Teen soap operas have been around for years. It all started with the popular Beverly Hills 90210, continued with The O.C. and Dawson’s Creek for a few years in ’90s and 2000s, and then still exists today in Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, and the updated version of 90210. While all of these shows featured storylines common to all teenagers, including pregnancy, there hasn’t been a television series that specifically centered on teenage pregnancy. That was until this year when ABC Family took a chance on another new original television series called The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The network had already created hit shows Kyle XY and Greek, so why not roll the dice again.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager focuses on the life of Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley).Â Amy is your typical 15-year-old girl next door.Â She plays the French Horn in the high school band and is part of a typical American family. One day, at band camp she has sex with the playboy drummer. Although it lasted only seconds, it was enough to get her pregnant and now she must face the inevitable.Â She is devastated and doesnt know what to do, doesnt know how to explain it to her family and doesnt know if she can have a baby. Meanwhile, her mother Anne (Molly Ringwald) is worried about her dad, George (Mark Derwin).Â George seems to be going on these business trips but in reality is having an affair.Â The final member of Amy’s dysfunctional family is her 13-year-old rebellious sister, Ashley.
While the show centers on the character of Amy and her pregnancy and her family problems, like other teen soaps, there are various storylines on other teenagers at Ulysses S. Grant High School. They all have problems, of course, and so do their parents. They all seem to intertwine with each other as well. So in a way The Secret Life of the American Teenager falls into the same traps that other teen soaps fall into. You have your usual stereotypical storylines, but unlike other shows, this series is honest about teenagers having sex and the consquences of it. It could be said that Teenager borrowed heavily from the feature film, Juno. However, this television series goes much more in depthÂ about all aspects of teenagers and sex, including abstinence. That is certainly unique for a teen soap opera.
Typical teen soaps usually feature characters you care about. Otherwise, the show will ultimately fail, because if you don’t care about what happens to these characters why tune in? The characters on this ABC Family drama are quite likable and actually are relatable to real American teenagers today. Some other teen soaps feature characters, who talk older than they are or live in places they can only dream of living. But this series is above average teenagers in everyday America with many layers to them. The acting is good as well. Not only are the young mostly unknown stars good in their roles, but the adults are as well. In fact, older viewers of this show will recognize many of the adult actors in this series. They include ’80s teen star Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink); Mark Derwin (Life with Bonnie); Josie Bissett (Melrose Place); John Schneider(Smallville, Dukes of Hazzard); Steve Schirripa (The Sopranos); and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters).
Fans of teen soaps will no doubt love this show. It has all of the classic element of any teen soap, which means it does feature some stereotypical storylines and characters. However, this is the first television series to honestly talk about teenage sex and the consequences of it. For the most part it is well-written and surprisingly the melodrama is kept to a minimum, or at least there seems to be less of it in this show than other teen soaps. It doesn’t have quite the humor to draw in non-teen soap fans, but for families with older teenagers this is a great series to watch and discuss.
Episode 1 – Falling in Love
After losing her virginity to Ricky Underwood at band camp, Amy Juergens discovers that she’s pregnant. As Amy contends with her family life, and struggles to come to terms with her pregnancy, she seeks solace from her friends, Lauren and Madison. Meanwhile, Grace Bowman, the most popular girl at school, promises abstinence to her parents.
Episode 2 – You Are My Everything
Lauren and Madison accidentally reveal Ricky’s involvement with Amy to the school. Meanwhile, Grace is torn between forgiving Jack and moving on, and Amy experiences her first bouts of morning sickness.
Episode 3 – I Feel Sick
Ben continues to pine after Amy, which results in them sharing their first kiss. Also, Amy shares the news of her pregnancy with Ashleyâ€”leaving their parents in the dark. Elsewhere, Adrian believes that Ricky is just using her for sex.
Episode 4 – Caught
Grace hands in her pompoms after she’s caught on tape defending herself against two drunken men. Meanwhile, Amy finds Ben’s clingy behavior irksome.
Episode 5 – What Have You Done to Me?
Ben proposes to Amy after learning of her pregnancy. Meanwhile, Amy contemplates having an abortion, and George leaves home and moves in with Cindy Lee, Adrian’s mother.
Episode 6 – Love For Sale
Amy shares the news of her pregnancy with her mother. Later, Amy’s absence from school sparks a rumor that she’s having an abortion.
Episode 7 – Absent
Ricky wrestles with the repercussions of sleeping with Amy. Meanwhile, Amy considers moving in with her grandmother, Mimsy.
Episode 8 – Your Cheatin’ Heart
Amy and Ashley’s grandmother visits. Elsewhere, Adrian flaunts her budding friendship with Grace.
Episode 9 – Slice of Life
George bonds with Amy and Ashley. Elsewhere, Tom hires a “friend” for the night, and Lauren is caught kissing Ricky.
Episode 10 – Back to School Special
Amy faces her first day back at school, while Cindy Lee encourages Adrian to foster a relationship with her father.
Episode 11 – Just Say No
Adrian’s father calls the police after she disappears from school. Elsewhere, the school learns of Ricky’s visits to Dr. Fields, Grace is pressured into wearing her purity ring, and Ben and Amy consider having sex.
The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. Transfer is great with minimal distortion. No major problems at all, which you should expect from a new series like this one.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound or English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in Spanish and French as well. The dialogue and music come out and clear. No major problems here either.
“On Set with the Cast” Featurette –
This runsÂ 6 minutes and it has interviews with the creator, Brenda Hampton, and cast members including Molly Ringwald, among other. They talk about their character roles and the overall series.Â They also speak about the chemistry between the cast as well. Pretty standard “fluff” stuff here, but somewhat interesting for fans of this series.
This is worth at least a rental for teen soap fans and families with older teenagers. There is a slight lean towards a buy for people in those demographics as well. All others will probably not enjoy this series. It’s not the greatest teen soap opera ever, but there are worse teen soaps out there.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Created by Brenda Hampton. Starring Shailene Woodley, Kenny Baumann, Francia Raisa, Megan Park, Darren Kagasoff, Greg Finley II, Renee Olstead, Camille Winbush, Jorge Pallo, Mark Derwin, Molly Ringwald, India Eisley, Josie Bissett, John Schneider, Luke Zimmerman, Amy Rider, Allen Evangelista, and Ernie Hudson. Running time: 473 minutes. Rated NOT RATED. Released on DVD: December 30, 2008.
Available at Amazon.com
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