When you think of edgy television programming, you usually think of shows on HBO or Showtime. Never would you expect a network like ABC Family. But that’s what happened in summer ’08 when the station debuted The Secret Life of the American Teenager. This series was targeted towards a teenage audience, and it openly discussed sex and teenage pregnancy. The first season (which is Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 on DVD) gained a cult following and was praised for its subject matter. Now entering the second half of its sophomore season, this DVD release covers the first twelve episodes of that second season.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager focuses on the life of Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley), just your typical 15-year-old girl next door. She plays the French Horn in the band and is part of a typical dysfunctional American family. During a summer at band camp, Amy had a one-night stand with the high school band drummer, Ricky Underwood (Darren Kagasoff). The stand came with consequences as Amy gets pregnant. Each episode of the series shows how Amy copes with pregnancy and eventual birth. Meanwhile, her mother Anne (Molly Ringwald) and her father George (Mark Derwin) who thought they have raised the perfect daughter are surprised and shocked that they have to deal with Amy’s pregnancy as well as their other daughter, the rebellious Ashley (india Eisley). Other players include Ben (Kenny Baumann), the son of a sausage mogul, who loves Amy and has no problems taking on the role of father; Grace (Megan Park), who is dating Jack (Greg Finley II), a Christian and a school jock that has sex on the brain. There’s the story arc of Ricky wanting to make out with Grace, even though he has his own on-again, off-again girlfriend in Andrian Lee (Francia Raisa), who seems to be willing to have sex whenever and wherever.
At the end of the first season, Amy finally gave birth to a son she names John. With one pregnancy done, we get another with Amy’s mother. The kicker is that it may not be with Amy’s father George (Mark Derwin), since they are going through a separation. Meanwhile, Ricky and Ben struggle with their own emotional problems to get along and fit into Amy’s life with her new son. Ben desperately wants to try to gain Amy’s acceptance by showing how he can care for the baby. This, while Ricky tries to prove that he can commit to a relationship with Adrian (Francia Raisa) despite being the father of Amy’s child. In addition, Grace and Jack talk about taking their relationship to another level, even though Grace found that Jack has been seeing other girls. To complicate things even further, Grace also has to deal with the effects of a tragedy that occurs early on in this season.
Episode 1 – The Big One As Amy deals with the daily struggles of teen motherhood, Anne has some life-changing news of her own to handle. Elsewhere, Ben’s father falls hard for an interesting new woman, and Adrian’s once-estranged father now wants to reconnect with her. Ben wants to be intimate with Amy, and he feels threatened by Ricky’s constant presence around her house. Lastly, just as Grace makes a shocking decision in her personal life, an unexpected tragedy affects everyone.
Episode 2 – What’s Done Is Done Grace is struggling with what has happened, whilst Ben wonders what part he plays in Amy’s new life.
Episode 3 – Par for the Course When Grace begins to pull away from everyone, Ricky takes it upon himself to try and help her out. Amy is desperate for some time away from her work and mothering duties, even if only to attend Dr. Bowman’s funeral. Adrian receives an unexpected surprise from her father.
Episode 4 – Ciao Amy is having trouble coping with her new lifestyle and resents the lack of time she has for herself. Ben begins to decide how he will be spending his summer break, while Grace takes her first baby steps toward recovery after the recent tragedy in her family.
Episode 5 – Born Free A juicy rumor about the Juergens family sweeps through school. Ben would prefer to be alone on his trip to Italy, but Amy insists on tagging along with her baby – and Ricky isn’t too happy about it. Grace is upset over what her mother is choosing to do with her father’s clothes and other personal items. Suspicion continues to rise with Ben’s future mother-in-law, who seems to be hiding something big.
Episode 6 – The Summer of Our Discontent Ben prepares to depart for Italy, while Amy comes to terms with the fact that she must work and attend summer school. As Jack gets ready for football camp, Grace has some options of her own to consider for the summer. Elsewhere, George’s dirty secret continues to impact his daughters, and Adrian is upset about Ricky’s changing priorities.
