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The Secret Life of the American Teenager - Season One - television series DVD / family and children DVD / drama DVD review
THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER (SEASON ONE) Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Shailene Woodley, Ken Baumann, Molly Ringwald, Allen Evangelista, Mark Derwin
Creator: Brenda Hampton   Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 30 December 2008   Runtime: 173 minutes
(3 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English), Subtitles (French, Spanish), Behind the scenes

After the hit movie Juno made teen pregnancy something everyone was talking about, ABC Family came out with the series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Overall, the 11-episode first season was fairly good - some ups and downs, namely the caricatured characters, but it makes for engaging viewing. I watched this DVD set with my 22-year-old daughter, spurring on some excellent conversations.

Fifteen-year-old Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) has a brief relationship at band camp with Ricky Underwood (Daren Kagasoff), where Amy loses her virginity - and gets pregnant. Amy, the "good girl," is devastated to discover her pregnancy. She finds it difficult to tell her parents, Anne and George (Molly Ringwald and Mark Derwin), because the two of them are having major marital problems. To make matters worse, Amy finds a guy who really likes her for herself, Ben (Ken Baumann), and she doesn't know how to tell him about the pregnancy either.

Ricky is the stereotypical bad-boy, sleeps-with-everyone type of guy. Through the course of the show reasons for Ricky's behavior are revealed, which goes a little way toward making his actions understandable. He begins a relationship with the school's born-again Christian cheerleader, the beautiful Grace Bowman (Megan Park). Her storyline, along with her parents, Kathleen and Marshall (Josie Bissett and John Schneider), makes up a secondary plot.

Like I said, the characters often come across as caricatures or clichés: the good girl, the good boy, the bad guy who sleeps around, the Christian, the jock, the bad girl who seduces the good guy, etc. If you can get past this, The Secret Life of the American Teenager is worth following. The second season is now underway, and if you want to get caught up with what happened in the first season before watching the new one, this three-DVD set is a great place to start.

The subject matter is dealt with both circumspectly and very upfront, so this isn't recommended for young teens. Mature 14-year-olds might be able to handle it, but it's probably best for 15 and up. The Secret Life of the American Teenager is an excellent choice for families to watch with their older teens, as some of the issues brought up provide a great deal of food for conversation and family discussion.
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reviewed by Melissa Parcel
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