The TLC show, Breaking Amish, appears to be "Faking Amish" if various reports are to be believed.
As I've said in previous posts, I don't think TV and the Amish are necessarily a bad mix. I think there can, and has been, good TV, even great TV, about the Amish. But this show doesn't deliver.
I've watched the first two episodes and my main observation is that the characters are all outliers, meaning they don't appear to me to represent the typical "Amish experience." That's likely because someone very dedicated and committed to their Amish faith probably aren't going to agree to schlep around New York City indulging in all the things their religion teaches them they shouldn't. (I will say, that a "typical Amish experience" is a very broad term, because the Amish are a much more diverse group than meets the eye, but these people are all on the outer bounds of even the most atypical Amish)
I am going to leave the accusations of "cast fraud" to other people, because I don't know the show's participants, etc. To me, the parts that were the most implausible were ones that just didn't gibe with my own Amish experience, experience that encompasses spending time in Amish settlements from Maine to Montana.There were scenes that struck me simply as not credible.
As far as "staged" goes, everyone needs to take a step back. "Reality TV" does not mean that cameramen (or women) parachute into someone's life and just follow them around, capturing them blowing their nose or clipping their toenails. Such shows would be boring as heck, and I'm not sure - in the network's defense - anyone has ever said these shows are unplanned. They are largely unscripted, but not unplanned. The shows have to be somewhat structured. That said, there was a scene when 32-year-old Abe looks at a microwave, looks puzzled, and declares that "It's gotta be some kind of cooker of some kind." While that is an amusing line, I found it not credible based on my own experience (and if somehow I'm wrong, I'll trumpet it here). While I think it is plausible (unlikely, but plausible) that an Amish teenager from an ultraconservative sect might not know what a microwave oven is on sight, I find it implausible that a 32-year-old Amish man who is savvy enough to get on a reality show, doesn't know what a microwave oven is. Such portrayals of them being so insular does a disservice to the Amish by portraying a romantic image of isolation that is largely nonexistent. Ditto for the scenes of the alleged Amish punching buttons in the elevator. Elevators are ubiquitous and pretty simple to figure out, it just strikes me as implausible that they were so entranced and confused by buttons.
Also, these shows that say "The Amish don't do this, or the Amish don't do that", blanket statements are rarely accurate when it comes to the Amish. What one church does, another down the road may not. So when the lone Mennonite on the show said that the "Mennonites don't drink alcohol," I found that puzzling. I've not known Amish and Mennonites to be a dry church, but maybe her family or specific church is.
I lay the blame (if there is even blame, I'll get to that in a sec) on the production company that films it. It is really their job more than TLC's to produce a product that is entertaining and accurate. But is there any "blame" at all? Do you feel deceived? Or is the only really important that you're entertained? If entertainment is the only goal, then maybe the show succeeds. As someone who does try to educate (according to my experiences about the Amish), I do find some of the portrayals dismaying.