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Adults and Teens Can Learn a Lot From "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Updated on September 29, 2012
Ricky, Amy, and John (teen parents)
Ricky, Amy, and John (teen parents) | Source

The Cast of Characters

Shailene Woodley portrays Amy Juergens, daughter of George and Anne Juergens, mother of John, wife of Ricky and older sister of Ashley and Robert Juergens.

Daren Kagasoff portrays Richard "Ricky" Underwood,, An eighteen-year-old with a troubled past and emotional issues, resulting in promiscuity and a reputation as the school's "bad boy".

Megan Park portrays Grace Kathleen Bowman, a perky seventeen-year-old. Grace is Grant High's head cheerleader and is a devoted Christian.

Francia Raisa portrays Adrian Lee, an eighteen-year-old majorette with a reputation for being promiscuous because she enjoys casual sex.

Kenny Baumann portrays Benjamin "Ben" Boykewich, an idealistic seventeen-year-old who plays the cymbals in the school band. He was also the boyfriend of Amy. He was very devoted to her and completely supported her during her pregnancy days. Ben is the heir of a wealthy meat company owned by his father, Leo.

India Eisley plays Ashley Juergens, Amy's two-year-younger sister. Ashley is sarcastic, always thinks straight, dresses in mainly black, and cares little about what others think of her.

Greg Finley II portrays Jack Pappas, an eighteen-year-old on the football team. Jack is the stepson of a minister. The summer before his sophomore year, Jack began a relationship with Grace, partially in an effort to keep her well-to-do family at his stepfather's church.

Molly Ringwald portrays Anne Juergens, the mother of Amy, Ashley, and Robert Juergens, and the wife of George Juergens. After discovering George was cheating on her with Adrian's mother, Cindy Lee, Anne separated from him and filed for divorce.

Mark Derwin portrays George Juergens, the father of Amy, Ashley, and Robert Juergens, and the husband of Anne Juergens. He owns a furniture store and was previously married to Kathleen Bowman, Grace's mother,

Steve Schirripa portrays Leo Boykevich, Ben's widowed father. Known locally as "The Sausage King", he is wealthy and owns a butcher shop. He recently married a woman named Betty, a sweet but slightly ditzy former prostitute.

(Source for above: Wikipedia)

"Secret Life": Not Just for Teens

"The Secret Life of the American Teenager" entertains viewers while tackling very awkward situations head on and it doesn't waste any time doing it. Five minutes into the first episode of the first season, we learn that fifteen-year-old Amy Juergens is pregnant - the result of an unplanned and unexpected interlude with the local bad boy.

This immediately tells viewers that the show deals with the kind of life issues which span generations. But I didn't know this until recently, because I refused to watch the series when it came out.

I'll admit that when I first saw advertising for, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager", I thought it would be just another too-adorable coming-of-age show.. In recent years television and the movies have been flooded with dramadies featuring ridiculously attractive young people who find themselves in even more ridiculous situations - a lot. I was annoyed and couldn't take one more.

All of that explains why it took me four years to watch one episode of "Secret Life". When I did catch an episode on the local ABC Family Channel, I was quickly hooked and wanted to see more. Specifically, I liked it enough to want to go back to the beginning to see how it all started. It turned out that Seasons 1-4 were available via my Amazon Prime membership, so I sat back and caught up.

Everyone Can Enjoy and Learn From This Show

As you can see from the brief cast bios, relationships on this show are complex and more like real life than many of us are comfortable with. The students of Grant High School (in California) and their parents deal with birth, death, Alzheimer's, marriage, divorce, infidelity, chastity, religious beliefs, race, and gender issues, among others. To their credit, the writers never duck a problem, no matter how thorny. They tackle them fearlessly.

The topic of pre-marital sex comes up often, which is appropriate, since it's something teens and their parents deal with. Students at Grant High School often learn the hard way about the consequences of reckless behavior. They struggle with unwanted pregnancies, ruined relationships, and living lifestyles they shouldn't have to deal with until they're much older.

The amazing thing about the program is that there's a lot of humor sprinkled in. Just like citizens of Anywhere U.S.A. (or probably the world), the characters find themselves laughing with and at each other, sometimes through tears. George Juergens alone is worth watching. His stumbling through relationship mistakes with his wife Anne - and other women - is often hysterical.

When you break it down, though, the kinds of things these complicated people go through is really the stuff we all go through, and not just when we're young. I promise you, you will see yourself or someone you know somewhere among the the relationship problems, sexual complications, and major life changes.

What is especially terrific is that the writers never insult their audience with happily-ever-after. Sure the characters have their high points - births, weddings, the senior dance, etc. - but the next day they are right back at it - dealing with school, jobs, & sick kids, just like everyone else.

The "Secret Life" Gang
The "Secret Life" Gang | Source

An Addictive, Thought-Provoking Series

If you're like me, you won't take someone else's word for it and need to watch a show to see if it's "you". That's exactly what I did and got hooked in the process. If you need a change from the usual violence and fantasy, sit back and enjoy Secret Life - you might even come away with some thought-provoking questions-or answers.

Note: In the Season Five finale, one of the more lovable characters was clinging to life and audiences were left agonizing over his fate. However, they'll have to wait a while to find out what happens. The show is currently on a long mid-season hiatus, with no definite start date for Season Six. For those who want to check it out, Secet Life reruns are sometimes aired on the ABC Family Channel and the series is available on Amazon in DVD and instant video formats.

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