Spears' network may air teen pregnancy show

Jamie Lynn Spears, shown in September, stars in the popular Nickelodeon series "Zoey 101."
Jamie Lynn Spears, shown in September, stars in the popular Nickelodeon series "Zoey 101."

Update: Nickelodeon is considering a special for its young audience about sex and love following the news that 16-year-old "Zoey 101" star Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant.

The television network has made no announcement about the future of "Zoey 101," its popular program aimed primarily at youngsters aged 9-14. Filming for the show's fourth and final season has finished, and episodes are scheduled to begin airing in February.

For the special, Nickelodeon said it's talking with Linda Ellerbee, the veteran newswoman who has stepped in frequently in the past with shows on talking to children about difficult issues in the news. She's done shows about same-sex parents, AIDS, the Columbine shooting and President Clinton's impeachment scandal.

"I think it's important that something be done," Ellerbee told The Associated Press on Thursday. "But I think it's important that it be done in a measured way, and not just to feed the beast of news stories.

A Nickelodeon spokesman, Dan Martinsen, confirmed the discussions but said no decision had been made.

Spears, the younger sister of pop star Britney Spears, told the OK! celebrity magazine this week that she was pregnant. The father is her 18-year-old boyfriend, Casey Aldridge. She said she plans to raise the baby in her home state of Louisiana.

Nickelodeon has made no comment beyond a supportive statement for its star: "We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well being."

The company has received a mixed response so far from its viewers, and the news has launched a public discussion about how parents should deal with it.

"This is a great opportunity for parents at this moment to talk to their kids about this -- more important, to listen to their kids about this," Ellerbee said.

Rather than focus strictly on Spears, Ellerbee said she's considering producing a broad discussion about how people know they're in love, when is the right time to have sex and what are the value systems of their parents and friends. It could air as soon as next month.

"Right now what Nick is trying to do -- and what I am trying to do -- is figure out what is the best thing to do for kids," she said.

One television critic, David Hinckley of the New York Daily News, wrote Thursday that to end "this sordid moment" with a lesson, Nickelodeon should pull the plug on "Zoey 101."

"If Nickelodeon keeps Jamie Lynn Spears because her product sells, it runs the risk that a valuable message it has spent years crafting could shift from `trust us' to `whatever,"' Hinckley wrote.

Although Nick executives are still discussing the future of "Zoey 101," it's considered unlikely that it would shelve the final season. The third season ends Jan. 4 with a cliffhanger episode about whether Spears' character continues to attend a boarding school in California or moves to London with her parents.

Executives at Nick's rival Disney Channel had their own public relations crisis this summer, when Vanessa Hudgens, the 18-year-old star of its "High School Musical" franchise, posed for nude photos that were leaked to the Internet. Hudgens apologized, Disney stuck by her and the issue quickly faded.

Previously: Another Spears baby is reportedly on the way -- and it's not Britney's.

Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old "Zoey 101" star and sister of Britney, told OK! magazine that she's pregnant and that the father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.

"It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected," she said. "I was in complete and total shock and so was he."

Spears is 12 weeks along and initially kept the news to herself when she learned of the pregnancy from an at-home test and subsequent doctor visit, she told the celebrity magazine, which hits stands in New York on Wednesday and the rest of the country by Friday.

What message does she want to send to other teens about premarital sex? "I definitely don't think it's something you should do; it's better to wait," she told the magazine. "But I can't be judgmental because it's a position I put myself in."

After she found out from a doctor that she was pregnant, she said, "I took two weeks to myself where I didn't tell anybody."

"Only one of my friends knew because I needed to work out what I would do for myself before I let anyone's opinion affect my decision. Then I told my parents and my friends. I was scared, but I had to do what was right for me," she said.

Spears broke the news to her mother, Lynne, just before Thanksgiving, the magazine reported.

"She was very upset because it wasn't what she expected at all," Spears said. "A week after, she had time to cope with it and became very supportive."

Lynne Spears, already grandmother to Britney's young sons, told the magazine: "I didn't believe it because Jamie Lynn's always been so conscientious. She's never late for her curfew. I was in shock. I mean, this is my 16-year-old baby."

She said her actress daughter, the telegenic heroine of her popular Nickelodeon series, has known Aldridge for years and began dating him in high school.

But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, Spears said she had no steady boyfriend. "I kind of just keep my options open," she said. "I have a bunch of friends that I always hang out with, a bunch of guy friends." She declined to talk about her older sister.

Spears spoke to the AP shortly before Thanksgiving, the day she told OK! she informed her mother about the pregnancy.

Jamie Lynn plans to raise the baby in her home state of Louisiana -- "so it can have a normal family life."

Nickelodeon released a statement: "We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well being."

A publicist for the network did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail requests for additional comment.

"Zoey 101" is scheduled to conclude its third season January 4 with a cliffhanger episode in which Spears' character must decide whether to leave her fictional Pacific Coast Academy boarding school in California to join her parents in London.

The show is scheduled to resume in February, and its producer, Dan Schneider, has said filming on the fourth season has already been completed.

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