Not that producers Eric and Shannon Evangelista see it that way.
Two young women from Lancaster County, one brought up Amish, the other Mennonite, will be among a group seen this fall trying on new lives -- and new clothes -- in New York City as “reality” TV's unrequited love affair with the tube-avoiding Amish continues with the Sept. 9 premiere of TLC's “Breaking Amish.”
Not to be confused with UPN's “Amish in the City” or National Geographic's “Amish: Out of Order” or, God forbid, AMC's “Breaking Bad” -- presumably this one involves no meth dealers -- the nine one-hour episodes are being billed as a documentary series, one that will take viewers inside the homes of some Amish families.
Though since the producers' credits include “Wreck Chasers” and “Beauty and the Geek” and what they're documenting would likely not have occurred in quite this way without their assistance, financial and otherwise, it shares more of its DNA with MTV's “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore” than with, say, ABC's summer doc series “NY Med.”
“I think that they all the young men and women in our show, all five of them were going to do something and they were going to leave and they didn’t know how to make that happen. We provided them with a much safer way to do that,” said Eric Evangelista.
“It was just providing them with other people who felt the same, and that was a big thing, too, for them to say, 'Oh, wow, there's three other Amish people that feel exactly like I do,'” said Shannon Evangelista.
With the show still in production, Kate, 21, and Sabrina, 25, were dressed both at the press conference and at a Discovery Networks party Thursday night in Beverly Hills as if they had never left home: caps and modest clothing, Kate's long skirt fastened with straight pins.
As a TLC publicist hovered protectively nearby, Sabrina, the cast's only Mennonite (the two were identified only by their first names), said she had heard of Kate but never really met her until the show brought them together. She's been working in a restaurant in New York, while the younger woman tries to find work as a model, something she's always wanted to do.
How does someone growing up Amish even know that's a job?
“I always knew it was a job. I didn't know the extent of what it was or what all you had to do, but I knew it was a job, yes,” said Kate, who at 5-foot-5 “and a half” admitted she'd heard she might be a little short to model. (And, no, she doesn't dress this way while looking for fashion work.)
The middle child of seven of a bishop whose district, she estimated, encompasses about a hundred people, she left school after the ninth grade, she said, after which she worked. “We do cleaning for people, we do landscaping,” she said.
“I had always wanted to explore new places and New York was definitely on the top of my list,” she said.
Would she have been able to move to one of the world's most expensive cities without the show's help?
“I worked for years and I saved my money, so, yes,” she said.
“Everyone says, 'Oh, you're on TV. That's so cool,” said Sabrina. “But it doesn't even register, because I never watched it...and my family's not going to be proud of me or anything.”
“It's one of the biggest things I struggle with, is how the family's going to react,” said Kate, who hasn't been baptized, meaning she's not subject to as strict a sanction for stepping outside the Amish community.
But “your family still holds you accountable, whether you're within the church or without,” she said.