The producers of TLC’s Breaking Amish appear to have learned something from the uproar that ensued when the real backstories of their five young cast members threatened to derail the tale they were hoping to tell, even before the series debuted. That is: These men and women are interesting enough without having to return or reduce them to a sort of “what is this food-cooker thing?” bumpkinhood that no one was buying anyway.
As its second season — called Breaking Amish: Brave New World — premieres Sunday night at 10/9 CT, the series takes on a more somber, documentary-style feel as it revisits each cast member to see what has become of them nine months after filming ended on the tumultuous first season.
Which is basically this:
Sabrina — who has traded her dark brown curls for a funkier dyed-blond bob — moved in with her non-Amish boyfriend Harry in Lancaster, PA, and struggles with the disapproval of both the Amish and Mennonite locals and her own family members. When an assault charge lands Harry behind bars, Sabrina is left alone, and she shows off the high-powered hunting rifle that she keeps by the door to fend off troublemakers. Of the quintet, Sabrina seems the most fragile, with a sadness that seems to emanate from her very bones.
Newlyweds Abe and Rebecca (and the daughter that may or may not be Abe’s, and does not appear on camera) have made their home in Punxsutawney, PA, near Rebecca’s family. Both say that while their family members have accepted the couple, much of the Amish community has been openly hostile. And since most of the local businesses are Amish-owned, Abe is having trouble finding a job that will support his young family. Even Abe’s mother Mary says she is disappointed by the un-Godly behavior in this supposedly Christian group.
Rebecca admits that she and Abe are in a sort of limbo between feeling Amish and English, and sometimes she wishes they could just go back to their simpler ways. “I didn’t realize how much I loved those people until I left,” she says. Mary says Abe even cries for his former life.
Though Kate stayed in New York City to continue modeling, she, too, says she’s conflicted about leaving her Amish roots behind — and resigned to the fact that both worlds demand that she be perfect. But, she explains, when the Amish criticize it’s because they want to help you. In the modeling world, criticism just feels … mean.
Jeremiah returned to Ohio and took up with a non-Amish girl named Kim, but his notoriety forced the duo to leave town. They moved in with Sabrina in Lancaster, but when the show aired and Kim found out that Jeremiah and Sabrina got cozy, things turned ugly. To escape the squabbling, Jeremiah took a construction job in Sarasota and Kim came with.
Here’s where the Season One-ness threatens to creep back in.
The spectacularly unsentimental Jeremiah suddenly decides he’s missing his old TV buddies more than he can bear and believes he’ll invite them to come down and consider a fresh start in Sarasota, home to a ever-growing community of Amish and ex-Amish. Not only that, he and Abe decide the gang should rent a camper and make a road trip out of the journey, seeing the sights as they make their way to the sun and sand.
So after the first season’s Ex-Amish Real World, we now have Ex-Amish Road Rules, but without the extreme sports challenges?
I’m really hoping not.
A montage of what happens in the rest of the season suggests that the drama is equal parts organic (Sarasota’s Amish community doesn’t welcome the intrusion) and producer-nudged (Kim’s foul-mouthed hostility toward Sabrina is straight out of Jerry Springer). And I’m curious to see if Abe’s poker-faced 18-year-old sister Katie, who wants to tag along on the trip, is being primed as a regular on the series’ upcoming spin-off.
In any case, if Breaking Amish: Brave New World has truly stopped trying to fool us into believing that Abe, Rebecca, Sabrina, Kate and Jeremiah are anything other than a group of adrift twenty-somethings navigating an especially challenging transition into satisfying adult lives, it should make for compelling viewing that puts to rest the sideshow that happened online.
Breaking Amish: Brave New World premieres Sunday night at 10/9CT on TLC.