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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Secret Life American Teenager: Volume Four

June 16th, 2010

The Secret Life American Teenager: Volume Four - Buy from Amazon

When The Secret Life American Teenager first hit DVD, there were some parts that I liked, including the performance by Shailene Woodley in the lead. However, I thought while there was potential for a lot of interesting storylines, the execution was weak with the writers content with teenage soap opera. As the series progressed, the quality worsened and by volume three, it had become almost self-parody. Can Volume Four turn things around?

First, let's start with a very brief summary of show thus far...

Shailene Woodley plays Amy Juergens, the shy girl that got knocked up the first time she had sex with the bad boy of the marching band, Ricky. Her boyfriend is Ben, who is equally shy but at the end of Volume Three was in Italy and met another girl and is planning on breaking up with Amy, maybe. Her friends include Grace, who had sex with her boyfriend, Jack, who had previously cheated on her with Adrian, who has a reputation for being a slut. She's currently dating Ricky, the bad boy who is also the father of Amy's child, and combined they've slept with almost every person that goes to their school. Yeah, that's a relationship that's destined to thrive. And if you think that's a lot of hook ups for a bunch of kids, their parents are no better. For instance, Amy's mother, Anne, gave birth to a child and she's not sure who the father is. (It could be her new boyfriend or her ex-husband.)

Things don't get any better on this three-disc set with Madison hooking up with Jack, who is upset that Grace is no longer sleeping with him. He figures since cheating on her the first time ending with them having sex, cheating on her again is the best way to get more sex. While getting away from their lives, Amy and Anne both meet someone, the former a potential new boyfriend and the latter an ex-boyfriend. Ben's girlfriend from Italy, Maria, comes Stateside, which of course complicates his relationship with Amy. Ricky and Adrian continue to sleep with everyone with two legs and a pulse, with disastrous results. And into this hell walks Ashley, Amy's younger sister, who becomes the object of the attention of Henry, a friend of Ben, after Henry breaks up with Alice, another friend of Ben.

Hell, practically the only character not hooking is Lauren, who is one of Amy's best friends. And because of that, she's my favorite character. Seriously, the show needs a new direction to go with, because every storyline seems to be about sex and that has gotten incredibly stale very fast. They need to do something with the characters that doesn't involve sex, and "Ditch Day" doesn't count. (Although I did like seeing Mayim Mialik on TV again. I just wish her character was better written.) In fact, most characters are very poorly written and the writers seem to think that all character development must involve swapping partners and every emotional response should lead to someone overreacting. (Or is that overacting?)

Throughout this series, one thought has come back to me over and over again. Everything this show has done, Degrassi has done and done better. Not only that, but Degrassi deals with topics that Secret Life hasn't gone near, because I can only assume they don't find it salacious enough. The only part of the show that improved this time around is Ashley, whose character now seems more genuine and less robotic. I also like Renee Olstead getting more screentime, I just wish it wasn't because she was dragged into the soap opera of the show. (Maybe they can figure out a way to take advantage of her amazing singing voice.)

Extras on the DVD include a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes, but most are so short they are just fluff. Ironically, the shortest of them, Megan Talks to Canada, is also the best. In it, Megan Park, Grace, talks to one of the directors of the show, Anson Williams, to illustrate the difficulty she has as a Canadian working in Hollywood. It's a one joke bit, but at least it's handled well. The other Extra is a 5-minute interview featurette with several members of the cast as they talk about the show. The DVD also comes with a physical extra, an excerpt from the upcoming Ashley diary.

The Verdict

I mentioned in my last review of The Secret Life American Teenager that I wasn't sure if this show was trying to appeal to the Christian Right, or making fun of Christian Right. Volume Four doesn't exactly clarify that issue, but the amount of sex in this show certainly makes me lean to the latter. Maybe if they talked about more subjects than just sex and the overall writing was a little better, then this could be a show I would recommend, but as it stands, not enough works. Worse still, instead of getting better, they seem to be running out of ideas.

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