The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Volume Six manages to turn the series upside down by taking a very dark turn. The ABC Family network show has proven very popular with the teen and pre-teen demographic. For many older viewers, the high school soap opera is best described as a guilty pleasure. But with this most recent volume, the writers have taken the story into decidedly more mature territory. Whether it will be able to carry on with its generally light tone is hard to say.
In this newest three-disc, twelve-episode set, Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) has finally developed a romantic relationship of sorts with the father of her child, Ricky Underwood (Daren Kagasoff). She won’t have sex with him, despite having lost her virginity to him when he impregnated her with their child John (named by Amy’s sister, in an earlier volume, after John “Cougar” Mellencamp). Ricky, formerly the high school bad boy who bedded every girl he could, grows more than a little frustrated.
Meanwhile, Ben Boykewich (Kenny Baumann, still effortlessly – subconsciously, probably – channeling Bob Saget) is moving into a new condo with the new love of his life, Adrian Lee (Francia Raisa). Long time fans know that Ben was once in “love” with Amy, hoping to raise young John as if he were his own. Ricky and Adrian were once hot and heavy, but Adrian slept with Ben just to spite the promiscuous Ricky. Although Adrian now claims to be in love with Ben, it isn’t very convincing. And for anyone wondering how a couple of high school kids can afford a condo, keep in mind that Ben’s dad happens to be “Sausage King” Leo Boykewich (Steve Schirripa). Leo buys the condo for them because he’s just that nice of a guy.
The hilarious thing about The Secret Life is how much the word “sex” is used in any given episode. It would make a great drinking game. Slam a shot every time someone uses the word “sex,” be it the high school kids or their parents, and you’ll be dead of alcohol poisoning by the end of an episode. And even though I realize this is ABC Family, which obviously places limitations on the range of euphemisms the writers can use, it is always the word “sex.” Can’t these kids ever say “boning,” or “doing the nasty,” or “bumping uglies?” It’s so unrealistic, not to mention lazy, that it becomes distracting.
Something must be said about the developmentally challenged character of Tom Bowman, the brother of Adrian’s friend Grace. Tom is portrayed by Luke Zimmerman, an actor who has Down Syndrome. I commend the show for including a character with such challenges. But it’s one thing for everyone to treat Tom like a regular guy. It’s another thing entirely for the writers to create a subplot in which Tom becomes the Vice President of Human Resources for a big company despite having no experience or expertise in the field. By bending over backward to completely ignore Tom’s challenges, they have turned him into a running gag.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Volume Six is not a complete season. The DVD releases group differing quantities of episodes together, each representing a partial season. With laughably bad writing and generally stiff acting, it will be interesting to see what happens as the show tackles the more mature subject matter that is introduced at the end of Volume.