ABC Family has reinvented the teen drama series with shows like Pretty Little Liars and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. (Although we're still wicked pissed that they canceled Amy Sherman-Palladino's wonderful Bunheads after only one season.) Teenagers have relationships, pregnancy scares, alcoholic beverages and it isn’t all handled with "a very special episode." With the freedom to really go there, they are redefining the genre. Switched at Birth is an amazing series that explores family and class issues and gives voice to the deaf community. Not bad for an hour-long series on a second-tier cable network.
Bay Kennish (Vanessa Marano) always felt different than her type-A parents, John (D.W. Moffett) and Kathryn (Lea Thompson). After getting a blood test, she finds out she’s not genetically related to them and discovers she was switched at birth with another baby. Enter Daphne Vasquez (Katie Leclerc), who is not only the spitting image of her parents, she’s also deaf. Her biological mother, Regina (Constance Marie), is an artist and free spirit just like her. Daphne and Regina decide to move in so that everyone can spend time together. Things quickly get tense with big revelations, class and race issues, and two families trying to reconnect with their lost child.
Sure the whole "switched at birth" thing sounds hokey but the series not only brings family drama. Lots of issues appear in the periphery. The Kennishes are a white, wealthy, Republican family. Regina is a Latina single mother from a poor side of town. Their culture clash plays out lots of what’s happening politically. They have different ways of raising children and different opinions on hot-button topics.
Switched at Birth also exposes what life is like for deaf people and their family members. A lot of the cast communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) when communicating with Daphne or with each other. Leclerc, who can hear, gives a stellar performance as a deaf teen. The series also gives deaf actors a platform. Marlee Matlin plays mother to Emmett (Sean Berdy) a motorcycle-riding, drum-playing artist that just happens to be deaf. There are also quite a few additions to the cast that just so happen to be deaf. There was even an entire episode in ASL.
Switched at Birth has all the drama you’d want from a teen show but it goes a few levels deeper to expose the experiences of the deaf community. It also manages to be entertaining without feeling preachy or like propaganda. It’s definitely worth watching for the shocking reveals, family upheavals, with a nice side of social issues.
If you want to get caught up you can catch up on the first two seasons on Netflix.
The Summer premiere of Switched at Birth is just a few hours away and fans are about to be rewarded for their months of patience during the hiatus. Rewarded with what, you ask? Get excited ABC Family fans because there are not one, but two hot fellas wooing our Switched sisters this season and we’ve got all the swoon-worthy details.
Hollywood.com paid a visit to the Switched a Birth set last Friday and we caught up with stars Katie Leclerc and Vanessa Marano to talk old flames and fresh faces. Read for everything you can expect from the Kennish/Vasquez girls in tonight’s premiere.
Remember way back to season one when Bay had a thing for Daphne’s childhood hunk of a friend Ty (Blair Redford)? Marano reveals that this fan favorite character is back from his Army tour oversees and believe it or not, he’s hotter than ever. “He was Bay’s, like, first love interest, he was pre-Emmett and they really had quite and unfinished love story,” the actress says.
When Redford was cast in The Lying Game, the Switched writers quickly enlisted Ty into the Army and his blooming relationship with Bay was put on hold — until now. Marano says, “He got this ending that was wrapped up so quickly and we really didn’t get to explore it, it almost felt like fans were being cheated out of that relationship and now they get it back.”
But of course like every Bay relationship, this one will be far from easy: “He’s been to war and its kind of difficult for everybody because he’s having some intense issues that we’ll soon learn more about.” Marano says that this relationship is a bit of a role reversal for Bay. “Bay usually leans of guys and uses them in her times of hardship, so now he sort of needs someone to lean on. Bay is there and she offers up her shoulder to cry upon and it’s really awesome.”
While Bay aims to spend more time with Regina — and work a teen dream job at a Hawaiin-themed carnival — Daphne is fully embracing the Kennish lifestyle with club house smoothies and an internship at John’s senate office. Leclerc says that Daphne starts this season with high goals and a strong work ethic.
The actress explains, “Daphne’s main focus right now is to make a difference in her community. I think she made a big difference at Carlton and now I think she’s going into this season with that in mind and she wants to affect some change in the state of Kansas.” But there is one boy who is even more determined than Daphne — and he’s got his sights set on something very special: her.
Jace (Matt Kane) is a brilliant yet intense coffee barista who aims to master a new skill each month and Daphne inspires him to learn sign language. Daphne very politely tells her new acquaintance that it’s impossible to become fluent in ASL in just a month, but Jace’s reply is short and confident: “Watch me. Yes it looks like Daphne has finally met her match with this one, and did we mention that in addition to Jace being incredible cute, he’s also armed with an adorable British accent. Swoon!
“I think that as a person he could be my favorite love interest that I’ve had on this show.” Leclerc gushes, “He flies and like real talk I’ve never met anyone who learned [ASL] as fast as this actor. His character learns it so fast but as person Matt could interpret a conversation if I needed him to.“
In these first few episodes back, Switched at Birth fans will see that Bay and Daphne’s relationship is filled with snarky remarks and cold shoulders. Hopefully these new fellas will be able to warm them up, so that our favorite Switched sisters can mend their severely strained relationship.
Don’t miss the summer premiere of Switched at Birth tonight at 8/7c on ABC Family.
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Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.