America’s most celebrated television network, TLC, has taken a break from regularly scheduled Little People programming to bring us a new show of equal or lesser value.
Breaking Amish, much like every show on The Learning Channel, teeters on the uncomfortable line between almost-educational and complete garbage, and I already recorded the entire season on my DVR.
Please hold your judgments. I’m judging myself enough for the both of us. But watching bad TV is like eating dessert — you know you shouldn’t do it all the time, but if you don’t indulge occasionally, you’ll become cold and hard. We could all use a little extra pudge, am I right?
LLLRight now the Amish are trying on sunglasses for the first time ever. Or, right now the Amish are buying Cheetos for the first time ever .
If you are unfamiliar with this incredible hour of television, it’s basically The Real World. But instead of “seven strangers who stop being polite and start getting real,” it’s four Amish and one Mennonite on rumspringa, who are already sort of impolite due to a lack of social skills, wreaking havoc on New York City. More accurately, New York City is wreaking havoc on them.
Everything else — the drama, the drinking, the hookups (this hasn’t happened yet, but crossing my fingers!) — is very MTV.
Exploitive? Absolutely. But what reality show isn’t these days? Its five cast members make it clear that they have been itching to experience life outside their isolated communities and it appears they are aware of the consequences that may arise when all is said and done.
Unfortunately, those consequences are a little more severe than an appearance on Anderson: They could lose their families forever, and that’s no laughing matter.
But just as the network execs seem to do fairly easily, let’s ignore the grim “what ifs” for a minute and enjoy “right nows.” As in, right now the Amish are trying on sunglasses for the first time ever. Or, right now the Amish are buying Cheetos for the first time ever.
In the series premiere, we travel to each of the Amish communities and are introduced to the cast members and their understandably pissed off families. Though rumspringa — a time when adolescents leave home to decide whether or not they want to remain in the Amish community — is an accepted tradition, appearing on national television is probably frowned upon, so most of the families are less than eager to participate.
The cast mates include Rebecca, the youngest on the show, who is an uptight rule-follower consistently shakin’ her head at the other cast members in the confessional. She has a full set of dentures that she takes out at night and it’s the show's biggest mystery.
Jeremiah, who was adopted into the Amish community, went rogue a long time ago. He swears like a sailor, daydreams about “hot chicks” and complains that it isn’t cool that he was “thrown into this Amish crap.”
The only Mennonite on the show, Sabrina, is a little less out of touch because Mennonites are allowed to use electricity and drive cars. She was also adopted and hopes to track down her biological parents.
And then there’s Kate, the designated pretty one with nice teeth. The show marks the second time she’s left home — the first resulted in a DUI proving that no matter how different peoples’ upbringings are, they can find common ground in busted mugshot photos.
Finally, there’s Abe, who is just the sweetest. He dropped out of school at 15, because “education wasn’t going to help him move a piece of wood.” He is genuine and endearing and I pray that he doesn’t get gobbled up by the big bad city.
They pack their bags, endure a nerve wracking, tear-filled first plane ride and arrive in NYC, where temptations wait around every corner, including bottles and bottles of red wine.
The show has generated more controversy, with news reports that at least one of the main characters has hidden the fact that he — or she — had already lived outside the closed community, gotten married, had children and was divorced. TLC says those issues will be addressed in future episodes.
Neverthless, the first two episodes have averaged about 3 million viewers, surpassing the other much-talked-about TLC’s show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It is the network's most-watched series premiere in three years.
I now spend my Sunday nights wide-eyed and elbow-deep in a bag of potato chips, feeling completely conflicted because, as much as I want the best for these people, I also just want a really good makeover scene. I'm not proud of this.
Do me a favor and watch the show so we can have something to talk about on Monday morning.
Breaking Amish is on TLC Sundays at 9 p.m. CST