The Secret Life of The American Teenager is a good concept in theory. However, the final product is a bit half-baked.
The Good) Let's not kid ourselves: sex education in public schools (and in private homes) always has and still does take a back seat to more 'important' activities such as sports, honor society, being popular, and all kinds of other BS that has nothing to do with real life. Kudos to Secret Life for finally addressing the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Most kids learn about birth control on the Net or from friends, but rarely from parents or educators. While the show gives virtually no beneficial information about birth control, at least it slams the issue right in front of parents' eyes so they have the option of discussing it with their kids if they're brave enough to do so.
Acting-wise, Mark Derwin (George), Francia Raisa (Adrian), India Eisley (Ashley), Megan Park (Grace), Luke Zimmerman (Tom), and Amy Rider (Alice) all do an excellent job portraying multifaceted characters despite the limitations of the script. They have realistic emotions & give a zing to their dialog that the other cast members lack.
The Bad) Realism, where art thou??? -- Not on the set on 'Secret Life', that's for sure. I would not send *my* kids to "Ulysses S. Grant High School" because, apparently, anybody who wants to can just stroll onto the grounds and enter the school at will. In fact, they can even take up residence in an official school office and nobody seems to notice. It's a good thing that Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold didn't go here... The school counselor would've been fired, if not tarred and feathered, a million years ago if he even said one quarter of the highly unprofessional things we are to believe he got away with. Speaking of which, kids don't converse in real life the way they do on the show, nor do they react to situations the way the show portrays. It's so absurd that it's a complete farce. Listening to the dialog, I am reminded of *every* training video from every job ever where the actors react in a completely silly way.
Everyone is sleeping around with everyone else and nobody has gotten an STD? Yeah, that's realistic! And this point, in particular, really demonstrates the half-assed way the show is put together. On one hand, the show wants to be socially responsible, while on the other hand, the show leaves out all kinds of relevant issues. The show is an accurate portrayal of most American families: complete lack of respect for each others' boundaries, little if any emotional intimacy, isolated kids and non-communicative parents. But so what? "Square Pegs" and "My So-Called Life" pioneered this technique back in the 80's and it's nothing new. If series creator Brenda Hampton wants this to truly be a family show that is a vehicle for positive social change, she should write more episodes where the family tries to heal itself rather than just maintain the status quo.
The Ugly) Throwing around all the just-add-water "I Love You's" between Ben and Amy is disturbing to say the least. But even more disturbing is the tacit approval of this behavior from all the parents. Earth calling Brenda: these are 15-year-olds; they don't know what "love" is and any remotely competent parent would certainly not endorse this by taking it seriously. Also, nobody ever gets punished for *anything*. The kids run around doing all manner of outrageous things and all they get is a slap on the wrist. Using fake ID's to get married? Call me crazy but I suspect that most parents with an IQ higher than that of a dyslexic trout would come down on their kids like Eliot Ness on Al Capone.
Also many of the characters are flat, contradictory, or absurd. For example, the characters Amy Juergens, Ben Boykewich, Jack Pappas, Kathleen Bowman, Madison & Lauren, Henry Miller, and several others have no depth whatsoever. After watching the first season, I was tempted to make a call to Disneyland and tell them some of their Animatronic's escaped from Pirates of the Caribean. I don't blame the cast for this; they try their best to do a good job with the hollow, wooden roles they've been handed. No, the fault here lies with the crappy writing.
The characters Ricky and Amy, arguably the main stars of the show, have less personality than Scooby Doo. Enough said.
Some other characters that, to use the youth's vernacular, "suck the big one": are Anne Juergens and Leo Boykewich. Molly Ringwald is a very accomplished and talented actress whose ability is being wasted in this role. Her character is weak, puny, and flighty. Her portrayal of Claire Standish in "The Breakfast Club" was much stronger and she was only 18 at the time! Once again, the blame lies with Brenda "Quaaludes" Hampton for crappy writing. Likewise, Steve Schirripa is a extremely talented actor who is being wasted here as little more than a caveman in a tux. If I was his agent, I would catch up with Ms. Hampton in the parking lot and kick her in the box.
The Secret Life of The American Teenager has a lot of potential and could be a excellent vehicle for family discussion and growth. However, in its current incarnation it is little more than a flaccid, predictable teen drama with all the excitement of C-Span.