Follow us on

Featured DVD Review - The Secret Life of the American Teenager - Volume Three

December 20th, 2009

The Secret Life of the American Teenager - Volume Three - Buy from Amazon

We are witnessing what could be the demise of the day time soap opera, as Guiding Light and As the World Turns were both canceled this year. However, despite this, nighttime soaps, especially those aimed at teenagers, are going strong. The Secret Life of the American Teenager is one such show. Not only did it get renewed for a second season, but the ratings for the first 12 episodes actually improved upon season one. Now these twelve episodes are coming out on DVD in a three-disc set called Volume Three, which continues the story of Amy Juergens, a 15-year old girl that learned in the pilot that she's pregnant, although she's not the only one who has secrets.

Season two of the show continues where season one left off, with Amy Juergens giving birth to her son, which she names John. In the first episode, her mother, Anne, finds out that she is also pregnant, and she doesn't know who the father is, her soon-to-be ex-husband, or her current boyfriend. Also in the first episode, and be warned this is a rather large spoiler, Grace decides to have sex for the first time, despite her and her boyfriend, Jack, both being Christians and advocating abstinence. Her friend, Adrian, tries to talk her out having sex, at first arguing that Grace is not emotionally ready for it, but later saying that Grace is just having sex with Jack because Jack had sex with Adrian, which causes Grace and Jack to break-up. Got all of that so far? Good. So Grace wants to have sex with Jack, not because she is ready and really wants to, but so he won't cheat on her again. And despite everyone saying it's a bad idea, she has sex anyway... and then she learns her father died in a plane crash. ... I'm not kidding. Now, I don't think having sex can cause a plane to crash, not unless you are piloting it at the time, but Grace still blames herself and slips into a depression. I don't know if this was a good idea on paper, but the execution here is hideous. I can't tell if the show has a religious message and just overplayed its hand, or if this is a parody of the Christian Right and someone should be offended. Well, everyone who enjoys good television should be offended, because the scene where we learn what happens has some of the worst acting I've ever seen on TV. I've seen people intentionally overacting in parodies that were more nuanced than this.

There are some good moments in these 12 episodes, including some nice mother / daughter bonding moments, while some of secondary characters deserve more screen time. (For instance, Alice either needs to be a lot more important character in this show, or preferably, Amy Rider needs to get a bigger role on a better show.) But those are not enough and we have the same problems that we had in the first two volumes of the show. Firstly, it's a soap opera with every derogatory connotation that goes with that label. You need a map and a compass to keep track of all of the relationships. Secondly, it's not a well-made soap opera. The stories are overdone, the acting at times is atrocious, and it falls into self-parody repeatedly.

Extras on the DVD includes the pilot episode of Make It or Break It on disc two and six-minute featurette with members of the cast answering questions from fans. The featurette isn't bad, but not very insightful, while I didn't bother watching the pilot of Make It or Break It, because it makes its DVD debut in a few weeks, and the screener has already arrived. No need to watch it now when I have to watch it later. Also, I don't consider bonus episodes to unrelated shows to be real extras. If you like the show, you'll want to get the DVD when it comes, making its appearance here redundant. If you don't like the show, it has no value to you. And if you've never seen it before, then it's an ad. The only time a bonus episode is legitimately an extra is when it is a crossover, or otherwise related, like when the pilot episode was a regular episode of a different show.

I read a review of The Secret Life of the American Teenager that compared it to Reefer Madness, and that's a perfect description. It might mean well (or it might be an intentional parody) but its message is lost in a show that is full of cardboard cut-out characters, melodramatic storylines, and bad acting galore. Not enough here works for me to recommend the show, while the three-disc release for Volume Three doesn't have enough extras to compensate.

Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review