People who have read my blog for awhile know that I love bad TV. Love it. To the extent that when I see a bad show on Netflix or Hulu, I will call people up or post on their Facebook saying “WE MUST WATCH THIS!” And then look even more awkward than normal.
But the secret I don’t talk about that often, except with the people I watch bad TV with, is that there’s an art to making bad TV good. For instance, in Christmas I started at least twelve terrible Christmas/holiday movies, and only completed three of them. The other ones just weren’t badly good enough to be enjoyable. It turns out there is quite the science to making something that is as amazingly terrible as, say, Sharknado.
In this vein, I want to share my newest obsession: Breaking Amish. Breaking Amish is a TLC show — the same network that brought you My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding, so you know it must be quality entertainment — about five young Amish adults (technically, four Amish and a Mennonite, which is slightly more progressive) who decide they want to experience the real world by moving to New York for various reasons.
At this point when I was explaining the show to my boyfriend, he said, “so it’s about their Rumspringa?” And I say, “What’s that?” He responded, “Well, the Amish are often encouraged to go experience American culture in their teenage years.” I looked at him blankly.
No, it’s not about their Rumspringa, Joseph! That’s not dramatic enough! It’s just them being rebellious and angsty because — well, just because! Anyways, it’s not about their Rumspringa. End of story! They’re just… They just decide to all go to New York at the same time! When there happen to be a film crew there! Duh. Stop being silly!
The first episode of Breaking Amish explores the five characters and why they decide to leave their community. I didn’t actually see the first episode, but you really don’t need to because most of these people will explain their motivations over, and over, and over every episode. The characters are as follows:
Rebecca: Rebecca is a young, insecure girl who hates pretty much everyone and wanted to see New York because her father was English (what they call non-Amish people). Or her mom was. I don’t know. She’s pretty boring, but she makes up for any hobbies or interesting quirks by being extremely judgemental and easily offended. Also, she has dentures.
Kate: Kate is a very pretty girl who seems sort of fun and completely insane. She likes to drink a lot and also likes to break into tears. She especially loves to do both of these things simultaneously. Her goal for leaving is to be a model, even though she seems to despise English people — though she had to leave the Amish community because they think that trying to be beautiful is bad and prideful, to the extent they have super creepy faceless dolls.
Abe: Abe is boring. I don’t know why he left the Amish community, but I’m assuming it was to stalk Rebecca, because, despite being awkward and quiet, he is also kind of a pervert. We’re talking if he lived in Japan he’d be buying panties out of a vending machine.
Sabrina: Sabrina is Puerto Rican. She left to find out more of her culture, which she does by working at a restaurant in Astoria, an area in Queens mostly known for having a lot of Greek people, so that makes sense. She is the Mennonite, so the journey is a little less daunting to her. Does she have a personality? Well, she’s funnier and kinder than the rest — which is not saying much. I suppose the best way to describe her is she is the most human of all of them.
Jeremiah: Jeremiah is the other male, and he is also a pervert. He likes boobs, and I’m sure he’d like monster trucks.
They all have plot arcs that develop throughout the season, too. Sabrina hires a PI to track her parents, which is full of lots of juicy tidbits that conveniently pop up every week or two; luckily, she only has drama at her job when she doesn’t have drama concerning her parents. Rebecca and Abe start dating each other; they are perfect for each other because their most defining characteristic is their mutual contempt for everyone besides themselves. Jeremiah quickly turns into The Situation from Jersey Shore. Kate does something with modeling, but mostly she cries a lot because she needs mood stabilizers.
As you can probably guess, this is all terribly, terribly convenient. Too convenient. So convenient that if it wasn’t scripted I’d say God has a plan, and his plan is to make people’s lives into hilariously bad television shows. But with so many reality shows being overtly scripted — I had a friend who knew someone on the Real Housewives of Some Place who said they made them redo scenes liking flipping over a table — the fact that Breaking Amish can embrace the fact it’s all being thought up by someone being paid in spare change and Oreos at the TLC headquarters actually makes it better than all the terrible scripted “reality” shows that have come before it. When Abe’s mom comes in the second episode to ask him back, we don’t roll our eyes; we cheer, because that same plot very well could’ve happened in last week’s Grey’s Anatomy.
As it stands, Breaking Amish has perfected the scripted-reality show formula because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There are no boring plots that demonstrate these are real humans because — admit it — at the time of this filming they are not; they are Amish dolls (with faces, thankfully) who are being paraded around for our entertainment. As long as we remember that, I am all too happy to eat a
gallon spoonful of ice cream in front of the boob tube.