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The Secret Life of the American Teenager
The Secret Life of the American Teenager

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (often shortened to Secret Life) is an American teen drama television series created by Brenda Hampton. The series aired on ABC Family from July 1, 2008, until June 3, 2013.[1]

The series received generally mixed reviews from mainstream critics when it began broadcasting, but was well received among female and teenage viewers. The pilot episode broke the record for the highest rated debut on ABC Family with 2.82 million viewers, a record previously held by Kyle XY. The season one finale brought in 4.50 million viewers, beating that night's episode of Gossip Girl, which had less than half its usual number of viewers. Premiering to mostly positive reviews from critics and being well received among viewers, the second season of Secret Life opened with the largest audience for the series, posting a series high in total viewers with 4.68 million viewers; in adults 18–34, it was the number one scripted original premiere of summer 2009. Furthermore, the mid-season premiere became ABC Family's most watched telecast of all time with viewers ages 12–34, with more than three million viewers watching.[2]

The show earned the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer TV Show during its premiere season,[3][4] and spawned a book entitled The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens.[5]

Season synopsis

In season one, fifteen-year-old Amy Juergens finds out that she is pregnant after having sex at band camp with a handsome and popular boy, Ricky Underwood. Amy first confides in her two best friends Lauren and Madison about it. Amy also tells Ben Boykewich (the guy she started dating after becoming pregnant) the truth, but he is surprisingly supportive and offers to marry her anyway, despite the protests of his friends, Henry and Alice. When Ricky finds out he is the father, he is willing to be a part of his future child's life, causing Adrian Lee, Ricky's fling for a while to become jealous, especially since Ricky already has his sights on the sweet and virginal Grace Bowman, who was going out with Jack Pappas until he kissed Adrian in front of Grant High School. Much to Adrian's surprise, Grace is not angry at her after a while, and the two girls become friends despite being romantic rivals. Ricky and Ben also compete with each other for Amy's attention and at the end of the season, Amy has her child, a boy whom her sister, Ashley, names John. Amy decides to keep John, after struggling with the decision over the course of the season. Ricky said he would do anything to take care of his new son, John.

In season two, Amy's parents Anne and George are divorced, and Anne even begins dating again, but when she becomes pregnant again, it is revealed that the baby is George's. At the same time, Ashley begins her freshman year at Grant High and resents the legacy Amy has accidentally created as a teenage mother so she befriends a gay classmate named Griffin and they both pledge to remain abstinent throughout high school. Ben returns from his summer Italy trip. Meanwhile, Amy struggles to raise John and frequently argues with Ricky over custodial arrangements, especially since Ben is becoming jealous of Ricky's constant presence. Eventually, Ben and Amy break up while Ricky and Adrian have agreed to date officially but Ricky has issues being faithful. Grace loses her virginity to Jack on the same night her father dies in a plane crash and is wracked with guilt. She blamed Jack and herself for her father's death which causes Jack to be so upset that he starts drinking. Grace refused to get out of the car to attend her father's funeral, so Ricky forces her to. Grace's brother Tom has trouble adjusting when their mother decides to remarry again. Adrian begins to reach out to Amy in order to make peace, so Amy, John, and Ricky can be a family with less drama. The season's events culminate with Adrian's cheating on Ricky with Ben on the night of the Mother/Daughter dance, in an attempt to get back at Ricky for kissing Amy. Ricky is angry at both, breaking up with Adrian and refusing to forgive Ben, thus crushing their already-fragile friendship.

In season three, everyone finds out Adrian is pregnant with Ben's baby, except for Amy. So, Ben and Amy continue to date and start considering taking their relationship to the next level, while Ben struggles to tell Amy about Adrian. George and Anne Juergens have officially divorced and Anne lives closer to her mother while George stays at the house with Amy and Ashley. Ashley drops out of school and begins homeschooling herself. Kathleen Bowman's husband goes to Zimbabwe for a medical mission to bring aid to third world people and returns in the season finale with a proposal that he and Kathleen return to live and explore the world. Kathleen is hesitant to accept, not wanting to leave Grace and Tom behind by themselves. Towards the middle of the season, Amy and Ricky begin to date, and everyone is doubtful that Ricky will be faithful. Adrian and Ben decide to get married and the ceremony occurs near the end of the season. In the two-part season finale, Ben and Adrian are living together in their condo and Adrian begins to sense that something might be wrong with their baby. They decide to call the doctor, who has them meet her at the hospital as soon as possible. Adrian gives birth to their stillborn daughter. They named her Mercy. Amy and Ricky have sex after getting home from the hospital.

