Thursday, July 17, 2008

TV: "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" Review

I wasn't expecting much from ABC Family's new series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," since it felt like the network was trying to capitalize off of the recent popular trend of pregnancy-related plots (Knocked Up, Juno, Baby Mama, etc.). I'm 22 and I don't really need a weekly PSA on why I should have safe sex. But the blogs were buzzing with the official return of Molly Ringwald playing the mother of a pregnant teen, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

While Ringwald is still the seasoned actor we all know and love from Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles, she has barely been in more than ten minutes of each of the season's first three episodes. The story mainly focuses on her daughter, Amy, played by Shailene Woodley (above), who made her debut as the first incarnation of Marissa's little sister on "The O.C."

The news of Amy's pregnancy is thrust upon us as it was upon her. She is, naturally, dumbfounded by her discovery and...slightly traumatized. Most of the time, pregnant teenagers are mournful of the life that they won't get to have, and while Amy is, she's also petrified of being judged. Not only by her peers, but her own parents.

The preview of the upcoming fourth episode--when she finally informs her parents that she's sexually active--shows scenes of Amy trying her best to convince them that it's true. She lives in a world where everyone thinks she's the most innocent geek on the planet. It's the reason that Ricky (newcomer Daren Kagasoff, above), the school Casanova, chose to devirginate her at band camp. It's the reason Ben (Kenny Baumann) fell instantly in love with her--enough to join the band. And it's the reason that her parents would rather believe that her provocative, gothic, younger sister Ashley (India Eisley) is the more likely choice for being sexually active. She is your average American teen, completely blindsighted by her impending future and surrounded by people who are totally unprepared.

This constant barrage of panic-mode dramatics initiated by the devastating sign that popped up on her pregnancy stick is peppered with other perspectives of teen life. Ricky, the father of her unborn child, is actually a foster kid who was the victim of sexual abuse. He frequently ditches his therapy sessions, where he's supposed to work out how he feels about being raped by his father when he was younger. Instead, he tries to erase the memory or push it out of his mind by engaging in random hook ups with women. His main source of pleasure comes from a seductive Latina, Adrian (Francia Raisa from The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream), who chooses to downplay her intelligence and amp up her sexuality to keep him hooked because she's lonely since her parents are never home. She's so lonely, in fact, that she would sleep with the dumb jock boyfriend (newcomer Greg Finley) of one of Ricky's latest interests, Grace (Megan Park from Charlie Bartlett), who happens to be a promise-ring wearing devout Christian, just to make him jealous. But the girl he seems to be interested in the most, Amy, refuses to give him the time of day. It's too early to determine whether or not his aggressive persuasion tactics in the middle of a crowded hallway were the pleas of a horny and emotionally disturbed deviant or a cry for help. He did say he just wanted to talk. But knowing Ricky, no words would be escaping their moving lips.

Unfortunately for him, she and her friends (Renee Olstead from "Still Standing" and Camille Winbush from "The Bernie Mac Show") have decided that it's best he not know of the child. In fact, for a split second they even plotted to try to pass it off as Ben's kid. Thankfully, Amy chose not to insensitively destroy someone else's life--even if it seems like he wouldn't mind. Ben is a peculiar character. He seems to embody the rare male persona of a puppy-love-having, overly smitten, hopeless romantic, who could've actually fallen in love with anyone because of his eagerness to feel the emotion. Honestly, his best friend Henry's (Allen Evangelista from "Zoey 101") girlfriend Alice (Amy Rider from "24") literally pointed out a random person in the hallway that would be relatively in his league to ask out on a date, and that lucky girl was Amy. You can't blame him though. His mother died five years ago, and he and his dad (Steve Schirripa from "The Sopranos") are still recovering, making him quite eager to waste no time finding his soulmate.

That's right, not even the parents have it all figured out. Like "The O.C.," the main two parental pairs have a weird and scandalous relationship. Amy's mom Anne (Ringwald) is married to George (Mark Derwin from "Life with Bonnie"), who used to be married to Grace's mom Kathleen (Josie Bissett from "Melrose Place"), who is now married to Marshall (John Schneider from "Smallville"). Why does that matter? Well, Anne is jealous of Kathleen and tries to avoid her. She's probably jealous of the fact that Kathleen has the more reliable husband, since Marshall seems like a total flake, coming home at late hours without any explanation.

Besides the gratuitous adult drama, there are two other interesting supporting characters that are apart of the cast. The first is Grace's mentally disabled brother, who refreshingly behaves the same way any over-protective little brother would, and the second is the school counselor Mr. Molina (Jorge Pallo), who spends most of his time reluctantly helping Ben with his love life. My favorite, however, is Ricky. I just feel like they can do so much with his character. He may be slimey like Chuck on "Gossip Girl," but at least there's a legitimate reasoning behind it--there's a possibility of evolution, if only he can find the right girl to lead him down that path. It could be Grace, who he's recently convinced to pretend to date him so her parents won't know that she's secretly meeting up with her cheating ex-boyfriend, or it could be Amy, who seems too busy worrying about hiding her pregnancy to even acknowledge that this situation will soon affect him too.

The ratings are pretty high (up to 1.2 million) for a summer series and viewers have put it at #1 on iTunes every day after an episode airs. As long as they curb the blatant after school special messages--like when Amy awkwardly declared to her friends that the sex wasn't good and Ricky even more awkwardly apologized for the sex not being good--then the ratings should stay up all summer. Originally there were only supposed to be 10 episodes this season, but the network has ordered 13 more, which should keep it running till winter unless they return in spring.

Are you watching?

1 comment:

  1. The Secret Life of the American Teenager is definitely a secret. I really LOVE this show. So guys get this show from here and enjoy it at any time!!!