TV Land: The secret life of guilty pleasures

jessicapena.columnist1

I have absolutely no excuse for what’s about to follow. I’m more ashamed than the time I spent $18 and a 45-minute bus trip to see “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.” I’m more forlorn than the time the Jonas Brothers refused to answer my question during their Facebook live chat. I may even be more mortified than by the fact that I just mentioned the Jonas Brothers multiple times in the same paragraph, or at all. I’m a pathetic waste of a person. Why, you ask? It’s definitely not because I bought the Jonas Brothers movie on DVD. No. It’s because I watch “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

If you’ve never been lucky enough to witness the grandeur that is “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” here’s the basic premise: 15-year-old Amy Juergens gets knocked up by local lothario Ricky Underwood, who also happens to be plugging half of their high school’s female population ― he’s a tricky dick, that Ricky. Only, the story doesn’t end there. This is a teenage soap of the very worst variety. Soon, Amy’s mother (a not-so-pretty-in-pink Molly Ringwald) is pregnant, we find out Ricky was molested by his father and the entire town is having sex with each other.

There are no secrets in “Secret Life” and its influences aren’t exactly muted either. Change the locale to sunny southern California and this could be “The O.C.” or “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Change the ages a little, throw in an amnesiac disorder and this could be “Days of Our Lives.” But it’s not. “Secret Life,” as I affectionately call it, is so much guiltier to like, so much more pleasurable to watch because it’s so much worse than everything else on television — yes, even worse than “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

If the premise of any TV show is an attempt at realistic representation (perhaps even exaggerated), “Secret Life” cannot be called a TV show. This is a program where characters spout the word “sex” so often, the audience has a drinking game. It’s a show where school dances are thrown not because they’re fun, social activities but because the guidance counselor had a great aunt in the Holocaust who couldn’t dance. Yeah, the motherfuckin’ Holocaust. Trying to find some logic in that last statement is akin to finding any semblance of sanity in Nic Cage — impossible. This show is indisputably horrendous, lacking any sense whatsoever. That’s why I love it.

For programs like “Breaking Bad” or “Parks and Recreation,” I went into watching them with a confidence in their quality. That is why one watches television, right? To be satisfied both visually and narratively? That’s not what happened when I started watching “Secret Life.” I thought I had matured by the age of 18, become a seasoned TV consumer with a discerning eye for top-notch talent vs. total trash. Maybe it was the haze of heat in our cramped, unventilated dorm room that dulled our senses, but my roommate and I began watching “Secret Life” within a month of starting college.

We’re two different people, the ole roommate and I. Unlike myself or “Secret Life,” she’s logical — a planner with an affinity for spreadsheets and comfortable walking shoes. I, on the other hand, once wore a pair of granny panties as a shirt. See the difference. However, when “Secret Life” is on, the shoes are off and the party begins. It’s time to mock this shit. Did a character just say her father died because she had “incredible sex?” Why yes, roommate (this is what I call her), she did. Obviously, the better the sex is, the more lethal is its potential. That is the law in “Secret Life.” This show is ridiculous. Let’s keep watching.

Like the Jonas Brothers, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” is dreadfully fascinating because of how bad it is. It’s a bonding point for my roommate and I, making us both feel superior because we can sneer at its egregious flaws. A good TV show may provoke thought, but like a Holocaust-themed dance, a bad one brings humanity together amid the horror.