Regular MTV viewers might have expected a show that glamorized teen pregnancy, just as it always glamorizes the sex that led to it. What viewers saw over six one-hour episodes was anything but. There were hardships and financial struggles and a lot of fighting. Most had major problems with the teenaged fathers. Several were childish and irresponsible, which sent a chilling message to girls.
The standout episode focused on Catelynn and Tyler, who firmly chose to put their baby up for adoption. Only about 1 percent of all women make that hard choice. It is doubly courageous and unselfish: avoiding the quick and dirty abortion and accepting the stigma of teenage pregnancy, only then to face the pain of giving up the child to someone else.
Viewers were bowled over because the couple ended up fighting their own parents over their decision. (Strangely, Catelynn's mother and Tyler's father got married after the teens started dating.) Both children argued, correctly and bravely, that their own difficult lives proved that the best place for the baby was a better home with older, more prosperous parents.
"The degree of their strength was not apparent to me when I first met them," said the show's creator, Morgan J. Freeman (not the actor). "At first, I wasn't even sure they were going to go through with it. But you just watch Tyler carve out this safe space for him and Catelynn and their daughter and push back on the family. When I watched it, I was in awe. I thought, 'Where is this strength coming from?'"
They chose an open adoption, which empowered them to select parents and allowed them to share letters and photographs and remain in contact. At the show's end, they are shown in the parking lot, watching the adoptive parents drive away with their baby, as Tyler held on to the baby's receiving blanket.
Now that's a scene that puts the reality back into "reality TV."
MTV suggested on the season finale that they will present a second season of "16 and Pregnant." The ratings were strong. This show may be the exception to the MTV rule, but it is certainly an encouraging, and most welcome, oddity.