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HTF DVD Review: The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Season Two


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#1 of 1 Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

    Screenwriter

  • 2,543 posts
  • Join Date: Nov 15 2001

Posted June 17 2009 - 03:42 PM

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The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Season Two




Studio: ABC Studios
Year: 2008
US Rating: TV-14 DLSV
Film Length: 516 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Subtitles: French and Spanish




US Release Date: June 16, 2009
Review Date: June 17, 2009

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"You can't run away from this, Amy. You have to face the fact that you are halfway through your pregnancy, and the baby's going to be here before you know it"



I may alienate fans of this show with my comments, but The Secret Life of the American Teenager cannot be taken seriously as dramatic television. It has a place on TV (I think everything should get a chance), but that place, and I hope I don’t sound condescending here, is firmly in the realm of melodramatic, family only entertainment for those that want safe, wantonly unrealistic characters who inhabit a fantasy-land of unlikely dialogue, absurdly frank conversations and a wince-inducing flippancy when characters talk of divorce, affairs and ‘hooking-up’. Such things would ordinarily be edgy but here, they are declawed, rounded and softened so that any impact the ‘raw’ subject matter would have had is merely a whisper. Shows that are accessible for parents and kids, that talk of matters that families face, are needed and, alas, under-represented on television, but I am not convinced this show is ably filling meeting that need.

In the first season, Secret Life introduced us to young teens and their predicaments, focusing on Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley) who becomes pregnant from a one night ‘mistake’ with the school jerk, Ricky(Daren Kagasoff). She relies on her friends and eventually her parents to deal with her pregnancy at such a young age. Through season two, now that her pregnancy is revealed and her options for the future lay before her, she continues to navigate the complications of being pregnant and falling in love. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Ben Boykewich (Ken Baumann) grows through the season as Ben deals with being the skinny, nerdy type against the baby’s father’s more rebellious and ‘cool’ nature, and creates one of the better storylines to be found.

An assortment of teeny types, broadly drawn high-school molds populate the cast, including Francia Raisa as Adrien Lee, Amy Rider as Alice Valko, Camille Winbush as Lauren Treacy, and Megan Park as the popular ‘Grace Bowman’, a prima donna of a teen, who serves as somewhat an antagonist and quite the manipulative but naïve presence. Grace has a brother with Down Syndrome (something that TV does not show nearly as much as it should) and parents who are divorced. Which brings me to the adults of this show.The parents in Secret Life are an odd ensemble. Amy’s parents, for example, are a peculiar couple with an unusual way of dealing with each other. Her mother, Anne is played by John Hugh’s movie darling, Molly Ringwald and her father, David is played by Mark Derwin and they bicker and fight with an immaturity that matches the teens they are parentting. Amy also has a gothic younger sister, Ashly, played quite well by India Eisley

Season two began with a ‘wedding’ and proceeded to explore an emotional roller-coaster as the pregnant teen deals with the impending responsibilities of motherhood, her parents difficult marriage, self-absorbed friends and foes and the issues of just being a teen in American today.

This is a safe family drama and is likely enjoyed by teens around the age of the characters and parents looking to share at least an hour a week talking with their kids vicariously through the various teens on the show as the angst and drama plays out on screen. The show has been criticized for being an hour of moralistic, preachy television; and that is exactly what it is, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. The show is designed to be just what it is – and it appears to make no bones about it. In that regard, it succeeds. It just doesn’t address these important subjects in the way that I feel it could to succeed more. The acting is generally moderate to week, the production standard and the writing more wishful than wise.


The Episodes

Disc One
1.The Secret Wedding of the American Teenager
2.Baked Nevada
3.The Father and the Son
4.That’s Enough of That


Disc Two
5.Chocolate Cake
6.Unforgiven
7.Making Up is Hard To Do
8.Money for Nothing, Chicks for Free

Disc Three
9.Maybe Baybe
10.Whoomp! (There it is)
11.One Night at Band Camp
12.And Unto Us, A Child Is Born




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Secret Life Season Two comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (which is how it is broadcast on ABC Family HD), and enhanced for widescreen televisions. ABC has provided all of season two’s 12 episodes on this three disc collection with a good looking image. The show is filled with rich, warm and pleasing tones, heavier in the reds, oranges and warm woods and they are presented nicely here. Detail is quite good, though not the best that ABC has put out (See Kyle XY for the best), but the quality, overall is pleasing.


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This set comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio that doesn’t get fully flexed, but delivers clear and appropriate audio to the center channel (with dialogue) and the front left and right (with most of the music – of which there are plenty of contemporary songs). No issues at all in these episodes. Fans will be pleased with how the show sounds.



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Music Video – “Secret Life (You and Me)” Performed by The Strange Familiar - (3:54) – Music video with clips from the show.

Character Secrets – The Cast Reveals All! - (10:08) – The cast discuss the show, the relationship dramas that run rampant and the issues that these families deal with.

Cast Close-Ups – Visit the Set as the Cast Dishes in a Series of Personal Videos - Select your favorite character as a fan, Michaela, interviews them. Note that the music level is up a little loud through some of these interview snippets (each running around three minutes). Mark Derwin (Amy’s Dad) is clearly the joker and has some fun with the giggling interviewer (and he sounds like a Trek fan, too).



Final Thoughts

If this show is on your radar, and you are considering picking up season two, I say go for it. ABC has done a good job with the audio and video quality and, though the extras are slim, will be enjoyed by followers of the young teens troubles growing up (and growing out).

I am clearly not the target demographic and I don’t have the pieces in my life that would allow me to relate to the characters or their predicaments (not only am I far away from being a teen, I was a teenager in the UK – night and day compared to the US) so I wonder if I am being fair on this show. I don’t lament the subjects explored – nor the warm idea that parents and children could find ways to connect through difficult situations, but I do lament the execution and the preoccupation with melodrama. I fear I may be missing the point of this show at times. It slips in ‘comedic’ moments from time to time that are perhaps intended to add a lighter flare, a balance to the more serious topics up for discussion, but as a counter-weight, it serves as a distraction more often than not. But perhaps this is the formula; the right mix to serve a specific purpose as family entertainment and if this show aims for a safe, clearly fictionalized version of being a young pregnant teen, then generally it works.


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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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