At one time the Amish were not widely discussed or portrayed on television or in the media. However, the invention of reality television changed all of that. As reality television producers sought out more and more original content and looked for ways to stand out from an increasingly packed field of competitors a few savvy reality television producers turned their attention to Amish country and the Amish. The end results have been mixed to say the least.
For years, the Amish were not addressed on reality television. Let’s face it, everything that reality television touches is, at its very best, a mixed bag.
Some reality television programs featuring the Amish are viewed more positively than others, but one fact is absolutely for certain: if you are looking for Amish television shows, there are infinitely more options today than 10 or even 5 years ago!
Today, the Amish are for lack of a better term “hot” in the television world. One is left wondering if this trend has peaked or what we are now seeing is only the beginning. Let’s take a look at a few of the television shows that are currently focusing on Amish life in one facet or another.
The Amish: Shunned
The Amish: Shunned is a PBS series that follows several different people who have chosen to leave their Amish communities behind and strike out into the world at large. This program has received a good deal of attention and focuses on the difficulties those individuals who leave their Amish communities often face.
Amish: A Secret Life
Amish: A Secret Life is a BBC production that follows David and Miriam Lapp. Many feel that the Lapp children are the real stars of the show. Additionally, many have also noted that the Lapps are viewed as being quite progressive by Amish standards. Those looking to take a small peek into Amish family life might find this BBC production worth a look.
Amish in the City and Amish: Out of Order
Amish: Out of Order is another Amish based reality television show. This television show follows Amish people living in the English world and showcases reality television show veteran and Ex-Amish Mose Gingerich. This National Geographic production aired for one season.
Mose Gingerich first gained the spotlight for appearing on the 2004 UPN television show Amish in the City. Amish in the City was clearly a trailblazer in terms of Amish reality television. This reality tv show took a handful of young Amish adults during Rumspringa and a put them together in a mansion in Hollywood. Camera crews followed the cast around in true reality television fashion and documented what took place. To date, Amish in the City has aired around the world in locations ranging form the U.K. and Sweden to New Zealand. There were 10 episodes in total of Amish in the City. For many people, this show was the first real look at how Amish people thought and behaved. Cast members from this show appeared on a range of talk shows including some of the most people like Good Morning America.
TLC’s Breaking Amish and Return to Amish
TLC’s Breaking Amish is very popular and has been on the air for several seasons. In Breaking Amish, TLC follows groups of men and women who leave Amish life and set out into the “English world.” The show focuses on the difficulties that the Amish face when living behind their families and the only world they’ve ever known to go out into the world at large. In Season 3 of Breaking Amish, the cast visits New York City.
Return to Amish is a production of TLC and is a spinoff of the popular Breaking Amish series. In Return to Amish, reality television producers follow “ex-Amish rebels” who return back to the Amish world.
The Discovery Channel has also produced its own Amish series in Amish Mafia. Amish Mafia, which has aired for three seasons and 26 episodes, follows Lebanon Levi and his assistants as they keep the peace in the Amish community and protect the Amish from outsiders. It is important to note that many, including scholars, have questioned the authenticity of the series.
Will the Amish Television Show Trend Continue?
Reality television initially became popular because it is comparatively cheap. Reality television episodes usually cost a fraction of their drama counterparts and, as a result, they are seen as a financially attractive and viable option.
What Does the Future of Amish Based Television Hold?
That is a difficult question to answer. These shows are often viewed as being controversial. Many in the Amish community feel as though these programs may not portray them, their communities or their beliefs in the best light.
Will the number of Amish related television series continue to rise? Reality television is always looking for the next “hot” thing. One fact seems certain there are numerous Amish themed reality television shows currently on television. The popularity of these shows is evident as many have been renewed for several seasons and have even enjoyed their own spinoffs.
At this time, it would seem safe to state that more Amish focused reality television programming would seem to be on the horizon. That stated, many people now believe that the reality television show trend is showing its age and might be on its way “out.” In the meantime, we’re certainly seeing a lot of Amish men and women turn into overnight celebrities.