by the Bell that Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) finally locked lips outside the gym during junior prom. While it’s probably safe to say that most people’s first kiss likely didn’t go as flawlessly as Zack and Kelly’s, most of us also didn’t have a studio audience yelling “woooooooooo!” in the background.
Getting caught in the act — King of the Hill.
Hopefully, you didn’t get caught sucking face with your cousin’s beauty school mannequin head like Bobby Hill. Adolescents do a lot of, how shall we say, “exploring,” when growing up, and sometimes parents just happen to walk in on said exploration. This is precisely why bedroom locks were invented. Because nothing makes for an awkward weekend like having to avoid eye contact with your parents.
The pain of heartbreak — The O.C.
Whether you’re the dumper or dumpee, your first breakup sucks. It’s the first time that you experience the pit of emotional pain in your chest that comes from Cupid sucker punching you in the heart. Like a curtain that’s been lifted, all those songs about lost love suddenly seem like they were written just for you and the all-consuming thoughts of “how it all went wrong” begin to take hold.
Ryan (Ben McKenzie) spent so much time during the first season of The O.C. getting beat up and labeled a “troublemaker” in his pursuit of Marissa (Mischa Barton), that when they finally ended things, there was a definite sense that the guy was better off. Still, breaking up sucks and that first one stung in its own unique way.
First job freedom — That 70s Show.
Getting that first job is usually met with one of two reactions: financial freedom or “Damn, my parents are making me work.” In Eric Forman’s (Topher Grace) case, it’s a bit of both. Yes, Red (Kurtwood Smith) makes him get a job, but at the same time, he’s keen on the idea that he’ll be making his own cash. Of course, first jobs aren’t usually the most glorious of gigs and often involve menial jobs like taking orders from a fast-food manager on a power trip at Fatso Burger. Whether it’s bagging groceries, working retail, flipping burgers or whatever else brings in that minimum-wage paycheck, putting on that first job name tag is an adolescent rite of passage that feels incredibly awkward at the start.
The pressures of prom — Boy Meets World.
Maybe you worked up the nerve to ask your crush to the school dance, or maybe you went with your significant other of six months. In either case, a fair amount of awkwardness is just a given with high-school proms. Corey (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) were practically already married on Boy Meets World when the prom came along, but they still hadn’t done the deed, leading Cory to book a hotel room and then fumble his way from one cringe-inducing awkward scene to the next. Pretty much everything about the prom is designed to induce a certain amount of stress. And if you skipped the whole thing altogether, well, consider yourself lucky that you avoided a ballroom full of your sweaty-palmed high-school peers.
The thrill of learning to drive — Malcolm in the Middle.
Getting one’s driver’s license is both exhilarating and terrifying. You’re no longer required to bug your parents for a ride when you need to run to the store for zit cream, but at the same time, you’re now in control of two tons of speeding death. There’s no denying that holding that first driver’s license is definitely a rewarding moment that solidifies a solid step toward adulthood. Actually getting the driver’s license, though, is without a doubt one of the more nerve-wracking tasks in a teenager’s life. Fortunately, most people don’t end up involved in a slow-speed chase that results in being pepper-sprayed by the cops like Malcolm in the Middle’s Reese (Justin Berfield).
The insecurities of puberty — My So-Called Life.
One day you’re a kid with flawless skin and the next, there’s a bulging red volcano coming out of your chin. Every episode of My So-Called Life was ripe with drama from beginning to end, and while not everybody had a teenage life as drama-filled as Angela Chase (Claire Danes), the curse of the pimple spares no one. The show used Angela’s zit for the basis of an entire episode, even titling it “The Zit” and highlighting the inescapable insecurity that comes with going through puberty. As awkward and embarrassing as going through puberty can be, it’s something that every adult can relate to and something nobody wants to do again.
The anxiety of gym class showers — Freaks and Geeks.
Hitting the showers after a workout at the gym might not seem like a big deal now, but think back to when you were 14. Not exactly a time when you were confident about your physique, right? Freaks and Geeks had a way of honing in on the trials of growing up like no other show and perfectly captured the anxiety of being a freshman and having to hit the showers with your classmates. Sam (John Francis Daley) does his best to avoid stripping down, but can only avoid his fate of entering the gym showers for so long. And when he does finally work up the nerve to disrobe, he’s robbed of his towel and locked out in the hallway, proving that adolescent anxiety is often justified because uncomfortable moments will always seek you out at that stage.
Walking into a strip club with your mom may be the ultimate uncomfortable moment, but that’s just one of the many humiliations that visit the road-tripping family at the heart of Jason Jones’ new show, The Detour.
Catch the premiere of ‘The Detour’ on Monday, April 11 at 9/8c on TBS.