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'Jeff': Another Perspective on Teen Pregnancy

September 12, 1996|LYNNE HEFFLEY

In most social debate about babies born out of wedlock, teenage girls still receive the most blame, but today's thoughtful "ABC Afterschool Specials" has a more equitable message--that males must share equal responsibility for the children they father.

In "Too Soon for Jeff," written by Karen Kasaba and Marilyn Reynolds, high school senior and high achiever Jeff (Freddie Prinze Jr.) learns that his now-waning romance with Christy (Jessica Alba) has led to her pregnancy.

Christy, who "forgot" to take her birth control pills, won't hear of abortion or adoption. Jeff's initial self-righteous anger gives way when he has to acknowledge that he had chosen not to use a condom, despite many warnings from a caring uncle about AIDS and contraceptive responsibility.

Haunted by memories of his own irresponsible, absentee father--the script makes recurring use of a reading from a poignant father-and-son story by Ethan Canin--Jeff eventually determines to be a good father, even though it means sacrificing a hard-won college scholarship.

When the baby is born, however, the glimpse given of its care--shared alternatively by both teenagers--looks a little too neat and easy. Still, Prinze, directed by Victor DuBois, gives Jeff a believable, soulful substance, so that references made about lives forever altered and about the fatigue, the lack of social life and the difficulty of juggling a baby, a low-wage job and school have a ring of truth.

Jeff's frank parting message to male viewers re-emphasizes their responsibility, both for the prevention of an unwanted pregnancy and for the result of one.

* "Too Soon for Jeff" airs at 3 p.m. today on ABC (Channel 7).

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