In season four, Amy and Ricky begin to get closer when Amy and John begin to move in with Ricky in his apartment, which is above the butcher shop. Meanwhile, Ashley leaves to go on a road trip with her friend Toby. Grace goes to Didiju and meets a new guy named Daniel who later becomes her boyfriend. Jack and Madison break up forcing Jack to do all the senior stuff with Grace who he is still in love with. Adrian is depressed as she lost her baby and Ben wants to leave, but doesn't have the heart to do so. Adrian figures out that he wants to leave, and tries to seduce him so she can get pregnant again. Later Adrian sets her goal towards Ricky. Ricky proposes to Amy and she accepts. Afterwards, Jesse has a graduation party and everyone is invited. Adrian goes with Omar, her new boyfriend. Daniel's ex-girlfriend shows up at the party and says she wants him back. Ricky kisses Adrian one last time as per her wish and she claims she is "free" from him, after which her new boyfriend Omar breaks up with her claiming that the kiss was "totally disrespectful." The next morning outside, Grace asks Jack about Adrian's theory, and they end up kissing which is caught on a picture sent to Daniel by Raven (his ex-girlfriend), causing him to break up with Grace. Madison also sleeps with Jesse ending with 2 broken friendships and 1 broken relationship. Ben also shuns Henry when he sleeps with Adrian at the party because he was disloyal. Ben meets the lake house neighbor, Dylan, and she and her friends turn out to be a bad influence on him. Kathleen goes to Africa to learn that Marshall was cheating with her and already had a girlfriend and a son there who comes back to live with their family. In the last episode, Anne comes out with the fact that she really is gay, but when Amy is told, she is very upset and believes she is saying that because George is trying to have a good excuse as of why he cheated and also got back with Kathleen. Amy decided to take John away for the weekend. Amy and Ben kiss one last time. Ricky finally is ready to be a dad and married Amy in the season finale.

Amy tells everyone that she and Ricky eloped, keeping the fact they changed their minds at the last minute and are in fact not married a secret. The series ends with Amy breaking off the relationship and going to college in New York, leaving John with Ricky.

Cast and characters


The Secret Life of the American Teenager first aired on ABC Family on July 1, 2008.[1] Season 1 began with 11 episodes broadcast from July 1, 2008, to September 9, 2008. After a hiatus, 12 first-season episodes aired January 5, 2009, through March 23, 2009, despite being marketed as season 2, for a total of 23 episodes.[6] The first season was aired on Canadian broadcaster City starting on September 3, 2008.[7] In early 2009, City removed Secret Life from its schedule.[8] Therefore, MuchMusic started to air the first season in Canada on November 30, 2009, followed by the second season on December 7, 2009.[9] In the United Kingdom Secret Life is available on ABC Studios via sky on demand. It is however broken up into eight seasons in contrast to the original five.

Following the success of its first season, ABC Family announced on January 31, 2009, plans to renew Secret Life.[10] The official press release was released on February 9 and was added to ABC Family's line up on April 7, 2009.[11] The show was renewed for a 24-episode second season, which began airing on June 22, 2009.[12][13][14] Season 2 began with 12 episodes broadcast starting June 22, 2009, through September 7, 2009. After a four-month hiatus, the second half of the season returned on January 4, 2010,[15] and concluded on March 22, 2010.[16]

Following their record-breaking, mid-season returns, Make It or Break It, and Secret Life were both picked up for an additional season.[17] The third-season premiere of Secret Life was aired on June 7, 2010, at 8 pm.[18] On January 10, 2011, it was reported that Secret Life was picked up for a fourth season to be shown in Summer 2011 and season three would resume on March 28, 2011, after an extended season break.[19] The second half of the fourth season is set to air on March 26, 2012.

