LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Secret Life of the
American Teenager," a new ABC Family effort from Brenda Hampton
("7th Heaven"), works feverishly to make an educational
institution look like the equivalent of a Nevada brothel, but
succeeds mostly in transforming high school to high camp.
Eschewing subtlety for overt exposition at every turn,
"Secret Life" fairly screams, "This is a middle-aged adult's
fear-mongering perception of high school life circa 2008." And
just in case we weren't feeling quite old enough, it co-stars
Molly Ringwald as the mother of our teenage protagonist. It
debuts Tuesday on the cable channel.
An awkward cross between "7th Heaven" and "Grey's Anatomy,"
it stars Shailene Woodley as Amy, your basic band geek who
naturally becomes pregnant after her very first sexual
experience -- this with the school stud, Ricky (Daren
Kagasoff). Ricky carries his own dirty secret, because this is
the age of abuse and dysfunction and everyone is driven by
internal demons too numerous to even imagine.
This is how dumb Hampton seems to believe the audience is:
She names the "good girl" cheerleader who holds fundraisers for
her church Grace (Megan Park). And of course there's the
horrible dichotomy suffered by Grace's boyfriend Jack (Greg
Finley), caught as he is between a rock (his faith) and a hard
place (his groin) as Grace yammers on about their abstaining
from sex for like eight more years. This seems like a
particularly lousy idea when Adrian (Francia Raisa), the school
slut, flutters her eyelashes and sways her hips in his
direction. Doesn't seem like God has much of a prayer winning
this one. The question is, does the nerdy Ben (Kenny Baumann)
stand a chance courting Amy, whom he doesn't know is preggers?
The only thing missing here, really, is R.E.M.'s "Everybody
Hurts" backing it all to evoke the proper tragicomic mood. That
should show up sometime around Episode 4 as the series uses
Amy's pregnancy as the centerpiece in a drama that's clearly
more a painfully obvious, crudely-drawn cautionary tale than
any sort of youth soap opera. It feeds into parental hysteria
in ridiculously one-dimensional ways.