Tuned In: Secret Offering


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"7th Heaven" fans, rejoice! Your show is back!

Well, not "7th Heaven" exactly, but a new series from "Heaven" creator Brenda Hampton that has a similar feel to it -- for better and for worse.

Both "Heaven" and ABC Family newcomer "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (8 p.m. Tuesday) share Hampton and several other producers in common as well as a few secondary cast members (the town cop from "7th Heaven" is now a football coach in "Secret Life").

The show's title makes it sound scandalous, but this week's premiere plays more like a very special "7th Heaven" episode as good-girl band geek Amy (Shailene Woodley, "The O.C.") discovers she's pregnant.

Amy is no smart-mouthed Juno. She's the responsible older daughter in the eyes of her parents, played by Molly Ringwald ("Sixteen Candles") and Mark Derwin. Amy leaves the angst and drama to her 13-year-old, black-clad, belly button-baring younger sister.

The show's weaknesses are the same as those on "Heaven": Some truly dreadful acting by a few of the young stars and a tendency to rely on statement-making dialogue that sounds like it comes from a research study rather than natural conversation.

Even though "Secret Life" deals with teen pregnancy and features a predatory female and a sex-hungry boy who's in therapy for being sexually abused by his father, it is by no means a conventionally edgy show.

But it is bold in a different way.

One of the show's lead teens, Grace (Megan Park), is a Christian who has pledged to remain a virgin until she marries. Her jock boyfriend, Jack (Greg Finley), also professes a belief in abstinence, but he's unsure of his ability to live up to that pledge.

"Pray with me, pray that God forgives us," Jack says after a slip-up.

What makes these Christian characters unusual in today's pop culture is that they're not villains or secondary characters who serve only as the butt of jokes. Grace's family -- John Schneider ("Smallville") and Josie Bissett ("Melrose Place") play Grace's parents; she also has a brother with Down syndrome -- is as present in the series as Amy's family.

"Secret Life" isn't a show just about "good kids." There are characters whose sexual promiscuity runs the gamut from Snow White to "Sex and the City's" Samantha Jones. As such, it's far more realistic in scope and situations than "Gossip Girl," but there's such an earnestness and one-dimensionality to the characters that they seem a lot less believable.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.

"7th Heaven" fans, rejoice! Your show is back!

Well, not "7th Heaven" exactly, but a new series from "Heaven" creator Brenda Hampton that has a similar feel to it -- for better and for worse.

Both "Heaven" and ABC Family newcomer "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (8 p.m. Tuesday) share Hampton and several other producers in common as well as a few secondary cast members (the town cop from "7th Heaven" is now a football coach in "Secret Life").

The show's title makes it sound scandalous, but this week's premiere plays more like a very special "7th Heaven" episode as good-girl band geek Amy (Shailene Woodley, "The O.C.") discovers she's pregnant.

Amy is no smart-mouthed Juno. She's the responsible older daughter in the eyes of her parents, played by Molly Ringwald ("Sixteen Candles") and Mark Derwin. Amy leaves the angst and drama to her 13-year-old, black-clad, belly button-baring younger sister.

The show's weaknesses are the same as those on "Heaven": Some truly dreadful acting by a few of the young stars and a tendency to rely on statement-making dialogue that sounds like it comes from a research study rather than natural conversation.

Even though "Secret Life" deals with teen pregnancy and also features a predatory female and a sex-hungry boy who's in therapy for being sexually abused by his father, it is by no means a conventionally edgy show.

But it is bold in a different way.

One of the show's lead teens, Grace (Megan Park), is a Christian who has pledged to remain a virgin until she marries. Her jock boyfriend, Jack (Greg Finley), also professes a belief in abstinence, but he's unsure of his ability to live up to that pledge.

"Pray with me, pray that God forgives us," Jack says after a slip-up.

What makes these Christian characters unusual in today's pop culture is that they're not villains or secondary characters who serve only as the butt of jokes. Grace's family -- John Schneider ("Smallville") and Josie Bissett ("Melrose Place") play Grace's parents; she also has a brother with Down syndrome -- is as present in the series as Amy's family.

"Secret Life" isn't a show just about "good kids." There are characters whose sexual promiscuity runs the gamut from Snow White to "Sex and the City's" Samantha Jones. As such, it's far more realistic in scope and situations than "Gossip Girl," but there's such an earnestness and one-dimensionality to the characters that they seem a lot less believable.


Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv .


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