Switched at Birth


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TV Series Review

Switched at Birth can leave you feeling pretty mixed up.

Bay is the artistic daughter of John and Kathryn Kennish, a well-to-do family in Mission Hills, Kan. Daphne is the athletic daughter of struggling mom Regina Vasquez and occasional lagabout Angelo Sorrento. But Bay is also the daughter of Regina. And Daphne's the biological progeny of John and Kathryn. Thanks to a little hospital mix-up, the two kids got switched at birth.

But you probably figured that out already.

Now, ever since John and Kathryn invited Regina and Daphne to live in their guest house, the whole clan is together for the first time. The great news here is that, after a few first-season bumps, everybody gets along (at least most of the time), and thus gives audiences a really encouraging look at how a seriously blended family can go about things. Bay and Daphne consider the parents who raised them to be their true parents, even though they're literally a stone's throw away from their birth moms. They also enjoy hanging out with their birth folks.

For families who've adopted kids or are adoptees themselves (particularly in this era of open adoptions), Switched at Birth tells us that love doesn't necessarily need to be divided between members of a family. Rather, it multiplies if allowed to do so.

It's also cool to see a show that deals with hearing impairment with such deft humor and refreshing sense of normalcy. Daphne is deaf. And there are lots of other deaf characters on the show too: Emmett, Daphne's best friend and Bay's one-time love interest, can't hear and refuses to speak; and deaf Oscar winner Marlee Matlin plays recurring character Melody. Travis is Daphne's newest beau. None of them are token figurines playing, simply, their disability. They're fully fleshed-out people—at least by teen drama standards—going about their business as anyone else would. And I love the fact that, when two hearing characters hold a conversation in the midst of a deaf one, the hearing characters still often sign—a common courtesy, really. No one's trying to exclude anyone else here, no one's trying to keep secrets.

OK, some of them are trying to keep secrets—just not by refusing to sign. This is, after all, a teen soap opera. And it's on ABC Family. So screenplay writers, when they sign up to work for the channel, are likely ordered to write in a full quota of secrets, deceptions and cons.

These teens are also prone to drink alcohol. But the bigger problem here is sex. While Switched at Birth is more restrained than, say, Gossip Girl, it's not unusual to see characters sleep together in any given episode. Graphic nudity's not in the frame, but vivid implications and visuals sometimes are.

Switched at Birth contains some really nice messages about the bonds of family and friendship, even in the midst of trying circumstances. As such, it feels at first like a well-meaning series. But when it comes to talking about certain kinds of morality, this ABC family goes not deaf, but dumb.

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Episode Reviews

Switched-at-Birth: 1-28-2013
Switched-at-Birth: 3-20-2012



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Vanessa Marano as Bay Kennish; Katie Leclerc as Daphne Vasquez; Sean Berdy as Emmett; Lucas Grabeel as Toby Kennish; Constance Marie as Regina Vasquez; D.W. Moffett as John Kennish; Lea Thompson as Kathryn Kennish; Austin Butler as Wilke; Gilles Marini as Angelo Sorrento; Ryan Lane as Travis; Justin Bruening as Jeff Reycraft; Marlee Matlin as Melody




ABC Family


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Paul Asay Paul Asay