The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Or If Juno Were a TV Series…

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I learned an interesting thing while watching ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager: TEENS LOVE SEX. They love it so much that every other sentence revolves around sex, types of sex, and condoms.

If you were to have a drinking game based on the number of times the word “sex” is used in the first episode (NOT RECOMMENDED), you’ll be on your ass before the half-way point!

Yes, that’s pretty much how the pilot episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager goes. And while sex is at the forefront, there are other issues in the realm of sex that are also breached.

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Namely pregnancy, which is what the lead character Amy (Shailene Woodley) must deal with from the first moments of the series. After a two second roll in the hay with the high school’s top player (yep, he’s that amazing in bed), she finds herself preggers and has a hard time coping with the news. With the support of her friends, she finds that being a young pregnant teen is an okay thing. Even if you’re not Juno.

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The show also presents the opposing side to having wild hot monkey sex as a teen: abstinence. Thanks to the stereotypical Christian goody-goody cheerleader goddess, we discover that there is life beyond sex. There are also church socials and free food!

Created by Brenda Hampton who brought us 7th Heaven, the series is much edgier than anything the Camden family ever encountered. And it’s doubtful that any of the Camden kids would have been allowed to watch this series. It’s pretty racy, and at times the dialogue moves into the Dawson’s Creek area of sexual content.

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This is a show that deals with sex on an open and grand scale. For an ABC Family show, that’s a huge leap. Most of their programming is composed of re-runs of Full House, Step By Step, and Gilmore Girls. But as they expanded into original programming, their content started to have more of a CW feel.

Shows like Greek, Kyle XY, and now The Secret Life of the American Teenager push the envelope in terms of sexual content on a once family-friendly network. Their tagline is “A New Kind of Family,” so maybe a family overrun with sexually active, overly horny young people is what they’re going after.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With competition like The Hills, 90210, and Gossip Girl, ABC Family needs to step over the line in order to ensure they have viewers. The nice thing is that The Secret Life of the American Teenager at least attempts in its heightened way to present both views regarding teen sexual behavior.

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I’ve gotta give Molly Ringwald kudos for her role as Amy’s mom. Known for her roles in Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and her cameo in Not Another Teen Movie, it’s nice to see Ringwald in a respectable role and not as a joke like many of the Brat Pack have become.

Ernie Hudson (Mr. Magoo, Ghostbusters, Miss Congeniality) plays a pretty cool therapist. One that gets to the heart of the matters involving the life behind-the-scenes of the high school’s player dude. Despite his brief appearances, he was an enjoyable and nice character.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager is watchable, but not intended for young kids. This isn’t 7th Heaven. It’s a show that should prompt discussion among parents and teens about sex, and can be used to show that while sex may be fun it can also have consequences.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager gropes and thrusts its way to a B. It will be interesting to see what happens after Amy has the baby. Perhaps in season two?

Season Two premieres January 5 at 8pm on ABC Family. Check local listings.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Season One
ABC Family
Starring Shailene Woodley, Molly Ringwald, and Ernie Hudson
Rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, language, sexual content, and violence
Running Time = 473 minutes (11 episodes on three DVDs)

For clips, episode info and more, check out: ABC Family’s website

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