Amish returning to City

Just when I think “Amish TV” might be cooling down, a new show pops up. I imagine at some point we’ll be seeing a full-fledged network sitcom or drama series. For now there is another cable reality program on deck to premiere next month.

In a few weeks the TLC network will be rolling out “Breaking Amish”, which basically looks to be an “Amish in the City” redux. The show flips coasts with four Amish and one Mennonite going to New York City (Amish in the City was set in LA). Even the show’s promo copy recalls the hook of the 2004 series: “Ultimately, they will make the biggest decision of their lives — to remain Amish and Mennonite or become “English” — and face the consequence of being shunned by those closest to them.”

The tension in that idea was problematic for a couple of reasons. Dirk Eitzen discusses some of the issues in “Hollywood Rumspringa: Amish in the City” in The Amish and the Media. For one there’s no hard and reality-show-friendly deadline for joining the church. Also, if you decide to go on television for a show like this, how likely are you to join anyway? I guess if we ignore, or don’t understand the first concept, and suspend disbelief enough to let the second operate, you can gin up some sort of dramatic tension over the course of a series.

Eitzen observes that though people protested over Amish in the City, fearing it would be degrading and exploitative, in the end the Amish actually come off looking quite good (as he writes: “the Amish kids are open-minded, resourceful, and adaptable throughout. The city kids are the ones who seem parochial.” p. 141)

I’m not sure how this new show will stack up in that department. From what I’ve seen it does seem edgier. By early accounts “Breaking Amish” includes the expected fish-out-of-water scenarios (Amish girl struggling with elevator; Amish kids getting stared at on street) with a fair bit of rude behavior mixed in. Hopefully no one does anything so embarrassing that they won’t be able to look back five years from now without cringing. After watching the show’s promo trailer I am afraid that may be a lot to hope for.

I occasionally hear from people interested in filming programs on the Amish. But in the past few weeks I’ve had a relative flurry of emails on potential shows spanning a range of Amish-related topics. Coincidence or a sign of things to come?

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    1. SharonR

      Amish in the City, etc

      Seems like lately, everything on TV is “reality” shows… nothing sacred anymore? Why put your private life on public display for others to be amused or judge you? Seems the imagination has bottomed out at ZERO, if the entertainment industry has to resort to airing people’s everyday lives! But I guess that is what the majority want, these days!! It would be different if it was a “Documentary” with true facts and less everyday chatter, that Reality TV is famous for! We have basic cable, and while flipping through the channels, that’s really all there is, anymore….Reality Shows! That’s when I turn the TV OFF, and resort to a good book!

      1. Denise


        I am so upset Kate kissed another girl and the rest of the Amish accepted this. This should not have been in the script whatsoever! If she’s gay or bi or whatever she is, she should have been let go. No one wants to see a woman kiss another woman. She is definintely mentally disturbed and needs help, not just that she is gay or bi, she has many mental issues. As far as her being a model – she is in no way shape or form a model – how ridiculous that was. The rest of the Amish group better take heed. “If you do not stand for something (God), you will fall for anything.” I am ashamed now of those Amish, AND I WILL NOT WATCH THAT SHOW EVER AGAIN.

        1. Lance

          They turned their backs on Christ and a good upbringing to embrace the world and themselves, what can one expect but satan’s seed growing ugly fruit?

          1. Lance

            Don’t watch, but still pray for everyone involved, the cast, the crew, the production company and the broadcast company.

            The greater the sin, the greater the need for Jesus Christ and for prayer, so pray, please.

            1. Valerie


              Amen Lance to what you said.
              I think if people quit watching it, then it can only help coupled with prayer.
              Seems we are in the end of days.

    2. Plain People in the City

      My husband and I usd to joke that there should be an Amish cable network. “All Amish, all the time!” with shows like “Quilting with Rachel,” “Shoofly Pie – Baking in a Woodstove,” and “Ploughing Today, with Seth Yoder.”

