The elephant in the room for any teen-pregnancy story, at least for present-day American audiences, is abortion. Juno scribe Diablo Cody recently had to clarify that she is “emphatically pro-choice” after that film’s abortion-clinic scene was evaluated with fresh eyes, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Juno deciding not to get the procedure was simply “in service of that story” about a pregnant teen and the couple who hopes to adopt her baby.
Oly (Nathalie Morris), the central character of the Australian drama Bump, is an “emphatically pro-choice” feminist teen. In one episode, she even praises the movement for abortion rights in Chile. One could easily imagine her getting an abortion, but this is a story about a teen mother. In service of that story, then, is a pretty outrageous premise: Oly didn’t know she was pregnant until she was giving birth in the back of an ambulance.
A cryptic pregnancy, as it is called, is one of those scary stories that gets passed around to frighten those with wombs, like how you can get toxic shock syndrome from keeping a tampon in too long. Sure, it’s possible, but surely it doesn’t happen as frequently as they make it seem on the four-season TLC docuseries I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.
Bump is at its best when it leans into the shock and horror of this sudden change in Oly’s life. Her body abruptly mutilated, the teen sullenly shuts down. She doesn’t want to hold the newborn and for a while refers to the baby girl as “it.” The only thing she’s sure of is that she wants the baby to be adopted, yet she’s forced to take her home for at least 30 days regardless. Her mother (Claudia Karvan) insists that Oly will want to care for the child, even while lamenting that her daughter has ruined both of their lives. And amidst the most harrowing day of her life, everyone keeps questioning how she possibly could have missed the signs of pregnancy.
As out-there as the premise is, these details make Oly’s tale feel real, tense, and most importantly, fresh. For all the many teen pregnancy tales on television over the years, few have unfolded quite like this. Unfortunately, every episode after the first wanders further away from that bracing inciting incident into territory that feels all too familiar. Perhaps the CW’s current audience is too young to remember The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, but for those who do, Bump doesn’t have much more to offer. There’s even a brief boyfriend-vs.-baby daddy love triangle that will make fans miss Jane The Virgin, a far superior “suddenly pregnant” series.
Bump is part of the CW’s backfill programming strategy, with the show having already aired two full seasons on Australian streaming service Stan. In fairness, the subject matter fits in quite well with the typical CW fare: Once Oly decides (all too quickly) to keep the baby after all, the drama shifts to juggling high school, motherhood, romantic entanglements, and the baby’s two families. The first six episodes hustle speedily through these expected plot lines, which include multiple cheating scandals, teen-girl jealousies, and, of course, a paternity reveal.
This is not to say that Bump doesn’t have its thoughtful moments. Santi’s (Carlos Sanson Jr.) experience in an immigrant family and grief over losing his mother are particularly poignant. Still, the series never recaptures the emotional gut-punch of the unwitting young mother having this huge, unwanted change foisted upon her in the first episode. This is ultimately the story of a teenager who decides to choose motherhood. And unfortunately, to tell it another way would not be in service of that story.