Last Tuesday, The Secret Life of the American Teenager — the story of a high school band girl who finds herself pregnant after her first sexual experience — debuted to historic ratings, becoming ABC Family’s most-watched series premiere ever.
From 7th Heaven creator Brenda Hampton, the pilot received some less-than-gentle ribbing courtesy of a few critics, but for those who think they’ve seen it all after just one hour, I’d advise a bit of patience. I stopped by the set last week to spy on the cast and crew and literally spit out my Pepsi, laughing at a scene I got to see them film. Yes, the comedic talents of upcoming guest star Jennifer Coolidge (pictured left) are partly to blame for my uncouth mishap, but series regulars Megan Park and Luke Zimmerman — who shared the scene with Coolidge — had some pretty hysterical material as well and held their own. Now shooting the show’s ninth episode, the mostly young cast seems to be adapting nicely to their respective roles. Daren Kagasoff, who plays bad boy Ricky Underwood — the band girl’s baby daddy, unbeknownst to him — had no professional acting experience prior to the pilot, but is now comfortably cruising through his work. "The first day we shot was my first time in front of a camera," he told me. "I was so nervous. Every two seconds, the makeup guy had to come pat me down because I was soaked with sweat! But after that first episode, I got it down."
Because of their similar themes, Secret Life is of course being compared to last year’s Oscar-nominated film, Juno. However, Hampton did not draw her inspiration from the movie, having had this script in her back pocket for years. "I actually sold it twice before," she revealed. "I sold it to FOX and I sold it to Lifetime, but it didn’t get made. Sometime after 7th Heaven ended, I saw the promos for Greek and thought [ABC Family] may be the place for it." Her intuition was correct, though she did have to make a few ABC Family-friendly changes to the project first, namely the title. "It’s called Secret Life of the American Teenager, but I admit, there’s nothing secret about it," Hampton said. "I’d always called it The Sex
Life of the American Teenager. I guess that’s not very Disney."
Still, Hampton tells me there is more teenage sex to come: "Other people will lose their virginity. We will see some of
them getting in and out of bed. There’s nothing explicit. I think it’s
just today’s version of fireworks and buildings falling over and the montages
they used to do in the old days." As for the various romantic entanglements that were established in last week’s premiere, Hampton says that resident good Christians Grace and Jack — who was caught cheating at the end of the pilot — will be on-and-off throughout the season. Bad girl Adrian and bad guy Ricky will stay pretty steady, though Ricky likes Grace too. But the brightest flame will burn between the pregnant Amy (Shailene Woodley, pictured left) and her new boy, Ben. "Ben is
totally smitten with Amy and Amy with Ben," Hampton said. "I see the whole thing as a love
story. The pregnancy is a complication to a love story between two
teenagers. It takes her a while to tell him [she’s expecting]."
It will also take Amy quite some time to tell her parents what’s up. They’ll be in the dark for most of the season. And Ricky, the guy responsible, will stay ignorant for a while as well. As for his secret past of sexual abuse, I’m hearing another character may be struggling with that same demon.
So 7th Heaven, this series is not. But I did ask Hampton if she plans to bring any of the old 7th alum on as guest stars. Her response? "Those 7th Heaven people don’t have sex. They wouldn’t fit in on this show!"