"Breaking Amish" has become something of a franchise for Discovery Channel, which has taken the concept of throwing Amish young adults into a "Real World"-like situation and watching the fish-out-of-water drama. The first season was undeniably fake in some regards, but it often had a quiet, rather hypnotic quality that at least made for engaging viewing. Yes, this is a TLC series (and my feelings on TLC were summarized beautifully by "South Park"'s "Raising the Bar" episode) and yes, there are fights and drama, but there's also a real feeling of melancholy.
The first season of the show brought together a group that kind of worked well together - Abe, Jeremiah, Kate, Rebecca and Sabrina. The season followed the group as they left the life they knew behind and found themselves living together in New York City. Almost instantly, they are overwhelmed by the bright lights and hectic hustle-and-bustle, not to mention some of the various vices - alcohol and strip clubs, among other things.
What worked reasonably well for the first season was the group dynamic, with Abe and Rebecca finding themselves enjoying the city but maintaining a level head. On the other side, Kate (who finds herself heading into modeling) and Jeremiah could probably fit in if there was another season of "Jersey Shore" filming nearby, especially Jeremiah, who kind of reminds one of an Amish version of "Shore"'s the Situation. We find out that Kate got into trouble quickly after leaving her community originally, finding herself out of her element and lost when faced with a courtroom after getting a DUI.
The one in the middle is Sabrina, a young woman who was adopted by a Mennonite family and who seeks out her biological parents during this season. As noted, elements of the series don't feel real, but the show's positive is that it did get casting right in creating a group split by their reaction to and views on the outside world. Abe and Rebecca also manage to create a little romance that is quiet and rather sweet. Rebecca's
There is some discussion of Amish life and a few glimpses early on (the camera crew practically feels like it's on a spy mission once or two), but what insights the show has to offer are largely discussed by the main cast or the few family members who risk being shunned by the community to see their loved ones. The series did create a lot of controversy with what was real and what wasn't, but Abe's mother was - at least according to the series - shunned from the community for her participation in the show.
The original cast members are returning in a new season. Hopefully it will be a bit closer to the original season than the spin-off, "Brave New World", which followed the cast down to Florida to an Amish community. While the first season had a quiet, melancholy feel, I found "Brave New World" unpleasant, eerie and hard to watch as the group was piled into an RV and went down to Florida. The second season felt forced - some of the cast doesn't even seem to want to be there - and rather pointless.
For all of the discussion of what was real and what was not on this first season, there are some moments that really feel genuine (Rebecca's very necessary visit to a dentist and her emotional response to the end result) and the show clicks (as reality shows go) in some regards. Hopefully the new season with the original cast won't be as terrible as the other follow-ups.
1 1-01 09/Sep/12 Jumping the Fence
2 1-02 16/Sep/12 What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?
3 1-03 23/Sep/12 Breaking All the Rules
4 1-04 30/Sep/12 New Beginnings
5 1-05 07/Oct/12 What Is Really Happening?
6 1-06 14/Oct/12 Good vs. Evil
7 1-07 21/Oct/12 Final Days
8 1-08 28/Oct/12 Decision Time
9 1-09 04/Nov/12 Party Time
10 1-10 11/Nov/12 Finale
11 1-11 11/Nov/12 The Shunning Truth (1)
12 1-12 18/Nov/12 The Shunning Truth (2)
Video: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Discovery, the series looks as crisp and clean as it did on digital cable. No artifacting, color smearing or other problems were seen. The series has a somewhat cool color palette, which seems accurately presented here.
Audio: Crisp, well-recorded 2.0 audio that captures both dialogue and city ambience well.
Extras: Not really an "extra", but the reunion show, "The Shunning Truth" (get it, it sounds like stunning, har har) is also included. Anyone else want to start a petition to stop having reunion shows billed as "extras"? Also, while I'm ranting, does everything need an "After Show" and a "Reunion Show"? Even Discovery Channel shows like "Naked and Afraid" have bizarre, MTV-like after shows.
Final Thoughts: While controversial and certainly not great television, "Breaking Amish" (at least the first season) manages to find some genuine moments and a cast whose different approaches to the outside world make for an interesting dynamic. The DVD offers fine audio/video, but no real extras. Rent it.