Episode 7 – Summertime With the summer coming to an end, Ben ponders whether he even wants to continue his relationship with Amy. Grace returns from medical camp with an attitude that doesn’t sit well with her family or friends, and Amy doesn’t approve of her mother’s boyfriend – until he bribes her in a shocking way. Elsewhere, tension rises between Ricky and Adrian, and Ashley starts her first day of high school with an unbelievable bang. Lastly, George finally reveals his secret to Anne, but it’s nothing compared to what she’s about to tell him.
Episode 8 – A New Kind of Green Adrian is eager for Anne and George to reunite, but her intentions are for personal reasons, which leads to friction between Adrian and Amy. Meanwhile, Anne makes some important decisions about her future with David. Amy is convinced that Ben had sex in Italy over the summer, but he denies it. Jack and Grace deal with jealousy issues, while Adrian pushes for an exclusive relationship with Ricky.
Episode 9 – Hot Nuts Amy and Adrian’s fighting escalates, leading to Amy’s suspension from school. While Ricky fears that he will lose visitation rights with his son, Adrian is encouraged by her father to make amends. Elsewhere, Anne decides to start dating again, and her daughters are surprised when they meet her dinner escort. Ben admits that he has given up on having sex with Amy, but the real question is why he feels that way. Lastly, as Jack becomes more involved with Grace’s family, her brother Tom starts exhibiting dangerous behavior.
Episode 10 – Knocked Up, Who’s There? A pregnant teenager at school approaches Ben, wanting to spend time with him. Elsewhere, Grace wishes to speak at her support group about her and Jack’s sexual encounter, which makes Jack very nervous. With Anne on bed rest, George finds an unusual housekeeper to help out, then gets into a big fight with Amy. Finally, Griffin tries to protect Ashley from a guy who is interested in her, and Adrian makes a decision about her future with Ricky.
Episode 11 – Cramped When George and Ashley move back home, he turns the garage into a gorgeous new bedroom for her – and Amy is furious. Elsewhere, Mrs. Bowman is hiding something major from her two kids, and Leo invites Betty to move in with him and Ben. Adrian pulls away from Ricky, who gets into hot water with George after spending the afternoon with Ashley. Lastly, some information is finally revealed about Ben’s summer vacation in Italy.
Episode 12 – Be My, Be My Baby Ben and Amy try to get their romance back on track, but they both have concerns about their future together. Meanwhile, a variety of issues threaten Jack and Grace’s relationship, while Ricky grows closer to Adrian by attending counseling with her. George has serious doubts about starting over as a father, and in a chaotic twist of events, Anne goes into labor at the house.
The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is great with colors generally looking bright and vivid details everywhere. No major or minor problems at all here, and on par with other ABC Family shows on DVD now.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, French, and Spanish as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. No major problems here either.
“Hot Chat” Featurette –
This runs 6 1/2 minutes and it lets fans get to ask questions to cast members which is put into a hat and the cast reads the question and answers them. They are pretty honest here, and this should be fun fo fans.
Make It Or Break It “Pilot” Episode – Make It Or Break is one of the newest ABC Family teenage dramas on the network right now. It airs right after The Secret Life, so they are hoping the same fans will watch this show. You can find my review of the first volume of this show on this site elsewhere. But in short, if you like The Secret Life chances are Make It Or Break It is another drama you might want to catch.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Volume Three falls victim to stale writing as situations become more and more melodramatic. The pregnancy arc with Anne seems to be particularly forced, especially since it happens so soon after the birth of John. It’s like the writers knew they needed to have another unwanted pregnancy, so that they could talk about it. This series is at its best when it talks about the consequences of choices of both adults and teenagers, so the messages are still strong. If it weren’t for the strong acting (as far as teen soaps go), I’d say forget it. The Secret Life, while showing signs of staleness, is still good to watch with the family.
ABC Studios Home Entertainment presents Secret Life of the American Teenager: Volume 3. 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, Ernie Hudson. Running time: 522 minutes. Rated: NOT RATED. Released on DVD: December 22, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.
I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!
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