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, one of the more memorable performances in the series) 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) 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. While the series does continue to go a little overboard in creating situations that veer towards the melodramatic (Amy's mother had a pregnancy surprise of her own; 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.
As the 6th volume of the series rolls onto shelves, viewers can find a series that has managed to progress with the characters as they've gotten older and their relationships more complex. A lot changed for the many characters prior to Volume Six. In Volume Five, Adrian got pregnant with Ben’s baby and Amy decided to go to New York for a music program for teenage mothers. While Amy wasn’t in Volume Five much, the other characters took center stage to develop their characters a bit more. Ben wrestled with telling Amy the truth and Adrian tried to decide what to do about her baby, which caused some divide in her family. Grace started seeing Grant(Grant Harvey)while her ex, Jack(Greg Finley)lived in her family guest house. Ashley started having feelings for Ricky, but Ricky and Amy start to reevaluate their relationship and considered being a couple.
Volume Six picks up where Volume Five left off, just as school is starting up after the summer. Ben and Adrian are officially together and Amy and Ricky are dating. In “Who Do You Trust,” Ricky’s biological mother Nora (Anne Ramsay)returns and as the season continues, she wants to be a larger part of his life, as well as Amy’s and their son’s life. When Amy finds out that Ben proposed to Adrian in “Another Proposal,” she feels like it should be her and Ricky. In one of the more interesting episodes “Loose Lips,“ lots of arguments ensue as Amy and Grace prepare to host a baby shower for Adrian.
Volume Six of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” offers a lot of the same. While the progression of Amy and Ricky’s relationship is interesting, it does have it’s ups and downs. Thankfully by this volume, Amy has developed into a more mature character. While she still has some immature moments, she’s much more likeable as the series progresses. The relationship between Adrian and Ben has some sweet moments, but one of the better episodes is the wedding episode, “It's Not Over Till It's Over” when both start to question getting married so young and the weight of becoming parents. Their concerns and the reality of the situation settling in helps the series feel more reality based. However, it’s the Volume Six finale episodes “To Be…” and “Or Not To Be” that bring another level of reality that helps ground the series in an emotional and heartbreaking way.
The heaviness of the show aside, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” holds up considerably well and continues to address the lives of the teenager. While there are some episodes that seem like filler, the characters feel genuine and the writing holds up throughout the season. 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. 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.
3-15 28/Mar/11 Who Do You Trust
3-16 04/Apr/11 Mirrors
3-17 11/Apr/11 Guess Who's Not Coming To Dinner
3-18 18/Apr/11 Another Proposal
3-19 25/Apr/11 Deeper and Deeper
3-20 02/May/11 Moving In and Out
3-21 09/May/11 Young at Heart
3-22 16/May/11 Loose Lips
3-23 23/May/11 Round II
3-24 30/May/11 It's Not Over Till It's Over
3-25 30/May/11 To Be…
3-26 06/Jun/11 …or Not To Be
VIDEO: Disney presents the fourth 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.
There are no extra features. Included in the set are free "Secret Life" iPod skins.
Final Thoughts: “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” continues to hold up considerably well as the series progresses. Despite some tired storylines, the characters and writing do continue to grow. Recommended.