On February 2, 2012, it was announced ABC Family renewed The Secret Life of the American Teenager for a fifth season.[20]

Secret Life received mixed reviews at the time of its debut. It currently has a score of 48 out of 100 from review aggregator Metacritic.[21] The New York Post praised the series for having a set of characters that are "... real and come from families of all stripes – from intact to single-parent households to one boy in foster care..."[22] However, most mainstream critics haven't embraced the show, indicating it as a TV-series version of an after school special, "filled with didactic messages and a lotta wooden acting," in the words of Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly.[23] The New York Times claimed that "Secret Life must surely be the collective effort of an anti-pregnancy cabal. [...] ABC Family means well but could not have done worse. Secret Life doesn’t take the fun out of teenage pregnancy, it takes the fun out of television" and calls the show a "Prime-Time Cautionary Tale".[24] Variety magazine reported that "ABC Family's latest original drama wants to be a slow-motion version of Juno but settles for being an obvious, stereotype-laden teen soap [...] based on first impressions, The Secret Life of the American Teenager should probably stay a secret."[25] ReporterMag's Andrew Rees says, "The show...might be the worst scripted drama on television. Suffering from gag-worthy dialog, horrific plot twists, terrible acting, and characters who not even the best of 3-D glasses could give depth to, it’s a wonder how this show stays on the air."[26]

Brenda Hampton does not mind the poor reviews, saying, "I'd rather get good ratings and bad reviews than bad ratings and good reviews.".[23] Despite its lackluster critical reviews,[27] Secret Life received the highest premiere viewership ratings ever for an ABC Family original program. The pilot episode brought in 2.82 million viewers and a 0.9/3 share in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. Secret Life also scored high in the female demographic, registering a 6.5/24 among female teenagers and a 3.1/11 among 12- to 34-year-old females.[28]

Secret Life's mid-season finale episode of season one defeated the first hour of the much-publicized series premiere of 90210 on The CW in viewers 12–34 and females 12–34, beating 90210 in total viewers and all their key demographics, and bringing in some of the best ratings of the season for Secret Life.[29][30] The season one finale brought in 4.50 million viewers and was the highest rated telecast on March 23, 2009 in viewers aged 12–34 and the number one scripted telecast that night. The episode also beat 90210, which had 2.20 million viewers, more than half the usual number.[4]

On Monday, June 22, 2009, Secret Life opened its second season with the largest audience so far, posting a series high in total viewers with 4.68 million viewers, and second-best numbers ever in adults 18–34 with 1.4 million viewers, behind season one's mid-season finale, adults 18–49 with 2.1 million viewers and viewers 12–34 with 2.9 million viewers. In June 2009, Secret Life ranked as cable’s number one scripted telecast in females 12–34, and the number one scripted series telecast in viewers 12–34 and female teens. Additionally, Secret Life stood as ad-supported cable’s number one telecast this month in female teens. The season debut became cable’s number one scripted series premiere of the 2008/2009 season to date in women 18–34, women 18–49, and viewers 12–34, and the number one scripted original premiere of summer 2009 in adults 18–34.[31]

Secret Life’s second season debut stands as cable’s number one scripted original series season premiere of summer 2009 in adults ages 18–34 and across core female 18–34, 18–49 and 12–34 demos, ahead of such high profile series as USA’s Royal Pains and Burn Notice, and TNT’s The Closer.[32] Some critics praised the new developments of the show's second season, saying they could be "interesting material to build on." Jean Bently of EW Popwatch says that now that the whole "teen going through a pregnancy" plot has played out and the "frustrated young mother" thing is going on, we have room to explore some other topics. She remained hopeful that the writers will not just turn these new problems into issues of the week, instead allowing time for the characters to grieve Marshall's death, deal with Ann's accidental pregnancy, and explore the more emotionally complex aspects of teenage sex.[3]

With more than 4.55 million people watching the season two mid-season premiere, the episode became ABC Family’s most-watched telecast ever in the key 12–34 and teen demos.[33] The episode stands as the series’ second-most-watched episode in viewers and is TV’s number one telecast of the season in female teens, cable’s number one telecast in females 12–34, and cable’s number one scripted telecast in viewers 12–34. The season two mid-season premiere remains cable’s number one scripted premiere of the 2009/10 season. It improved nearly one million total viewers over its season two mid-season finale, and was number one in all target demos for the hour.[2]

On Monday, June 7, 2010, Secret Life opened its third season as the number one summer premiere for the 2010 summer season. It drew 1.3 million women 18–49 viewers, 2.3 million viewers 12–34, 1.8 million female 12–34 viewers, and 1.0 million teen viewers, topping high profiles premieres of Burn Notice, Royal Pains, and Pawn Stars. Additionally, Monday’s "Secret Life" ranks as summer’s number one scripted premiere on cable with 1.2 million viewers adults 18–34. It improved over its season 2 finale, growing by 20% in adults 18–34, by 21% in adults 18–49, and by 10% in viewers 12–34.[34]

Regarding The Secret Life's advertising, Laura Caraccioli-Davis, executive vice president of the media buyer Starcom, says, "Nielsen numbers will do the talking in the advertising community, which has a deep respect for success."

