ABC Family’s most watched television series is still The Secret Life of the American Teenager. It made headlines by shining a light on teenage pregnancy and honestly talking about sex. Since the first season, though, Secret Life has not lived up to the high expectations. The quality of the series has declined in each subsequent volume. The first part of Season three (which will be Volume 5 when it is released on DVD) started earlier this month with plenty of fans watching. But Volume 4 has now arrived on DVD as well. How would it stack up with previous volumes?
If you don’t know, The Secret Life of the American Teenager focuses on the life of Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley). Amy is your typical 15-year-old girl next door, who plays the French Horn in the band and is part of a typical dysfunctional American family. During a summer at band camp, Amy met the high school band drummer and Lothario, Rickey Underwood (Darren Kagasoff). With a very quick one night stand, Amy got pregnant and through each episode we see how Amy copes with her pregnancy and eventual birth of her child. Meanwhile, her mother Anne (Molly Ringwald) and father George (Mark Derwin), who thought they raised a smart daughter, are surprised and shocked that they have to deal with a pregnant daughter along with their younger, rebellious daughter Ashley (India Eisley). Then, you have Benjamin “Ben” Boykewich (Kenny Baumann), the son of a sausage mogul, who loves Amy and is willing to be there for her, not just as a boyfriend but a father if need be. Others characters featured on the series are Grace Kathleen Bowman (Megan Park), who is dating school jock and fellow Christian Jack Pappas (Greg Finley II). Unfortunately, Jack has sex on his mind and can’t think of anything else. Ricky wants to “score” with Grace as well, even though he has an on and off girlfriend Adrian Lee (Francia Raisa), who seems to be willing to have sex whenever and wherever.
At the end of the first season, Amy had her baby boy, John. So the show shifted from issues leading up to the birth to now issues raising a child as a teenager in the second season. Ben especially starts to feel left out of Amy’s life as Amy wants John’s father, Rickey involved in the John’s life. This leads Ben to Italy, where he meets another girl. Volume 4 continues that same storyline as now Ben and Amy have broken up and can move on with new relationships. Meanwhile, Ashley tests her parents’ limits even more. But they have there own issues to deal with as Anne wants to remarry George on their next anniversary. Everyone else on the show simply just bounce back and forth between beds basically.
The writing on this show has completely fallen off the cliff during this volume. There seems to be no more original ideas for the writers to come up with. At this point, almost all of the major characters have been in sexual relationships with each other. There is really no new characters or actors to breathe new life into this series. It also doesn’t help that some of the characters have started to do things that are completely out-of-character. That would be okay if all of those characters were changing for a greater good. But they are mostly just changing sexual partners. That being said, the underlying messages of the consequences of your choices are still solid, but they often get overshadowed by “who is sleeping with who?”
Volume 4 of Secret Life is dangerously reaching the point of no return. The writers don’t seem to want to take any risks, and that means they are starting to glorify sex, as the only interesting drama left on this show is “who is with who?” The acting is still good, but the actors can’t rise above the sub-par writing. At this point, The Secret Life of the American Teenager is just like every other teenage drama out there today. Unfortunately, though, since the writers don’t seem to want to bring in any new people to mix things up, Secret Life is quickly becoming below average in that genre. The potential is still there to turn things around, but as long as the ratings stay as high as they do, I doubt there will be any drastic changes. Fans of the show will still watch Volume 4 on DVD and Volume 5 currently on TV. But for those casual fans who liked the show in the beginning, Secret Life is no longer “must-watch”.
Episode 1 – You Don’t Know What You Got
Anne and Amy take off on a relaxing vacation with their babies, but there is still a lot of drama going on in their absence, including the fact that George seriously doubts he is the biological father of baby Robbie. Elsewhere, as Ben contemplates breaking up with Amy, his Italian girlfriend shows up unexpectedly. Jack wants to continue dating Grace, but she doubts the future of their relationship. Ricky fears that he is being pushed out of his son’s life, Ashley feels neglected at home, and Adrian’s cozy little family situation might suddenly be disrupted. Finally, a strange woman with a questionable reputation begins working as the high school counselor on the same day that several of the kids decide to ditch classes.
Episode 2 – Til It’s Gone
Anne encounters an old flame while on vacation, and Amy becomes attracted to his teenage son. Back at home, Ben has an important decision to make about his love life, and Ashley bonds with Griffin. Ricky and Adrian are trying to abstain from sex, but one of them is really struggling with it. As Grace’s feelings for Jack run dry, she takes some shocking recent advice from her mother. Finally, Ricky decides that it’s time to confront Amy about his custody rights with John.
Episode 3 – Love & Lost
Adrian takes her anger toward Ricky out on the butcher shop window, and unless she wants to face felony charges, she must find a way to pay for the damages out of her own pocket. Elsewhere, Jack goes for a rebound relationship after breaking up with Grace. As Ricky attempts to make peace with Amy, she and Ben come to a mutual agreement about their future together. Lastly, a bizarre twist of events threatens Grace and Adrian’s friendship, and George learns that Anne–who is currently living with her mother–might not be returning home anytime soon.
