Friday, September 7, 2012

‘Switched at Birth’ is growing into solid little show

When I first saw the promos for ABC Family’s new show ‘Switched at Birth’ last year I honestly didn’t know what to think.

I thought it was an interesting premise – but ABC Family is home of some of the cheesiest shows known to man – so I didn’t expect a lot.

Still, I set my DVR to record the show and then didn’t watch it for a week.

When I finally did sit down to watch it, though. I was intrigued.

The basic premise of the show is this: Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) insists on having a DNA test for her peace of mind after a school science project on blood-typing seems to indicate she couldn’t possibly be the biological offspring of John and Kathryn Kennish (D.W. Moffett, Lea Thompson). As a way to placate their daughter, they take the test and find out it is impossible for Bay to be their daughter.

After some investigation, the hospital finds that Bay was switched with Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc) – the daughter of a poor single mother named Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie).

There are a lot of nuances to the story – but the biggest plot point (at least at the beginning) is that Daphne was rendered deaf by illness when she was a small child.

John and Kathryn blame Regina for their biological daughter’s hardships – Regina was drinking back in the day – and they have a hard time not parenting their new child.

Regina is more laid back. She doesn’t like the money and sense of privilege that Bay has been raised with – but she doesn’t try to smother Bay.

‘Switched at Birth’ is more than just opposing parenting styles, though.

Sure, the early episodes have some pacing issues. Before we even have a chance to know these people Regina and Daphne are moving into the guest house on the Kennish property so everyone can get to know one another.
After about six episodes, though, the show slowed the pace down.

In addition, when the show was first launched, it seemed like the show runners were trying to prop up Daphne as this perfect little deaf angel and Bay as this spoiled, whiny brat.

The more they propped Daphne – the more I began to pull for Bay.

Somewhere along the way, the show runners must have realized what they were doing because everything tilted – and for a few episodes Daphne turned into this psycho stalker that was completely unlikeable.

Since then, the writers have managed to strike a balance between the girls. Neither is perfect – and neither is being propped at the expense of the other right now.

Whether it was intentional or not, the show runners did manage to launch a super couple of sorts in the unlikely pairing of Bay and Emmett (Sean Berdy). As Daphne’s deaf best friend, it looked like Emmett was being set up as an eventual love interest for Daphne. Instead, Bay and Emmett went on an adventure to find her biological father – which ended in a true romance for the duo.

What’s nice about ‘Switched at Birth’ is that most of the scenarios on the show aren’t too contrived. They stem from real emotions.

Bay has had jealousy issues because John and Kathryn fawn all over Daphne, Regina has issues because the Kennish family could have given Daphne so much more than she did, Toby Kennish has issues because he’s largely forgotten in this scenario, Daphne has issues because her new “parents” don’t understand what it’s like for her to be deaf and living in a hearing world and the Kennish family has issues because this isn’t a problem that they can just throw money at to fix.

Saying ‘Switched at Birth’ is perfect would be a misnomer. There are some soap opera aspects to the show – including Emmett’s recent cheating on Bay, Daphne’s constant jumping from guy to guy and Regina’s recent marriage to give Bay’s biological father a green card.

Still, the show is still in its first season, and it’s maturing at a rapid pace. In other words, it is steadily getting better and better.

When you compare ‘Switched at Birth’ with the bulk of the shows on ABC Family, you can’t help but be impressed by the quality (especially when you juxtapose it with the awful ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager.’

I'm excited to see where the show goes as it wraps up the final episodes from their freshman season on Monday nights in the coming weeks.

What do you think? Is ‘Switched at Birth’ better than you thought it would be?


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