      Although I am not Amish and grew up with basic 20th century technology, I am struggling with the ways of the big city (Chicago) for a while yet. Mass transit, stares, cell phones that deliver more than voices…

      When I traveled here from Iowa City, the Trailways bus driver was very concerned that I knew I would be on the same bus all the way, that he would tell me when we got to Chicago so I didn’t try to get off in some other place, and that I had my luggage and someone to meet me here.

      1. Katrina

        Great Idea!!!

        I would watch a channel like that. Let’s see, additional shows could be “Real Housewives of Holmes County”; ‘This Old Barn” hosted by Eli Stoltzfus, ” The Amish Bunch” about an Amish widower with 5 kids who marries a widow with 5 kids and they form a singing group to perform at church services, using a touring buggy to travel around…
        I think the triple digit heat here in Las Vegas (112 degrees) is getting to me-I’ll stop now….

    3. Betsy Thompson

      Now that’s a channel I’d actually turn on my TV to watch! I definitely won’t be watching Breaking Amish.

      1. Lin

        Do you know about a weekly TV cooking show in Ohio with Lee Ann Miller? It has a four-minute online webcast video and recipe. Her husband was raised Amish.

    4. Lattice

      I would say that as long as people are interested in the Amish, producers will be happy to come up with something for them to watch.

      I believe that, for the most part, the Amish who agree to be on these programs have full intentions of “jumping the fence” for good. I believe that some may eventually change their minds, but they likely enter into this agreement expecting that they will ulitmately leave the Amish.

    5. linda

      Amish returning to city

      Julie. I totally agree with you. I would love a show like that.

    6. Loretta T

      Amish returning to city

      Part of the interest in Amish is the ‘mystery’ of their everyday life, familylife, community envolvement, etc.
      For those who have never gotten into the real lives of the Amish I think this may give some wrong impressions.
      Even movies or tv shows that broadcast programs of ‘real’ people and stories will tell you some of the incidents are not actual fact. That is what I fear will happen in this case. In other words, embellishment to sell.
      I have enjoyed some of the factual programs on tv about the Amish but I’m not sure this is a good thing to produce an entertainment program. Will the Amish communities now be overrun with spectators? Who will reap the rewards(money) from this? TV programs have become so filthy, my term, to the point we do not watch any programs except CNN,CNBC, etc. So if this is done in good taste I might be able to see something worth my time.

    7. Cindy Gironda

      TLC used to be The Learning Channel

      TLC used to have a lot of great shows. Shows that ‘taught’ you things. Now it is not much more than a bunch of reality shows, most of which you really wonder ‘what were they thinking’ when you hear about them. Case in point… Their most recent release “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”.

      1. Katrina

        Honey BooBoo

        I heard that “HBB” is a limited series. Only six episodes are planned. Thank goodness.
        For those who are wondering’HBB’ has nothing to do with being Amish.

    8. Alice Mary


      I agree with most of what everyone’s said so far about reality TV, especially this “new” offering. In fact, I saw a clip (not sure if it was from this upcoming show or some other) with two young “Amish” women, at least one of whom was wearing her traditional Amish attire (plain dress, white prayer cap), but had enough makeup on to rival the latest Revlon model (quite pretty, but certainly not “plain”).

      I would like more “documentary” TV about the Amish, and think Julie’s/her husband’s idea might be a good start—but there would have to be stand-ins for the Amish themselves (I would think). Or, how about an Amish TV “magazine”–like a TV version of “The Connection”?

      Breaking Amish sounds like a dud—too bad so many who watch it will be misinformed about the Amish life, period.

      Alice Mary

    9. Then there is the real not-for-show story that is happening right at this moment in VT. Although it is Beachy Amish, it is what happens when the values of the kingdoms of this world clash with the kingdom of God.
      See for details.

      1. Lattice

        Gee. What a mess. The consequences of worldly lusts and terrible, selfish choices. Did I say choices?? But I thought… never mind.

        Thanks for posting the website. Both and one of the links to the background story from that site suggest that Mr. Miller is Mennonite instead of Beachy Amish, but it might have been an error.

      2. Ed

        Miller Case

        The New York Times has a full length magazine article about the woman and her daughter here:

        Personally, I don’t think that defying a court, running away and hiding, all to keep another woman away from a child she loved and helped create is right. I respect her change to a Christian life but that doesn’t give her license to walk away from her responsibilities and leave others to clean up the mess.

        Regarding the Rev. Miller, I’m not sure what to think of him. He could have been deceived by Lisa, but the millercase website seems to imply he knew what he was getting into and supported it. Clearly we don’t have all the facts, but I would not call the actions that Lisa Miller and her supporters presently engage in as “Christian”.

        1. Lance


          Thanks for that link.

          I want to know what happened in that bath to that young girl that caused that anxiety and bed wetting. If that Jenkins woman committed a crime, is she also doing the same to the children in her day care business? You can be sure that she is pushing an agenda in that business already, but is she doing more than that? I fear greatly for all of those children, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

          I am so very glad Isabella/Lydia and her real mother are separated from that ‘other mother’. May God make that separation permanent, both physically and spiritually.

          I fear that the politics of this situation are creating a witch hunt that will destroy all the people involved, most especially that little girl, unless we all pray for God to help keep them free from satan and his angels.

          1. Ed


            The jury returned a guilty verdict. There are course are no winners here; and a child is still being raised hidden away in isolation. Nor has the real culprit been located — Lisa Miller, who repeatedly defied court orders and her own word, who has done nothing but run away from her responsibilities and let others take the consequences for her. That she claims to do this as a “Christian” strikes me as straight up blasphemy.

            I would hope that there is a lesson here, that yanking a child away from its parents, hiding her away, and bearing false witness is no way to deal with the issues.

            I still wonder if the Rev. Miller was deceived by Lisa or by the fundamentalist-TV preacher crowd that she apparently hung around with. Sadly there are those who use “Christianity” as a cloak to hide behind or to justify all manner of misdeeds.

            I pray for everyone involved in this.

            1. Your presentation of the story is obviously not including all the facts, but I will not argue. I and tens of thousands of other Anabaptists stand 110% behind Ken Miller. The moral laws of the kingdom of God trump the moral laws of the kingdoms of this world.
              We Anabaptists know that all that is left for us is to suffer the consequences of practicing righteousness, even though the carnal mind cannot understand and will persecute us for doing what is right.
              This case is probably just a preview of what is coming upon the Plain People in the coming decades. It has actually been a blessing in the sense that it is shaking the Plain People awake. Many, many e-mails from around the world have been passed among us as we followed the case. A fresh sense of solidarity has arisen from it!

              1. Lance

                I believe that Ken Miller and all the others that got Lisa and Isabella away from that other person and her cronies did that which is right in God’s eyes. If they have to pay a earthy price, then that is God’s Will. I pray God will use Ken to lead many to Christ during his stay in prison.

                The pursuit of Lisa and Isabella will never end until they are caught and that political movement of satan gets its way. By helping them escape, the Amish and Mennonites have made themselves targets of this heavily funded movement. I expect repercussions, they may not be pretty.

                The battles between Christ and the satan continue, but Jesus Christ won the war at the cross. To God be the Glory and may He preserve the hearts, minds and souls of Lisa and Isabella onto a Blessed End.

                1. Ed

                  Lance, that “other person” has a name – Janet Jenkins.
                  If you are praying please include her as well as the good pastor Timo Miller in your prayers.

              2. Ed


                PC, you’re correct, I don’t have all the facts. I’d welcome edification. There has clearly been a lot of vague allegations agenda-driven rumor floated in commentary about this case.

                More germaine to this board, what perhaps surprised me the most is that Lisa Roberts, who clearly was NOT an anabaptist, was apparently dressed in Plain clothing by Mennonites so as to “pass off” as a Plain Mennonite and hide amongst them. Are there other examples of Plain people allowing an outsider to pretend to be one of them so as to avoid legal problems or the consequences thereof?

                I also noted that Lisa Roberts received extensive support from Liberty Counsel. Is there some connection between Jerry Falwell’s ministry and Plain groups? From what I’ve learned here, Plain groups, quite unlike Jerry Falwell’s ministry, typically avoid entanglements in political and legal issues of the day — is this changing on the issue at hand here?

                Finally, I disagree with those who seek to villify Ms. Jenkins and praise Lisa Roberts. Lisa Roberts has hardly led an exemplary life — her personal history include a failed marriage, alcoholism, broken promises, and serious mental health issues. I can’t see Anabaptists as embracing this kind of conduct or “life style”.

                I guess, I’m rather bewildered by the conduct of all involved in this mess, but most particularly at the Plain people who have thrown their support behind and even risked jail for such a dubious woman and her persuits. I suspect this goes beyond protecting one of their own. I’d welcome a better explaination about the matters I have raised.

    10. Carolyn B

      Reminiscing TV shows

      I’m reminiscing re: the Merlin Olsen TV show where he played the head of an Amish household that went to the English world in order to help their widowed English daughter-in-law raise her brand new baby.

      Maybe a lot Hollywood still but the aim was still family values.

      I’m with the others who would prefer documentaries to reality shows in the real world.

      1. Lance

        That series was called ‘Aaron’s Way’. It lasted for 14 episodes in 1988.

        These TV series will keep coming as long as people watch them. I find that the 2 series that the British made are more Amish positive and less mockery is involved than the ‘for profit’ companies producing them in the US. That ‘Meet the Hutterites’ series was godless, mean, mocking and disgustingly done. This new series with the Amish kids in NYC looks to be in that same vane. I hope they prove me wrong in that regard.

    11. Adair

      I don’t understand why the American public doesn’t understand that so-called “reality” shows are set up and contrived, and the opposite of reality! This sounds dreadful.

    12. Dede Calfee

      I agree that there should be more documentaries about the Amish. I think the reality shows about the Amish exploit them in a negative manner, only giving the one sided version and that is the version of the ones that are leaving or who have left.

    13. Katrina

      Devil's Playground DVD

      There’s a documentary about Rumspringa filmed about 10 years ago where I grew up. In it, one of the young women being filmed decides to remain Amish, and requests that they stop filming her.

    14. Kentuckylady717

      Hi Erik,
      Did you happen to tape the show’s promo trailer , and could you post it on here if you did ? I think we all would enjoy it…..when does it come on ? I was sad to see the end of the Hutterites……Claudia and her mom made that show…..we loved them….

      1. I’m not going to post it here but you can find it pretty easily with a Google search. This one starts airing in about a month.

    15. Forest

      “The story you are about to see is true…” (Except of course, for all the parts we made up to make it more exciting.)

      That’s my opinion on most of these reality shows, including the ones on the Amish and Hutterites. The producers are not concerned with a fair, honest, in-depth documentry; they generally just are out to make the folks featured into the modern version of sideshow freaks. Perhaps I’m being too uncharitable, but that’s my take….

      1. OldKat


        I think your take is just about dead on.

    16. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      “We do the same things English do, only different”

      *Sighs heavily and disappointedly*

      I prepared an awesome response to this before I read it all the way through. Then I read the article and I thought it wasn’t what I secretly wished it would be. I’ll share what I had written anyway:

      Does this series involve an Amish family consisting of “regular” Amish parents and of multiple, multiple dwarfs? Sort of a twisted Amish mash up of “Jon and Kate Plus 8” and “Little People Big World”? Because that would fit the mold for TLC in the last 5-6 years, except for the Amish part.

      I only had nominal respect for TLC for a while, now, I never watch it. Waste of subscription fees.

      1. Shom, I don’t have a TV so miss most of it, unless I am visiting my folks…but from what I do catch it’s clear some of the shows on nowadays are pretty far out there. I looked up the “Honey Boo Boo” mentioned above…depressing on multiple levels.

    17. Richard from Amish Stories

      Please no more of these shows!

      I’m done now with these type of shows for a long time now, and I wont be one of those watching this one! Richard.

    18. Stephen B.

      Well, I share one thing with Amish folk in that I don’t watch TV.

      Can TV sink any lower than these “reality” shows? Probably, but we don’t want to go there.

    19. John

      There’s another British documentary called Amish: A Secret Life. I was impressed by the family featured.

    20. Lin

      Seen on a bumper sticker:
      “Create your own reality.
      Turn off your TV.”