TLC's original "Breaking Amish" was one of the more controversial reality shows in recent years. The series focused on Abe, Jeremiah, Kate, Rebecca and Sabrina. The season followed the group of Amish young people as they left the life they knew behind and found themselves living together in New York City. Almost instantly, they were 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.
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 were fights and drama, but there was also a real feeling of melancholy.
In the first season, as iffy as the reality of it was, I thought the series remained watchable and involving. Some of the participants were likable enough for me to want them to really succeed in overcoming their various issues and find the success they sought out in the outside world.
Where the first season was hopeful and occasionally warm, the second season feels cold and unnecessary. Coming back together for a road trip to Florida, the group from the first season feels not necessarily like they want to be there, but beyond that there's a level of tension between some members of the group that's a little uncomfortable to watch. There's a lot that feels unsaid and while the first season had an air of hope, the second season really feels as if the group has to start back at square one.
Jeremiah is - surprisingly - the one to get things rolling when he pushes for the group to move to Sarasota, FL, which has a large Amish community. The road trip is nothing short of depressing, as the glum group heads South to look for a new start, as not only have things been difficult in the outside world, but the Amish community has entirely broken off communication. Even Abe's mother has been shunned for her attempts to communicate with him. The upset over now not really fitting in in their old life or new one really hangs over a good portion of the season.
Sadly, things don't get much better when the group arrives in Florida. Sabrina has difficulty with an ex-boyfriend who's had past troubles and has been seeing Jeremiah off-and-on. With the first season's difficulty in her trying to find her parents and her continued troubles, Sabrina continues to seem the saddest of the group and the one with the most difficulty finding her way. Thankfully, by the end of season two, things look a little brighter for her. Still, the group doesn't really rally around one another - while not to be expected, it would be nice to see more solidarity with each other, even their shared experiences.
Jeremiah still seems like one of television's sketchier characters - an Amish version of "Jersey Shore"s "The Situation", which I'm not sure I ever thought was possible until watching this series. Abe and Rebecca remain a couple, although they have continued small fights throughout the season. Rebecca really seems to be the one most ill-equipped to deal with the outside world. It's difficult to watch, as her quiet romance with Abe was one of the most enjoyable parts of the first season (as were moments like her joy at getting her teeth fixed.)
Rebecca and Abe had a child, but their experiences in trying to be parents really aren't explored. One of the most compelling characters on the series is not one of the group - it's Abe's mother, Mary, who gets herself shunned from the community over her participation in the series.
Despite the controversy over "Breaking Amish" in the first season, there was something I found compelling about the series; it had a haunting quality about it and some emotional moments that seemed awfully genuine. The second season not only feels forced, but uncomfortable. There is a rawness and tension at times that I suppose in some ways makes for good drama, but it's just not as compelling as watching the fish out of water story that was the (more hopeful, less depressing) first season.
What I want is a spin-off with Abe's mother, Mary getting her own show with a few other Amish women her age who have been shunned moving in together. An Amish version of "The Golden Girls", in other words. TLC, are you listening? Huge hit potential. Given how TLC is pretty much willing to put on anything (again, kudos to "South Park"'s brilliant "Raising the Bar" episode), I'm surprised they haven't done a "Real Amish Housewives of Pennsylvania."
This set includes the entire second season, including the "explosive" 2-part reunion show, because apparently every reality series has to have a "reunion show" now.
1 "Nothing to Lose" May 12, 2013
2 "Shunned & on the Run" May 19, 2013
3 "Facing Demons" May 26, 2013
4 "Flirting With Disaster" June 2, 2013
5 "What's the Beef?" June 9, 2013
6 "Forbidden Fruit" June 16, 2013
7 "Devil in a Red Dress" June 23, 2013
8 "A Brother's Secret" June 30, 2013
9 "The Shunning Truth Part 1" July 7, 2013
10 "The Shunning Truth Part 2" July 14, 2013
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. Somewhat warmer looking than the original season, colors appear accurate and well-saturated.
Audio: Crisp, well-recorded 2.0 audio that captures both dialogue and city ambience well.
Extras: Zip. Thankfully, the reunion show is not labeled as an extra.
"Breaking Amish"'s first season (controversies aside) was - as reality TV goes - different. It was an engaging fish-out-of-water tale with a good mixture of warmth, drama and occasional humor. The second season feels like the producers scrambled to come up with something else for these people to do and the result isn't as interesting and is often rather depressing. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but no extras. Rent it.