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Uncovering The Secret Life of the American Teenager

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Every Monday night – when there's a new episode – I sit down to watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  Don't ask me why, the reasons are too complicated to explore.  I don't mind telling you however that the show perplexes me in the extreme, and not just the plots, the way the whole thing develops.

Take a look at last night's episode, here we are, apparently in the middle of season three (I would argue that it may only be season two as at the end of what they're calling season one they said they'd be back with the rest of the season in a few months, and then that next set of episodes became season two).  The episode was centered on the school year finishing and what people were going to do over the summer.  Many of the kids are apparently going away, and the episode description for next week talks about it being the end of the summer. 

To me, that's odd.  How is that not the end of the season?  How did the producers plan to have the summer take place in the middle of the season?  What were they thinking?  Have they not watched TV before?  It's awkward, tell me it's not awkward, you can't, can you?  It's not a problem to do a summer season, to have a high school-based show focus on what happens one summer (like some swell jobs at Malibu Sands), but to skip the summer which takes place in the middle of the season… weird. 

I have to wonder if last night was supposed to be the end of a season and things got rearranged by the network.  To me, that sounds plausible, perhaps not less weird, but certainly plausible.  Why?  Because you don't finish a year of high school in the front half of a season, skip the summer, and then start the next year of high school during the rest of the season.  It's awkward.

Okay, fine, the whole show is awkward and weird.  How does Ben's dad, Leo, not care that he's marrying a one-time prostitute?  When the show started he seemed quite happy never to have another woman in his life following the death of his wife.  Now, all of the sudden, he's  been having a relationship with a one-time hooker and is going to marry her.  We haven't seen that relationship develop, it just sort of sprung up out of nowhere.  It's almost as if he hired her one night and fell instantly in love, convinced her to quit her job, and then asked her to marry him… all in one night.

I understand that high schoolers and inconsistent and subject to changing their minds every five seconds, but the parents on Secret Life seem to change their minds – in radically life-altering ways – just as quickly as the kids.  Those parents may be trying their best, but I don't feel like the message they're imparting to their kids – ones who so desperately need consistency and positive messages – are remotely good ones.  Last night Adrian put an offer on a house on behalf of her parents.  Her parents response to this action which they had no idea was coming?  They smiled and clinked their wine glasses.  If my kid ever tries to commit me to buying a house, there may very well be drinking, but it won't be happy wine drinking, and it won't be in front of the kid. 

I think that Secret Life has a lot to offer, and raises some great discussion topics for real world families, I just wish that they'd have some of those discussions on the show.  I feel as though all too often, the parents simply don't act in anything resembling role model fashion and that's troublesome.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • KKQUART

    I wanted to see the summer!!!!
    What happened with Ben, Amy, etc. STUPID!!!!!

  • Susie Busskohl

    I am so disappointed in what the show has turned into. It is a constant bombardment on sex, sex, sex. You, ABC are sending a terrible message to our youth. The best character in the show with values, Grace’s father, was killed off. Grace, the virgin Christian ended up having sex.

    You have turned this show into a liberal, morally empty, plotless show. Sex outside of marriage leads to disaster in many ways and you owe it to the audience to show that side of teenage sex. Do we have any value system left in this country?

    We will no longer watch this garbage.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Do we have any value system left in this country?

    Well gosh, if you can’t find your values on television shows designed to pull ratings, where can you find them?