Ever since I was a young teenager, I have been fascinated with ASL – or interpreting through sign. Don’t ask me why as there was no reason for it (no one in my family had need of it) other than I found it an interesting form of communication. When I was about twenty I took a once-a-week class comprised of home-school kids that lasted barely six months because the teacher had a career and her students were so busy running around with other activities that it just wasn’t worth anyone’s time and effort. Now all I am left with is a book I bought off of Amazon, the alphabet (and even at that, it would probably be best not to ask me to sign anything beyond my own name *wink*) and still, a lingering interest. When news of this ABC Family Channel series surfaced, both myself and my mother were curious, and with its recent arrival on DVD, I rented the first disc, eager that it would be so much more than just a teen drama. Read on to find out what approach Switched at Birth takes to an out-of-the-ordinary concept.
It started out as nothing more than a simple science project at school, and practical joking (including one that mom had an affair!) between Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) and her close-knit family. Science class shouldn’t hold a potential to change a sixteen-year-olds life and turn it upside down but that is exactly what Bay’s does when the class project comes back with the result that her blood type in not the same as her parents, John and Kathryn (D.W. Moffat, Lea Thompson) or her brother Toby (Lukas Grabeel). This leads the family to find that Bay is not who they thought she was. The hospital made a mistake with the I.D. bracelets and the Kennish family took home the wrong baby – and has been raising someone else’s daughter for sixteen years. Their discovery sends them to meet single mother Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie) and their biological daughter, Daphne (Katie Leclerc). Kathryn is so overwhelmed and overjoyed at meeting her daughter for the first time that she and John are not prepared for anything that might stand in the way of them getting to know their daughter.
As a child, Daphne caught an infection that severely damaged her hearing. She has worked hard to overcome her physical limitations and she speaks well and can read lips easily but as a result of her childhood ailment, she cannot hear conversations only residual background noises, making it impossible for her to converse with others in large groups save for sign language. Having made the bulk of his money playing major league baseball and now as owner of a well-known car wash chain, John is a wealthy, independent man who immediately sees he has an opportunity to help the daughter he never knew existed. Regina does not see it that way. She has had to fight for every cent she has earned and she sees these people as just another wealthy “white family” who think throwing money at things solves everything. This time, that notion couldn’t be farther from the right solution.
This is the first non-crime drama show airing on a major network that has really sucked me into its premise. Sure, I have fallen under spells of other television personas that have nothing to do with solving crimes (case in point: Downton Abbey – which when one thinks about it really cannot be coupled with American television) but this one is a part of ABC Family Channel’s weekly line-up and contrary to what potential viewers might think, it has a lot to offer. Volume one consists of ten episodes and the writing builds some wonderful chemistry between the characters and its subplots. It also boasts some intrigue with a sprinkling of mystery here and there – the kind that makes you want to pop in the next episode just to see where it leads. Usually it isn’t something all that earth-shattering, meaning it isn’t difficult to figure out but nonetheless, the series still has a pull that is really interesting.
If you prefer television with more bite or of a more intelligent nature, you might find that Switched at Birth doesn’t hold your attention but if you are willing to overlook a few flaws in a story that actually has prospective to be something more than its outward appearance, then this is worth a look-see. The acting is really nothing to sneeze at, not to mention the fact that the kids were well cast against their on-screen parents. Resemblances are easy to spot and I found many of the emotionally-charged scenes came across with genuine emotions that not only serve to envelop us in their sorrow but make us agree with certain of the characters arguments. As hard as it was for all parties involved, some handled it with a lot more grace than others. The show is an interesting concept that I hope writers realize is special, and do not waste it... because if they do, it will be a shame.
(Rated TV14 because of a handful of near-sexual encounters between teenagers; two of them progress to some lip-locks and removal of clothing [one of which in the back of a car], the other shows two teens at a park making out. [Some minor innuendo is present - and adults are seen lying in bed together once.] Parents worry that their kids are intimate with their boyfriends. Some minor profanity pops up here and there but nothing worse than an OMG or sh*t. Lying comes easily for some characters; one was an alcoholic and another teen is addicted to gambling and steals the answers to a test to make right on the debt.)