January 2009 – On January 5 ABC Family begins airing 12 new one-hour episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the breakout summer hit created and executive produced by Brenda Hampton, creator of 7th Heaven.
According to a press release from the network, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager is ABC Family’s #1 original series of all-time across the board, averaging four million total viewers per episode this summer, and ranked a dominant #1 in its time slot versus all cable in all key [demographics].”
In addition, “The series’ mid-season finale on September 9, 2008, delivered five million total viewers, ranking as ABC Family’s #1 original series telecast of all-time. The series also won the network’s first Teen Choice Award for ‘Choice Summer TV Show.’”
The hugely popular series unfolds around “nice girl” Amy Juergens, 15, who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand with Ricky, the drummer, at band camp. Ricky, who was abused as a child, sees a counselor for a sex addiction while manipulating one girl after another into bed. Amy’s scared to tell her parents about her pregnancy, so she turns to her supportive, but less than helpful, friends.
At the same time, smitten Ben steps into Amy’s life and begins to woo her. After finding out about her pregnancy, Ben wants to marry Amy and claim the baby as his own. As if her life isn’t bad enough, Amy learns that her dad is having an affair. The drama gets worse as Adrian, the school slut, tries to aggravate Grace, the school’s “crazy Christian” cheerleader who basks in her virginity while dating Jack, the football star.
Simply put: “It’s sex and teenagers. Who wouldn’t watch that? I mean, really,” Hampton said in an online video interview. She described her own show as “7th Heaven with sex” and “a tragic comedy or a comic tragedy – either one.”
“It’s a story … [that] goes back to the Bible,” Hampton added. “We have … a young unwed mother. So it’s a story that’s always been there; it’s just done in a new way.”
But there is no comparing Amy’s pregnancy to that of the Virgin Mary’s, which was a divine miracle. To do so is heresy.
On another note, the show is brutally honest about teens and sex. But be it honest or not, it’s over the top so much so that it condones teenage sex and adultery.Here are some examples:
▶ Teen pregnancy - As a solution to Amy’s pregnancy, a friend advises her to: “Date Ben. Get Ben to fall in love with you, have sex with him, tell him you’re pregnant and then get married.”
▶ Adoption – It’s discussed but not favorably.
▶ Abortion – Amy decides to have an abortion but backs out before the procedure. Amy’s mom then tells her that abortion is a personal choice, not a religious thing. Not having an abortion was the right choice for Amy’s mom years ago.
▶ Sex – Most, not all, of the excessive sexual content is expressed through graphic dialogue in which the teens candidly discuss everything from oral sex to “loving yourself in a physical way.”
▶ Adultery – The parents’ lives are characterized by sordid love affairs. Amy’s sister Ashley says of their father’s affair: “Why can’t you be like normal parents and get addicted to Internet porn or something? Why does it have to be with other parents?”
▶ Gay marriage – George, Amy’s dad, asks his gay co-worker about the legality of same-sex marriage. The gay character replies: “Marriage is more than a piece of paper, George; it’s a commitment.”
▶ Christianity – A reviewer for Ted Baehr’s Movieguide finds the presence of Christian values on the show refreshing and surprising, but says the Christians are wooden and their faith shallow.
It’s reasonable to expect the same content in the upcoming episodes that include Amy and Ben’s wedding, Amy’s decision to keep the baby or place it for adoption, Ricky’s relationship with both Adrian and Grace, and the return of Ricky’s abusive father.
There is a disclaimer at the end of each episode in which the lead actress speaks directly to teens and parents about the importance of discussing sex. She also tells viewers that teenage pregnancy is 100% preventable, yet does not mention abstinence. The end result may be a noble effort, but the means to that end are far more harmful than helpful.
c/o The Secret Life of the American Teenager
411 N. Hollywood Way
|Burbank, CA 91522
Note “TVGuide.com” on envelope.
ABC Family Channel
Paul Lee, President
3800 West Alameda Ave.
Burbank, CA 91505