When The Real World first debuted on MTV in 1992, the concept of a show that sent a group of obnoxious strangers to live together in a house with their every action caught on tape was groundbreaking. The weird, voyeuristic night-vision footage of people canoodling! The confessionals that were clearly scripted by the producers! The weird fights inserted for dramatic effect, ranging from stealing someone’s peanut butter or sleeping with someone’s significant other! Since then, we’ve been treated to multiple variations on this theme, including Big Brother (the competitive version), Jersey Shore (the spray-tanned version) and Party Down South (the southern-fried version). Clearly, television producers are running out of ways to make this tired concept seem fresh and exciting. Lo and behold, TLC is here, with an answer: let’s make the housemates Amish.
Such is the premise of Breaking Amish Los Angeles, the first season of which is newly available on DVD. Created by Eric and Shannon Evangelista, who worked on the similarly themed Amish Mafia and Amish Haunting, the show takes a group of Amish and Mennonite twentysomethings and sends them to Los Angeles to see how the “English” live. They ditch their old, modest wardrobes for new clothes and hair (and way too much makeup), wander naively into strip clubs and gawk at the plethora of ethnic minorities. Naturally, they also get into drunken, sexual escapades and screaming fights that would not be out of place on The Real World; when the group heads to Las Vegas for an impromptu bachelorette party, it really does start to bear an eerie resemblance to its predecessor--except that on The Real World, the cast wouldn’t be constantly reminding the audience that they would be shunned for doing such things back home in the Amish community.
Breaking Amish Los Angeles is quite possibly the least real reality show I have ever seen--though, to be fair, I have not seen that many. Maybe they are all this obviously staged. While watching, I honestly assumed that half of the Amish people “cast” in the show were actually actors--especially Betsy, who is constantly lighting candles and talking about witchcraft, and Sam, who decides to follow his pregnant sister Lizzie and the rest of the gang out West and shows up looking like a villainous preacher from the old West with his big black hat and angry talk of Satan. The fights they have are horrifically and horribly fake, and the choices they all make are so clearly governed by what the producers want them to do in order to conjure up maximum drama that it is hard to be invested in any of them. In the end, they annoyed me so much that I was praying that the Amish community would take them all back after the show was over and forbid them from getting in front of a camera ever again.
The three-disc set includes all twelve episodes of this season, including the reunion special.
"Breaking Amish Los Angeles: Season 1" is on sale February 17, 2015 and is not rated. Reality. Directed by Eric Evangelista. Written by Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista.