From the creators of “7th Heaven”, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” started its first season by jumping into the subject that would become the foundation of the series. When Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) returns home from band practice she is gingerly greeted by her mother Anne (Molly Ringwald). Amy appears to be your average teen at first, but less than a minute into the first episode when Amy slips into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test, the viewer feels the shock and fear that washes over Amy.
The first people Amy tells about having sex are her two friends, Madison (Renee Olstead) and Lauren (Camille Winbush) who react just as you would expect teenage girls to - which helps illustrate the fact that these are just teenagers and the subject matter is not only a tricky one but a weighty one to carry an entire series.
Quickly, characters are set up to represent several “types” that help make up a student body. There’s Grace (Megan Park) who is a popular girl in school who recruits people to her church and vows abstinence, there’s Adrian (Francia Raisa) who is the opposite of Grace and likes to let her know it, and of course there’s slacker/playboy Ricky (Daren Kagasoff) who happens to be the guy who slept with Amy.
At home, Amy keeps quiet about her recent pregnancy test. Her sister, Ashley (India Eisley, giving a convincing and enjoyable performance) is the first person in her family Amy tells about her situation.
Rounding out the rest of the cast is sensitive, average guy Ben (Ken Baumann) who develops a crush on Amy. While the introductions are obvious clichés not exactly reaching the heights of truly exploring the lives or complexities of an American teenager, they are done quickly enough to give an overview of whose who in the cast of characters.
The third volume of episodes of the series picks up Amy's life where the prior set left off, with her child having been born. As a result, the third season has a whole new set of difficulties for the character to face up to, as she continues with her high school education while trying to tackle motherhood, the drama of friendships and relationships, work and about six or seven other things.
While the series does sometimes go a little overboard in creating situations that veer towards the melodramatic (Amy's mother has a pregnancy surprise of her own early in the season; having that occur seems a bit much right after Amy just gave birth), the series does at least continue to provide a mostly sensitive and thoughtful discussion of the difficulties of teen parenthood and how actions as a teenager can have definite consequences.
Meanwhile, Ben also still has feelings for Amy, but has to deal with the presence of Ricky, who finds himself back with Adrian as the season progresses. The season does a pretty nice job juggling this fragile relationship, as Ben tries to find a way into Amy's life and Amy has to take a step back to figure out her own feelings. Meanwhile, Grace struggles with the decision to move forward in her relationship with Jack, but her friends tell her that her rushing into it isn't going to keep Jack from wandering into the arms of other girls. Grace and Jack taking their relationship to another level, as well as Grace's attempts to recover after a tragedy occurs, are a large subplot during this set of episodes.
While the series continues to branch out and shine the spotlight on a bunch of different characters and subplots, Shailene Woodley's performance as Amy continues to be the core of the series. While the show can go a little overboard at times, it's Woodley who keeps the series grounded, giving an engaging and often moving performance as a young woman who has to grow up fast. There are some other good performances as well, as Ken Baumann as Ben and Francia Raisa as Adrian continue to deliver fine efforts.
Although the series still could stand to be a bit more subtle, it continues to discuss topics not often discussed on TV and provides fine performances from the ensemble cast. Hopefully future seasons (Amy at college?) will see the series continue to mature as Amy finds her way through motherhood and the dramas of teenage life.
24. 2- 1 22 Jun 09 The Big One
25. 2- 2 29 Jun 09 What's Done Is Done
26. 2- 3 6 Jul 09 Par for the Course
27. 2- 4 13 Jul 09 Ciao
28. 2- 5 20 Jul 09 Born Free
29. 2- 6 27 Jul 09 The Summer of Our Discontent
30. 2- 7 3 Aug 09 Summertime
31. 2- 8 10 Aug 09 A New Kind of Green
32. 2- 9 17 Aug 09 Hot Nuts
33. 2-10 24 Aug 09 Knocked Up, Who's There?
34. 2-11 31 Aug 09 Cramped
35. 2-12 7 Sep 09 Be My, Be My Baby
VIDEO: Disney presents the third volume of "Secret Life" in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality remained consistently first-rate, with pleasing sharpness and detail throughout much of the running time. While a few minor instances of pixelation were spotted, no edge enhancement or other concerns were seen. The show's color palette looked spot-on, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offers crisp dialogue and rich, clear music. However, the show's sound design doesn't go beyond the basics (nor does it need to, given the material) and surrounds are rarely heard. Audio quality is fine, with natural, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: "Hot Chat" is a piece that has the cast answering random questions that are pulled. The results are amusing, honest and entertaining. The only other extra feature is the pilot episode of "Make It Or Break It", which is also coming to DVD in January 2010.
Final Thoughts: "Secret Life of The American Teenager" continues to be carried along well by the lead performance from Shailene Woodley. The series still has its bumps at times, but continues to improve and make progress. The DVD set provides minimal extras, but very nice audio/video quality. Recommended for fans.