Episode 4 – Just Say Me
Frustrated with their love lives, Amy and some other girls at school determine that maybe it’s time to just focus on themselves for a change. Grace’s newest passion becomes an interesting school-wide campaign, which sets off a firestorm when the counselor gets involved. Meanwhile, Ricky is suspicious when Amy and Adrian decide to give friendship a try, and George is lonely for Anne, who is still living with her mother indefinitely.
Episode 5 – The Second Time Around
George does his best to win Anne back and convince her to come home with Robbie. Meanwhile Ben and Grace become close while Ben’s ex Amy goes out with Jimmy. Ashley may finally be interested in a guy when Griffin sets her up with his cousin. Amy allows Adrian to be around Ricky when he is spending time with their son.
Episode 6 – Let’s Try That Again
Amy fears that Jimmy’s standoffish behavior is a result of her bad kissing, so Ricky offers to help her practice, which ends up being a bad idea. Elsewhere, Adrian’s parents are planning a quiet, low-key wedding at home, and Ricky is hesitant to introduce everyone to his foster parents. A mother-daughter dance is being planned at school, but most of the students have strained relationships with their moms at the moment. Lastly, Ben must decide whether to continue pursuing Grace, and Anne suggests therapy as a final attempt for her and George to keep their family together.
Episode 7 – The Rhythm of Life
The mother-daughter dance at school has arrived, but it ends up being a strange and uncomfortable event for everyone involved. It is revealed that Leo and Betty are planning a wedding, and George and Anne are ready to reverse their divorce. Back at home, Ricky is taking care of the baby, but he is interrogated all night by George and Ruben, who know that he kissed Amy recently. Lastly, Ben thinks he may have broken up with Amy for the wrong reasons, but he has no clue about a current rumor involving her.
Episode 8 – Mistakes Were Made
Secrets revealed during the dance start to take effect when Amy learns about Ben’s most recent sexual encounter. Upset by the news, she attempts to fix things with Jimmy. Elsewhere, Anne and George try hard to make their relationship work, and Adrian gets into an argument with Grace. George discovers that Ashley might have a new boyfriend. Ben is angry with himself for letting Amy get away, and Ricky leaves town without telling anyone.
Episode 9 – Choices
Ricky takes time to track down his biological mother and confront her about his abusive childhood. Elsewhere, George wants to modernize his look by getting a makeover. Things are still tense between Adrian and Grace, and Jack breaks up with Madison after learning something about her. Also, Amy has a meltdown after a run-in with Ben, who is still trying to decide if he really wants her back.
Episode 10 – Good Girls and Boys
When Ricky returns home, he fights with Ben, takes some important advice from his foster parents, and breaks up with Adrian. Elsewhere, Grace has a new approach to sex after having a talk with her new stepfather, and George disagrees with Anne about the next step for their relationship. Lastly, Amy and Ricky argue over custody of their son.
Episode 11 – I Got You Babe
A messy custody battle ensues as Amy and Ricky continue to disagree over their rights as John’s parents. Still angry with Ricky for breaking up with her, Adrian sides with Amy and encourages several of their friends to do the same. Elsewhere, George grows more frustrated with Anne’s refusal to get re-married right away. Ben and Grace get closer, and Ashley feels ready to make some changes in her life.
Episode 12 – Ben There, Done That
Ricky and Amy come together to throw a first birthday party for John, but it all goes differently than planned. Meanwhile, Ashley confides in her father about wanting to go on birth control. Anne and George are on the road again to check up on her ailing mother. Leo and Betty get ready for their wedding day, while Adrian’s parents tie the knot in a private ceremony. Lastly, a possible pregnancy prompts someone to consider abortion.
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 previous seasons.
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.
“Behind the Secret Scenes With Mikaela” Featurette –
There are two parts to this and they run 4 minutes total. In part 1, Mikaela interviews with stars Amy Rider & Allen Evangelista. She asks them about life off-the-set. In part 2, Amy & Allen ask Mikaela questions.
“Shooting Hoops” Featurette –
This runs 1 minute and it lets viewers watch Daren Kagasoff, his brother Justin, and Greg Finley play basketball.
“Megan Talks to Canada” Featurette –
This runs 1 minute and she shows Canadians what it is like working in Hollywood. Pretty funny.
“Music Scoring Featurette –
This runs 2 1/2 minutes and it has composer, Dan Foliart, introducing his team, who was behind the music of 7th Heaven. He discusses what separates this music from the rest on television.
“Cast on Family Featurette –
This runs 5 minutes and the main cast members of the show give an overview of where their characters stand with their families or how other families affect their lives in this volume. This is a in-character summary of what you can watch for yourself in the actual episodes. So really pointless.
Diary Entry –
There is also a mini booklet inside the DVD where fans can read the first diary entry of the new Secret Life teen novel, “The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens”. If you are want to see things from a new perspective, this is definitely worth the read.
Volume 4 of Secret Life really shows how this show has become less interesting. Despite all of the changes, nothing really ever changes. We just get one new relationship after another, and that’s really it. Hardcore fans of the series will no doubt like this volume, but it’s definitely not-must watch material.
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: 516 minutes. Rated: NOT RATED. Released on DVD: June 15, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
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