Tuesday, July 01, 2008

"The Secret Life of the American Teenager" premiers on "ABC Family"


ABC Family, “A New Kind of Family” (like Kyle XY’s family, which we all love now), has a new offering, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” with executive producer Brenda Hampton (“Brendavision”, a production company not to be confused with BrendaVision wide screen TV) who also brought us “Seventh Heaven” on TheWB.
The website for the show is this. or here on Facebook.

Most viewers probably know by now that the show’s premise, at least on the surface, takes off on the movie “Juno.” In this case, the expectant girl is Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley). She “takes the Juno test” and, when reading the stick, is asked why she doesn’t go to a doctor to learn her options, and she says he only has a pediatrician, the wrong kind of doctor. Of course, it’s a “secret” from her parents, as fitting the title of the show. And her parents (Molly Ringwald and Mark Derwin), unbeknownst to her, could split up. It’s a sort of “Can this marriage be saved?” Ladies’ Home Journal situation, perhaps.

And then the rest of the kids have their covetings and triangles. There is a great scene where Ben (Kenny Baumann) asks his guidance counselor (Jorge Pallo) to enroll him in band. He wants to get to meet Amy, and he wants to get out of PE. (He doesn’t look unfit.) There is perhaps a bit of contradiction in his personality, but the show plays his part “straight.” He even wasn’t that interested in learning to read music. (When I was substitute teaching in 2004 and had elective chorus and music one day, there was one student sightreading on the piano who actually wanted to learn to read music; I still remember the conversation.)

Then there is the relationship between Grace (wanted by Ricky, apparently the “father”) and Jack (Greg Finley), who wants to be a good Christian and hold back on temptation, but he will have to wait enough years for Grace to finish medical school.

The show does have some explicit language, gently and humorously handled. It extends rather than changes the direction Brenda Hampton establishes with her television series. The plot even works Grace's disabled teenage brother into the story, and even into the dance scene near the end.

The title of the show reminds me of the 2003 indie film “The Secret Lives of Dentists” (Manhattan Pictures, dir. Alan Rudolf) which had a rather similar premise.

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