MTV's teen mom stories feel real

Farrah Abraham and her daughter Sophia from season Farrah Abraham and her daughter Sophia from season premiere of MTV's Teen Mom 3. ( June 2011) MTV Photo Credit: MTV Photo/

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: It's the third season.

WHEN/WHERE: MTV Tuesday night at 10

There are almost 3 million unplanned pregnancies a year in the United States. This is the ongoing story of four of them. The series' "stars" -- for want of a better word -- are Maci Bookout, 19, Farrah Abraham, 20, Catelynn Lowell, 19, and Amber Portwood, 21. At the end of last season, Maci was battling with her ex, Ryan, over visitation; Farrah had finally settled a bitter battle with her mother over how much she should pay in rent in her mom's house; Catelynn and her baby's father, Tyler, go to West Virginia to visit the squeaky-clean adoptive parents of Carly, Brandon and Theresa; and Amber has a new live-in interest, Chris, who changes the diapers of baby Leah -- much to the fury of father Gary.

WHAT TUESDAY'S SHOW IS ABOUT Maci's ongoing battle with Ryan has shifted from visitation to child support; Catelynn and Tyler are trying to figure out where to live; Farrah explores breast implants because she claims larger breasts will help her modeling career; and Amber and Gary try to patch up their desperately troubled relationship with the help of a counselor.

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MY SAY Believe it or not, "Teen Mom" is a pretty good show -- almost atonement for all that other junk MTV has crammed down the throats of its core demographic over the years (no names; fill in the blank with the name of your own favorite piece of junk). There were -- I am absolutely certain -- cynical sneers from more than a few observers when it was reported that Amber had attempted suicide this spring; skepticism is understandable given all the phony drama that's been scripted on the so-called unscripted shows.

But in Amber's case, that's unfortunate: She is a desperately sad woman in a difficult circumstance; if her tears and agony are faked, then she is reality TV's finest actress. From "16 and Pregnant" to this spinoff, these stories feel utterly real, and at the same time cautionary. You want to scream at Amber or Farrah when they make another dumb choice, but you also sense that it's their dumb choice to make.

BOTTOM LINE Still absorbing. Still painful.

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