The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Season Two is now available on DVD, and the show remains a watchable mess. While it tackles weighty issues such as teen pregnancy, promiscuity, divorce, and child abuse, there is such a hefty dose of broad comedy mixed in that sometimes the balance is uncomfortable. Just as in the first season, the acting from the very large ensemble cast is still wildly uneven. Additionally, the writing leaves something to be desired, with undeveloped themes resulting in lost potential. Even so, every now and then, a moment of poignancy arises.
Shailene Woodley returns as Amy Juergens, the fifteen-year-old who was impregnated during her only experience with intercourse. Ricky (Daren Kagasoff), the school stud, manipulated Amy in order to take her virginity, making her believe she was the apple of his eye. The other part of the love triangle is Ben (Ken Baumann), teenage heir to his father's sausage empire. He is the sap who decides he loves Amy and wants to marry her. Season two of The Secret Life focuses primarily on Amy's struggles over whether to include Ricky or Ben (or both) in her baby's upbringing, or whether she should simply give the child up for adoption.
The parental characters in The Secret Life have been, and continue to be, cardboard cut-outs. John Schneider is especially poor as Marshall Bowman. Schneider grossly overacts as the father of Grace, the town uber-Christian who is a friend to all she meets. The big exception among the parents is Molly Ringwald, the main bait for older audiences to watch the show. Ringwald is quite effective as Amy's mother and manages to instill realism in her portrayal of a conflicted mom.
Other highlights among the cast include India Eisley as Amy's caustic younger sister, Ashley. Though only thirteen, Ashley is wiser than her older sister and genuinely cares about her sister's plight. Francia Raisa is also consistently strong in her performance as Adrian, the super-smart slut who loves Ricky but pretends to only want him for casual sex. Adrian and Ashley are two of the more complicated, multi-layered characters on the show and both Eisley and Raisa make the most of their roles.
What's difficult to swallow in the second season is how essentially shallow Amy and Ben continue to be. They are teenagers in love, but with the complication of Amy expecting someone else's child. Ken Baumann, a ringer for a young Bob Saget, has some decent moments as he tries to deal with the prospect of being a father to a child he did not conceive. Shailene Woodley does what she can as Amy, but ultimately the part seems extremely underwritten. It's hard to really tell how Amy feels about her impending motherhood, and floats a lot of bad ideas. At least when she starts getting the notion that the federal government should help her financially, her mom steps in to put the kibosh on it. Woodley best moments occur when she gets the chance to convey Amy's displeasure at having to join the workforce in preparation for the immense costs associated with having a child.
It would be unfair of me to reveal whether Amy has the baby in this season, and if so what she decides to do with it. Suffice to say, season three is now airing on ABC Family, so the saga continues. The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Season Two is worth watching if you're already hooked on the show. Just don't expect a high level of realism or sensitivity in the way it deals with serious subject matter.