Similar to how King Midas turned everything to gold with the tap of his finger, ABC Family’s hit The Secret Life of the American Teenager turns every issue and character it touches to cheese.
I like cheese. But this cheese thinks it doesn’t stink. In fact, this cheese is convinced it is a groundbreaking drama.
Perhaps the extensive advertising campaign used to sucker suckers into watching this disastrous teenage pregnancy “drama” can take the blame. Heralding its show as culturally significant, ABC Family probably hoped that if it pretended like it was awesome, people would believe it and start watching.
Somehow, it worked. Each week, four million viewers sat through 60 minutes of awkwardness. Seriously? I don’t understand how the actors can sit through a script reading. Nothing in the show resembles real life. Not only is it improbable that protagonist Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) be preggers, but how is it possible that whenever I flip the show on, the same egotistical putz who got her pregnant is slobbering all over another chick?
If everyone knows everything about each other at Ulysses S. Grant High School, how did none of its female constituents get the memo that this dude is a slime ball? They clearly did.
Yes, teenagers make mistakes. But by having everyone fawn over this guy, Secret Life is excusing stupidity under the guise of “being a teenager.” It doesn’t give voice to controversial topics of today; it stereotypes and excuses them.
At the very least, if stereotypes are going to be used, make it a satire.
While they’re at it, why not superimpose onomatopoeias onto the screen like Adam West’s Batman? It’d fit right in with the show’s more dramatic moments. POW! Your daughter just revealed she’s pregnant. GASP! You’re not seriously considering abortion, are you? You know I’m Catholic, right? (that was actually said by one of the characters) ZIP! There go her baby daddy’s pants again. That’s the twelfth time this episode.
Much of the show is so outrageous that you find yourself trying to figure out if the scene was intended to be funny or not. When Amy’s new boyfriend/fiancé/husband/stalker told her he loved her .005 seconds after they met (and she wasn’t the least bit creeped out), was it hilarious or true love?
All I have to say is this: Secret Life, either be a satire or a drama. Few shows (i.e., Scrubs) can do both. You are not one of them.
Although the show is a mess, there are four things working in its favor. There were originally supposed to be five things, but I couldn’t think of any more:
1. Monotone sister- Amy’s 13-year-old sister, Ashley (India Eisley), is the best character on the show. She delivers every line with a flat-lined dryness that cracks me up. But unlike her costars, I’m not laughing AT her overacting (or in her case, underacting). I’m laughing because she’s actually funny.
2. Shailene Woodley- She makes me want to kill her for being so dang earnest and having an unrealistic goal of getting into Julliard, yet makes me want to applaud her for being the only one who doesn’t overly-cheesify her lines.
3. The end credits
4. Post-screening ego-boosting effect- After watching, you always feel better about yourself, since a rush of gratitude for living on Earth and not Aaron Spelling Land sweeps through your body… Then you realize you just sat through an entire episode, so your head quickly finds its way back towards the ground.