The following is a table with the average estimated number of viewers per episode, each season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family.

Throughout its five seasons, Secret Life has been nominated for several Teen Choice Awards, and won a Gracie Allen Award.[43] It won a Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer TV Show during its premiere season.[44] In 2009, it was nominated for three Teen Choice Awards, including Choice TV Show Drama, Choice TV Breakout Show, and Choice Summer TV. Kenny Baumann was nominated for Choice TV Actor Drama and Choice Summer TV Star: Male, Shailene Woodley was nominated for Choice TV Actress Drama and Choice Summer TV Star: Female, Daren Kagasoff was nominated for Choice TV Breakout Star: Male and won Choice Summer TV Star Male,[45] and Molly Ringwald and Mark Derwin were nominated for Choice TV Parental Unit.[46] A Gracie Allen Award was awarded to the show for Outstanding Drama in 2009.[43] In 2010, the show was nominated as a Favorite TV Obsession at the 2010 People's Choice Awards; Shailene Woodley won a 2010 Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Rising Star in a Drama Series;[47][48] the show was nominated as the Choice Summer TV show at the 2010 Teen Choice Awards; Ken Baumann and Daren Kagasoff were nominated as the Choice Male Summer TV Star; and Shailene Woodley was also nominated as the Choice Female Summer TV Star.[49]

DVD releases

Each Secret Life season is released on DVD in separate volumes. Season one, confusingly, is sold as season one and season two.[50][51][52] Season two is sold as volume three and volume four,[53][54] and similarly for the later seasons. The DVD releases include commentary by cast and crew members on selected episodes, deleted scenes, interviews with the cast, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The season two, volume two DVD includes a preview of Ashley Juergen's Secret Diary, a novella released on June 15, 2010.[54]

Other media

On June 15, 2010, The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens was published.[5] Written by Kelly and Courtney Turk, whose previous credits include episodes of 7th Heaven and NCIS, it documents the thoughts of the character Ashley Juergens in the events chronicling the first and part of the second season.[59] It also includes new characters that were not shown on Secret Life.[59] "We watched the episodes together and then talked briefly about ideas we each had and what we thought Ashley would have to say about whatever the storyline was. Then we separated and exchanged our chapters," Courtney stated while talking about the difference between writing a book and writing for television.[59]

The series theme, sung by Molly Ringwald, is an upbeat version of Cole Porter's "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)." Other noteworthy music featured in the installments includes:

  • Both the first and last episodes of the first season feature the song "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne. It was also featured in the second-season episode 22. A piano version of the song was played during mid-4th-season finale.
  • In the fifteenth episode of the second season, Jack plays "She Don't Wanna Man" by Asher Roth while he and Madison dance.
  • At the Mother-Daughter Dance (Season 2, Episode 19), Love Story by Taylor Swift is played in the background while Amy, her mother, and Ashley sit on the bleachers.
  • In the fourth episode of the third season, when Adrian sits sadly on the stairs in front of her house, Tom plays "You Are So Beautiful" performed by Joe Cocker on his cell phone before they dance. (Season 3, episode 4).
  • The song "Kids" by MGMT appears in the fifth episode of the third season when a slide show of Amy lost in New York is played.
  • At a party in the Bowmans' guesthouse, the song "New Day" performed by Tamar Kaprelian is played.
  • Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" plays in the final moments of the first half of the third-season finale, including during Ben and Adrian's wedding.
  • Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" plays after Ben and Adrian find out the baby is dead, and the montage is played to close the season.
  • "Daughters" by John Mayer was featured in the season's first episode during Amy's visit to the clinic.
  • In the fifth episode of the fourth season, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele is played in the beginning during Adrian's walk and at the end of the episode when she is sitting in the empty nursery after punching numerous holes in the wall.
  • In the thirteenth episode of the fourth season "S&M" by Rihanna, "Memories" by David Guetta feat. Kid Cudi and "Til ya make it" by "Jamie Lynn Noon" are played at the end of the episode during the dance party.
  • At the beginning of first episode of fifth season, when Amy and Ricky went from chapel, is played Bruno Mars' song "Marry You".
  • In the last episode when Adrian recollects her school years and relationships is played "Try with Me" by Nicole Scherzinger.
  • In the last episode during Ricky's flashback, the song "Blurry" by Puddle of Mudd is played.
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